New Tales of Tono
Translated with an Introduction by Christopher Robins
2012, 230 pages
ISBN 978-1-937385-30-9 Paper $27.00
ISBN 978-1-937385-31-6 Cloth $45.00
“These lively stories are fun to read and hold universal appeal, portraying unusual aspects of rural Japanese culture. This collection, written by the bestselling author Inoue Hisashi, referred to as “Japan’s Shakespeare,” provides a window on the uncanny, earthy, and humorous aspects of northern Japan’s culture with its rich storytelling tradition. Christopher Robins’ superb translation of Inoue Hisashi’s New Tales of Tono also presents a fresh perspective on the inaugural work of Japanese folklore: The Legends of Tono by Yanagita Kunio.”
—Ronald A. Morse is the translator of Yanagita Kunio’s The Legends of Tono
This collection of nine short stories written by Inoue Hisashi (1934-2010) evokes the mysterious and uncanny tone of traditional folktales from rural Tohoku, Japan while reflecting the playful approach of this major satirist of modern Japanese literature.
The stories take place in the Tōno Region in Iwate Prefecture, Japan. The first-person narrator—a fictional alter ego for Inoue Hisashi himself—recounts his meetings with a storyteller twenty years earlier. The period of the telling of the tales is the early 1950s and the fictional local raconteur (Inubuse Takichi) tells stories from the 1920s and 1930s. These short stories feature a range of supernatural creatures, traditional folktales, and local legends that echo, and, at times, stand in contrast to the uncanny stories recorded by the folklorist, Yanagita Kunio (1875-1962), in his inaugural work of Japanese folklore, Tōno monogatari (1910).
Inoue's work has not been widely translated into foreign languages partly because of the difficulty of the language in the original texts. Inoue specializes in Edo-style puns, wordplay, archaic language from early eras, and often uses multiple dialects within the same work in an effort to subvert conventions of literature while highlighting the cultural and linguistic diversity of Japan.
Inoue Hisashi (1934 –2010) was a major modern Japanese author widely known among the Japanese reading public and Japanese academic world. His most famous bestselling novel is Kirikirijin (The Kirikirians ), an epic satirical send up of modern Japan. This satirical tour de force is written in a local Tohoku dialect with simultaneous transcription of the text in standard Japanese.