Japanese Tales

Illustrated by Yuko Shimizu

Translated by Royall Tyler

A treasury of Japanese folklore and wisdom, beautifully bound by Folio and fully illustrated by artist Yuko Shimizu.


‘The stories are variously witty, allegorical, mystical, gross, funny and enigmatic.’

  1. Publishers Weekly

A window into a long-vanished culture that still fascinates, this collection of 170 tales introduces us to a broad tableau of characters: saints and scoundrels, ghosts and magical healers and a vast assortment of deities and demons.

The tales cover unexpected themes such as Surprises, Monk Jokes and Oddities; all offer invaluable insights into Japan’s cultural heritage. From a young boy cunningly outwitting a monk so he can claim a pot of delicious syrup for himself, to a man who steals a dream from a dream-reader and nuns who dance ecstatically after eating wild mushrooms then run down a hill to surprise a group of woodcutters, the topics are far-reaching and the narratives enchanting.

Despite many of the tales’ almost 1,000-year history, Royall Tyler’s sympathetic and colloquial translations ensure the human conditions they convey are not so far removed from our modern experience. Compassion, jealousy, lust, benevolence, greed, charity – all these traits and more are depicted in this diverse work of reality and fantasy, populated by a large cast of mythical and human figures. 

‘Courting men were like bees visiting shy flowers, and courtship took place largely in the dark… The passage from lover to husband was a passage from darkness and secrecy to daylight and public recognition.’

  1. Royall Tyler

Production details

Bound in blocked cloth

Set in Fournier

368 pages

Frontispiece, 7 colour illustrations, including 4 double-page spreads, and 17 integrated black & white drawings

Printed endpapers

Blocked and die-cut slipcase

Silver page tops

11˝ x 7¼˝

A Long-vanished culture brought to life by Yuko Shimizu’s art

Yuko Shimizu is a New York-based Japanese illustrator with a diverse portfolio of work. Drawing on her cultural heritage, her unique style blends classical Japanese elements with contemporary influences. Specially commissioned for this Folio edition, Shimizu has created single and double-page full-colour illustrations, as well as integrated black and white sketches. Her interpretations of subjects, such as the dancing mushroom ­for the tale of the ecstatic nuns, ­are bold and vivid with touches of mysticism. Her designs extend to the elegant blocked-cloth binding and the slipcase. Here, a silver moth hovers and a circular cut-out allows a glimpse of the silvery moon of the binding. This new edition is finished with silver page tops.

170 Tales of Medieval Japan

Japanese Tales is translated, edited and introduced by Royall Tyler; his comprehensive essay contextualises the remarkable stories that follow. Novices and experts on Japanese culture alike will be captivated by his overview of everything from architecture and cosmology, to religion and the supernatural. 

Royall Tyler has carefully collated and translated an eclectic selection of 170 tales from medieval Japan. With an engaging introduction, and specially commissioned illustrations by Yuko Shimizu, Japanese Tales complements other titles in the Folio myths and legends collection, including Chinese Fairy Tales and African Folktales

About Royall Tyler

Royall Tyler was born in London but spent his early years in the United States. After graduating from l’École des Roches in Normandy in 1954, he received a BA in Japanese from Harvard in 1957 and a PhD in Japanese literature from Columbia in 1977. In 1990, after teaching at the University of Oslo and elsewhere, he moved to the Australian National University in Canberra. He retired in 2000 and now lives on a farm in New South Wales. He has also translated The Tale of Genji (2001; Folio Society, 2016) and The Tale of the Heike (2012).

About Yuko Shimizu

Yuko Shimizu is a New York-based Japanese artist. In 2003 she graduated with an MFA from the Illustration as Visual Essay Program offered by the School of Visual Arts in New York City, where she now teaches in the BFA undergraduate department alongside working as a freelance artist. Her work has been published by Penguin, Scholastic, the New York Times and the New Yorker, among others. Shimuzu’s recent work includes illustrations for A Wild Swan and Other Tales (2015) by Michael Cunningham, and Barbed Wire Baseball (2016) by Marissa Moss.

See the book

Courtesy of BBD&P Awards


You May Also Like

  1. A Hero Born

    A Hero Born

    Jin Yong

    Illustrated by Ye Luying


    Jin Yong’s action-packed fantasy transports readers deep into China’s tumultuous past. This Folio edition of A Hero Born features stunning artwork by Ye Luying and an introduction by Ken Liu.

  2. ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

    Italian Folktales

    Italo Calvino

    Illustrated by Gérard DuBois


    Fantastical monsters, daredevil youths and evil witches bound across every page of this beautiful new Folio edition of Calvino’s comprehensive collection.

  3. Kuniyoshi


    Matthi Forrer


    This beautiful monograph by Matthi Forrer showcases the work of Utagawa Kuniyoshi, one of the last great Japanese ukiyo-e masters. Published by Prestel, this edition is available to Folio customers with an exclusive 30% discount.