I would like to learn more about Japanese mythology
December 29, 2013 4:59 PM   Subscribe

What are some good English-language resources to learn about Japanese mythology? Book recommendations are welcome, too. My interest is mostly to gain some background knowledge that would help me understand better Japanese novels or manga, in the way that knowing Greek or Norse mythology is helpful when reading Western literature.
posted by needled to Grab Bag (5 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
The Kojiki is a good place to start.

Onmyōdō would be good to know about. Yokai are also good to know about (this site is pretty good, although Zack Davisson flagrantly rips off Mizuki Shigeru's illustrations).

Rashomon and other short stories by Akutagawa are also frequently referenced in manga and film.

The Catalpa Bow by Carmen Blacker has some really cool descriptions of esoteric and folk beliefs.

For a background on Buddhism and syncretic "new religions" that have developed over the past 150 years, A History of Japanese Religion is worth borrowing from your local university library.

While you're at it, read the Tale of the Heike (take your pick of multiple translations), which is also referenced quite a bit in popular culture.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:25 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I had to suggest a single book, there is no better English-language book for this task than Sources of Japanese Tradition. (both volumes are excellent but I think the linked Volume 1 better fits the bill for your question)
posted by Tanizaki at 5:39 PM on December 29, 2013 [2 favorites]

The Samurai Archives
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:23 PM on December 29, 2013

Here's a page about Kitsune (fox spirit) legends.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:33 PM on December 29, 2013


"A Cultural Dictionary of Japan," by Yamaguchi and Kojima.

You may browse and graze variously, according to any particular topic.
posted by mule98J at 3:01 PM on December 30, 2013

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