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The Book of Yokai

Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore
Narrated by: Tim Campbell
Length: 8 hrs and 40 mins
Categories: History, Asia
4.5 out of 5 stars (15 ratings)

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Summary

Monsters, ghosts, fantastic beings, and supernatural phenomena of all sorts haunt the folklore and popular culture of Japan. Broadly labeled yokai, these creatures come in infinite shapes and sizes, from tengu mountain goblins and kappa water spirits to shape-shifting foxes and long-tongued ceiling-lickers. Currently popular in anime, manga, film, and computer games, many yokai originated in local legends, folktales, and regional ghost stories.  

Drawing on years of research in Japan, Michael Dylan Foster unpacks the history and cultural context of yokai, tracing their roots, interpreting their meanings, and introducing people who have hunted them through the ages. In this delightful and accessible narrative, listeners will explore the roles played by these mysterious beings within Japanese culture and will also learn of their abundance and variety through detailed entries on more than 50 individual creatures. The Book of Yokai provides a lively excursion into Japanese folklore and its ever-expanding influence on global popular culture. It also invites listeners to examine how people create, transmit, and collect folklore, and how they make sense of the mysteries in the world around them. By exploring yokai as a concept, we can better understand broader processes of tradition, innovation, storytelling, and individual and communal creativity.

©2015 The Regents of the University of California (P)2018 Tantor

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Comprehensive cultural analysis

Beautifully read and very understandable, this book has been a charming treat! It was very easy to pick up when I needed something to distract me and provides a great grounding in the culture behind Yokai. As an anthropology student I found it academically interesting, and I think that anyone could enjoy and learn from it!
It was recommended by the YouTube channel gaijin goombah media and I hope that more people pick it up as it deserves the attention!

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An Enjoyable Discussion Of The History Of Yokai

The Book Of Yokai by Michael Dylan Foster

Hello again everyone. It’s time I discuss something I’ve considered talking about on a few occasions. Those of you who read my last article may have been curious by what I meant when I mentioned the night parade of one hundred demons? Well this is a worthy time. It is the season of Halloween after all. But how do I start?...perhaps...have any of you heard of the Japanese term Yokai?

Yokai are Japanese weird and mysterious creatures. Some kind of ’monster.’ But they can be almost anything. Sumo wrestling turtle creatures with an unusual obsession for cucumbers known as Kappas, trickster fox women known as Kitsune who play by their own rules and often have fun teasing men and folkloric demons called Oni who the west could often think of as a Japanese demon creature or ogres. To be fair...oni - and most other Yokai - can be rather broad in definition. I shall warn my readers that this review will have quite a substantial preamble before I discuss the book in question.

Yokai are fascinating creatures. But they are also part of the classical culture of Japan ranging from the modern era to the Meiji Era or any other of Japanese history. So...it makes sense that these creatures would spread to things that are exported to the rest of the world. It doesn’t matter whether you mean famous game companies or game series such as Nintendo and their ubiquitous Mario and Zelda series - which amongst other things contain the famous Bowser who is basically a variation on a Kappa and in the case of Zelda includes many references to Yokai such as the famous Tanooki curse in Link’s Awakening or the ReDeads in Ocarina of Time - or if you are more focused in Japanese anime and manga. The famous Pokemon anime and game series for example is more or less built around capturing and battling different kinds of Yokai ranging from cute critters such as Pikachu and Evee to the more disturbing or godly such as Mimiku or Lunala. But Pokemon isn’t the only famous example. Just to name drop a few series I remember Sailor Moon and Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke also had rather obvious monstrous elements - where did you think the Negaverse came from?

Yokai owe anime a great debt as a matter of fact. A series very famous in Japan (the most recent version of which made the jump overseas and is in its final season. I highly recommend it!) known as GeGeGe no Kitaro (or roughly in English Spooky Kitaro) which began in 1968 helped popularise a lot of the currently famous Yokai to the extent that the hometown of the creator of the Kitaro manga has become something of a Yokai haven where many statues are built, customs are ritually observed and a lot of historians of Japanese traditions of old work in the area. As well as this the original creator of Kitaro is a highly respected figure among Yokai historians and has written scientific monographs on the subject.

But I think it’s time I discuss the audio book which lead me down this rabbit hole. Don’t you?

The Book Of Yokai is quite an interesting read. It’s been split into two halves with the first section being a relatively in-depth (albeit lay person friendly) dissertation on Yokai, their origins and how various Yokai traditions have evolved as Japan itself has grown and changed. It is quite a technical book so I can’t simplify things too heavily but the author explains what he means rather well whenever he uses outdated language or terms that aren’t common outside of Japan. I have to congratulate Mr Dylan Foster. Despite the book being quite technical as I previously mentioned it was not a hard book to understand and I’m confident that those of my readers who are interested in Japan and its various customs would LOVE the book. The second half is something of a Yokai encyclopaedia with a large variety of creatures from all over Japan ranging from the famous and ubiquitous monsters to the curios. Those creatures who are very rarely heard of and more or less lost to history and those creatures who are ‘new’ Yokai created in the modern Japan as she is now such as the Kuchisake-onna (or roughly in English slit-mouthed woman.)

The audio version of The Book Of Yokai is narrated by a gentleman by the name of Tim Campbell who narrates the book rather well. His voice is rather relaxing and smooth making it easy to listen to this audio for a fair bit longer than you were originally planning. Trust me I speak from experience! He is also a considerably better narrator overall than most American narrators I’ve experienced. He pronounces the various Japanese phrases rather well in my personal opinion which leads me to believe he speaks the language fluently. I can certainly say I’d be happy to hear him again.

Between the rather interesting dissertation in the first half, the well researched encyclopaedia in the second half and the excellent narration, The Book of Yokai is a fascinating listen and read and one I highly recommend to my readers, especially if like myself you find yourself feeling curious about the various monsters that are part of Japanese life. Just keep an eye out for the Night Parade of One Hundred Demons or Hyakki Yagyō. You DON’T want them to find you.

I hope my readers will indulge this slightly different than usual review as my usual writing style just didn’t seem to fit. And I hope that a decent number of you will give The Book Of Yokai it’s due. But next time I will return to fiction befitting Halloween once again. I think it’s time I pay a call to Mr H.P. Lovecraft.

Sayonara!

Nephrite

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  • Julieanne
  • 04-06-19

Pt 2 was delightful (+no cringey pronunciations!!)

I think one's opinion on this entire book as a whole will be based on on how much you already know about Yokai before reading this book and/or what you want out of the listening experience.

Personally, I'm fascinated with Yokai and knew a fair amount about them, so I really wanted a book compiling different Yokai and the lore/tales associated with them.

I would say the 2nd part of this audiobook (The Yokai Codex) delivered on this. The author gives brief summaries of each Yokai, usually including what they're believed to look like, their behavior/purpose, and if they've been portrayed in any famous media (books/anime/video games/a LOT of Studio Ghibli/etc.). I really loved how the Yokai were separated into different categories of where they were known to occur (Wilds, Water, Countryside, Village & City), it really organized them and kind of installed a curiosity of how these Yokai might interact with one another!

The 1st part of the book (Yokai Culture) was much more focused on... something else? I would say if you've never been exposed to Yokai or Japanese culture in any shape or form, the first part of the book will really help you understand the cultural reasoning/merit behind Yokai. Most of this section is just the author talking about his experiences in researching this book, which (no offense intended to Foster because he did a GREAT job compiling and translating this rather isolated lore) was kind of boring and dry at times.
To be honest, I definitely would've skipped the 1st half of this book had I known the actual Yokai stories were in the 2nd half.



All in all, this book was a nice summary of Yokai! My only comments are
1) For one or two Yokai, I really wish there had been more in-depth information provided. Some had too brief of summaries to really understand their "character" or purpose within the world of Yokai. It also would've been interesting to hear about the relationships between different Yokai, in the same vein as Roman/Greek mythology (assuming there's any evidence of hypothetical interactions)
2) It would've been convenient if Audible had bookmarks within the audiobook to be able to locate each individual Yokai for future re-listening


P.S. Last note- The narrator did an AMAZING job, thank you SO MUCH for getting someone who could actually pronounce Japanese!! It saved the listener from 9 hours of cringe (& it even helped me realize a few puns/connections between yokai names and certain characters/product names because of the correct pronunciation!)

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  • richard
  • 23-11-19

Almost complete

I really quite enjoyed this audiobook, and have no criticism of it, except that there is so much description of the yokai that it would have been VERY, VERY nice to have had a supplemental attached PDF with pictures.

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  • andrew pappas
  • 12-02-20

A top notch study on Yokai

This book is more than a encyclopedia of yokai, but a insight into their nature

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  • Vampire Enthusiast
  • 01-09-20

thanks, i hate it

I just rage-quit. I am halfway done and only ONE creature has even been seriously mentioned. It was brief and then was quickly buried under how-to-gather the information details, and how difficult and time consuming it is...

This sounds like the author is just patting himself on the back—which is deserved—but come on. Get to the gd yokai. Stop talking about yourself.

I’ve tried slowing the voice down, speeding it up. And nothing makes it any easier to listen to. The mans voice just made me irritated, irrationally so. If I heard one more “I, I, I, I,” I was about to scream.

I’ll admit that ᴍᴀʏʙᴇ this wouldn’t have been so bad if I had gotten the paper version. That’s a big maybe. A seriously doubtful maybe. But I’ll admit it exists.

I regret using my credit on this and will be exchanging this with another book asap.

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  • Tyler Skidmore
  • 21-01-20

Scary Beasts and where to find them

a good book about Japanese mythology and urban creatures. very good read if you're interested

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  • CD3748
  • 12-01-20

Endless Terminology

It's a research paper not a book. And is worse in audio than would be in book form, endless terminology.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 13-11-19

The world of Yokai

It’s a very interesting read on the world of Yokai not just the fantastic creators

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  • Petrolfox
  • 19-10-19

A fantastic, pun intended, read.

A must read for anyone interested in Japanese mythology or culture.

Find my full review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/3015381450

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  • Alyssa
  • 13-10-19

Well researched and in depth

The yōkai are discussed in multiple aspects and perspectives from several sources. This outlook is very helpful and productive.

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  • stacey d ward
  • 06-10-19

interesting to listen to, but the codex drags ...

I thought the first half, which talked about the studies of yokai and the way the impacted Japanese thought and society, was interesting. Some of the individual yokai descriptions in the codex may have dragged on longer than they needed to, but a listing like that wasn't really designed to be read out loud, I guess.