Read Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy by Osamu Dazai Ralph F. McCarthy Online


Blue Bamboo is a collection of seven short stories by one of Japan's preeminent postwar writers and prose stylists, Osamu Dazai. Not the typical romantic fantasies so often seen in Japanese writing, filled with water sprites and vengeful ghosts, these stories are a mixture of fantastic allegory, slightly skewed fables, and affecting romantic tales. Revealing the wide rangeBlue Bamboo is a collection of seven short stories by one of Japan's preeminent postwar writers and prose stylists, Osamu Dazai. Not the typical romantic fantasies so often seen in Japanese writing, filled with water sprites and vengeful ghosts, these stories are a mixture of fantastic allegory, slightly skewed fables, and affecting romantic tales. Revealing the wide range of Dazai's imaginative powers, they also give a glimpse of his humane and idealistic side. From the title story, about an impoverished, henpecked scholar who is transformed by the love of a voluptuous bird, to "The Chrysanthemum Spirit," about a passionate gardener who meets a brother and sister with extraordinary powers, Dazai creates a world of fantasy and romance that is infused with his own psychological concerns. Many readers may recall the poignancy of Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince or Han Christian Andersen. The collection is capped by two delightful stories-within-a-story, in which the assorted members of a quirky family compose alternate episodes of a slightly gothic romance with hints of Poe and Saki (in "On Love and Beauty") and a wildly elaborate retelling of Rapunzel that is engaging, horrifying, and touching by turns (in "Lanterns of Romance"). All in all, these warm, inventive, and life-affirming stories will strike a deep, satisfying chord in many readers....

Title : Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9784770026101
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 184 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy Reviews

  • mark monday
    2018-12-10 04:15

    picture a family, perfect in their imperfection. 2 girls, 3 boys, a mother, a grandmother, a grandfather... rendered with care, subtlety, and nuance by an author enchanted by this family. yet not so starry-eyed that he can't poke at their insecurities and vanities as well - playful pokes from a loving hand. the siblings play a game: one starts a story and the others continue it in their turn. what began as an adaptation of Rapunzel turns into something stranger and deeper and darker and lighter, depending on the sibling. we read this story as we read about the family Irie; both stories are a delight. I have rarely read such a charming yet spiky portrait of a family, one that had me smiling from beginning to end, and no sloppy sentimentality either. a real family. this is the last tale in the book, and it has joined my personal list of favorites. 5 stars for the story! it made me very happy. its name: "Lanterns of Romance"the preceding stories didn't hold the same appeal for me. some are adaptations of Japanese folktales, a couple are more prosaic in nature (including another story about the family Irie). they were pleasant, occasionally cruel, but they didn't stick me in the heart - in the best sort of way - like that last tale. the translation at times uses American colloquialisms, which made me cringe a bit. still, the afterglow of the last, longest story lingers enough where I can look on the whole collection as something special.

  • Lynne King
    2018-11-28 05:23

    I confess that I purchased this book on a whim. I was fascinated by the title and when I read the book review:A glimpse into the humorous, sardonic world of Dazai Osamu, presenting a new and very different look at a one of the recognized masters of Japanese, and indeed global, literature. These works from the middle years of his brief career show a skilled hand, with angst muted and his penchant for subtle comedy deftly displayed.Well I was indeed smitten.I’ve never heard of this author before but I was following my gut feeling and knew that this book was for me.This work comprises seven short stories:On Love and BeautyThe Chrysanthemum SpiritThe Mermaid and the SamuraiBlue BambooAlt HeidelbergRomanesqueLanterns of RomanceWell I thought that the first story was so pedestrian that I nearly abandoned the book. My disappointment really upset me. I kept on telling myself that I was tired, I had worked for many hours on a rather tedious medical document and perhaps my brain was fuzzy. So the next morning, full of optimism, with the sun shining majestically above and a fabulous view of the Pyrenees, I started again on the first story. Oh no, not for me and sadly commenced the second, expecting a repeat of the first story, The Chrysanthemum Spirit which was sheer beauty. Basically it’s the story of an old man, and a young couple and all have a love of Chrysanthemums. I felt choked after I read this – it was so touching and poignant.And onto The Mermaid and the Samurai.Oh my, the writing was sheer bliss as was the content. This is all about a samurai named Chudo Konnai, a man of great courage and unquestionable integrity, who served as administrator of the coastal areas. Well one day, he’s on a boat and sees a mermaid. Well I won’t go into this but remarkable things happen and the ending is sublime. I loved it!Reading became even better with Blue Bamboo (the best in the book) and it quite overwhelmed me. All I can say is that I now view crows very differently!As for Alt Heidelberg., well never borrow money is the maxim here, mixed in with the joy of youth, too much saké and beer. An excellent story.Romanesque is a story about “Taro the Wizard”. Read it! But then we encounter “Jirobei, the Fighter”. Now this is an individual on a mission. He wants to fight but unfortunately never gets the opportunity to do so. It is really amusing to see how he thinks that he’s finally going to fight someone and then gets thwarted. I loved it! As for “Saburo, a Liar.” Well that’s indeed an interesting concept.And the final story, Lanterns of Romance is a sequel to the first story On Love and Beauty. Definitely not for me.As for rating this, well all I can say is that it’s just excellent. I’m ignoring the first and last stories as they just happened to be there!

  • Algernon
    2018-12-14 04:38

    I don't think it would be such a terrible sin for a twentieth-century author to make use of his unruly daydreams and impressions to fashion a tale based essentially on one of these old stories and present it to the reader as an original work. There is a lot of talk these days about a "new order", but my own personal new order would appear to be nothing more nor less than the exhumation of romanticism.Osamu Dazai For the more or less hidden romantic in each of us who was raised on a diet of fairytales and chivalrous pursuits, the gloomy Osamu Dazai offers a charming selection of modern retellings of traditional Japanese stories, side by side with contemporary sketches. This is my first foray into the opus of this conflicted personality who, like many other Japanese writers, commited suicide at the height of his popularity. The tales included here are anything but gloomy: for their humour and subversive connotations they reminded me of Italo Calvino and Angela Carter, but they are first of all a product of a Japan searching for its soul between tradition and industrialization. They are also mostly hopeful and sentimental, with the obligatory weird elements that I have come to expect from this country. I liked them for the youthful embrace of romanticism and for the homage paid to authors that were dear to Dazai : Victor Hugo, Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm, Henryk Ibsen and their equivalent storytellers and folklore collectors from ancient Japan and China. An author's affection doesn't always correspond to his objective judgement, and I sometimes find myself stealthily spreading that treacly collection of stories out on my desk and rereading them. Of all the tales in the collection, the most frivolous, and the one that the author loves most dearly, is the very one I refer to here, the one inspired by those five brothers and sisters... Who are these people and what are they doing in this collection? Let's find out: On Love and BeautyThere were five brothers and sisters, and all of them loved romances. A modern family in Tokyo spends most of its leisure time reading books, but on weekends they gather together and invent sequential stories to drive boredom away. One of the five starts a story and then each of the other four siblings picks up the thread in his or her turn and lets the imagination run freely. The personality of each of the five brothers and sisters affects the style and the content of the narrative, but the one constant is the sentimentality that links the disparate ideas into something more than the sum of its parts.- eldest son: 28, a lawyer, arrogant and standoffish, 'but this was only a forbidding mask to disguise his own vulnerability', loves samurai movies, never tells a lie;- elder daughter: 25, unwed, warm and gregarious by nature, she made friends easily but always ends up abandoned, 'secretly she took pleasure in the heartache and melancholia such rejections afforded her', budding feminist;- second son: 23, a snob, a miser, a critic, a fan of Goethe;- younger daughter: 21, pretty but a narcissist, her favorite author is Izumi Kyoka- youngest son, 17, highschooler, awkward and earnest Ah, the sadness ofhaving become a grownup,mature in every way,and being the only onewho knows it. The game is started by the youngest son, trying to sound grownup and sophisticated, and hilariously going on a tangent about the latest subject he studied in math class. The others come to his rescue and slowly weave together the romance of an elderly professor walking alone in the rain and thinking about his estranged wife. Never before in the professor's life has he purchased flowers. He's not quite himself today. The radio, the fortune, the ex-wife, the handkerchief - a lot has transpired.The Chrisanthemum Spirit From a traditional source, the story of a poor gardener who travels all through Japan to find the best seeds for his chrisanthemum garden. On the road he meets a brother and a sister with supernatural talents who eventually join him and build a rival garden. The story continues the themes of beauty, sadness, love, tradition and emancipation. The Mermaid and the Samurai Another tale with supernatural elements, based on an old text and enhanced by the author with a gentle rebuke of the popular yet cheap samurai movies that were all the rage in early Japanese cinema. To a true samurai, trust is everything. He who will not believe without seeing is a pitiful excuse for a man. Without trust, how can one know what is real and what is not? Indeed, one may see and yet not believe - is this not the same as never seeing? Is not everything, then, no more than an imaterial dream? The recognition of any reality begins with trust. And the source of all trust is love for one's fellow man.Blue Bamboo Once upon a time, in a certain district in Hunan, there lived an impoverished scholar named Yu Jung. Poverty and scholarship have always gone hand in hand, it seems, and one can't help but wonder why that might be. A charming fairytale based on a Chinese folk tale about a gentle man henpecked by an ugly wife. Yu Jung is saved from despair and suicide by some supernatural crows he meets on his journeys. I am not entirely sure if it is Confucianism or Buddhism, but the story promotes ideas of acceptance and endurance and kharma. Inscrutable are the ways of heaven. Bestir yourself and leap back into the fray. In our seventy years of life, no one knows what might occur. Every ebb has its flow. The heart of man is as changeable as the storm-tossed waves of Lake Tung-t'ing.Alt Heidelberg Is the cuckoo in this nest of traditional, supernatural stories. It is an autobiographical piece, a love song to a wasted youth and to the lost innocence and exuberance of that particular period of life. It was eight years ago. An Imperial University student exceptional only for my laziness, I spent the summer that year at Mishima, on the old Tokaido Road. [...] Mishima is a place I'll never forget. The impact that summer had on my life was such that it would scarcely be an exaggeration to say that all the work I've done since has been the result of what I learned there. The narrator, an aspiring writer, goes to visit a friend in the old town by the sea, spends his days drinking and swaping tall tales with strangers. Alas, time flies - a blink of an eye and the festival is over! When he returns years later with a wife and inlaws to show them the wonders of the town, all he finds are dust and ashes: I couldn't find a trace of the old atmosphere anywhere. But perhaps it wasn't that Mishima's colors had faded but simply that my own heart had grown old and withered. That carefree Imperial University student has since had eight solid years of trial and tribulation. I've aged a good two decades in those eight years. Romanescque This is apparently the earliest written piece in the collection, and it is a celebration of storytelling in three parts - each a character portrait and a warning about the mysterious ways of kharma. Taro the Wizardis a smart but lazy kid in a small village. He learns magic from old books and saves the villagers from several natural disasters, but when he tries to cast a spell of beauty of himself, hoping to catch the eye of a local girl, Taro ends up in a totally different position than expected. Jirobei the Fighteris the second son of a wealthy merchant, a drunkard and a wastrel (some autobiographical notes here, also) . He wants to win the respect of his neighbours, so he starts to train obsesivelly in martial arts. Jirobei gets so big and strong that nobody wants to fight with him, so he cannot demonstrate his skills. The one time he throws a punch in jest, it ends in disaster. Saburo the Liaris another kid from a wealthy family, son a a holy man. Saburo tries to get away from under the shadow of his father's success, but his methods are unorthodox, mostly cheating and envious lashing at luckier kids. Yet the talent for lying turns Saburo into a succesful author when his tall tales prove popular with other students and with the general public. By lying to others, and to himself, he fervently tried to obliterate his crime from reality and from his own heart, and thus, in the course of growing up, he became a walking, talking mass of prevarication. A coda of the overall story has the three characters meeting in a tavern and deciding to make the best of their hard luck. The theme of the artist as a professional liar will be reiterated in the last story of the collection. Lanterns of Romancemarks a circular journey back to the five siblings we met in the opening story. They are engaged here in another game of sequential storytelling, but with some added input from grandparents and parents. The author even places himself in the background of the action: I loved that family. I cannot pretend that my description of their household conforms precisely to facts, however. To put it in such overblown terms causes me more than a little embarrassment, but my account included certain elements that fell short of Goethe's ideals of "poetry and truth." There are even a few colossal lies mixed in. Once again, the youngest son is claiming the right to start the procedures, but his ambition is not the equal of his skills. How can a young boy deal with writer's block? His heart pounding, he leafed through various books from his shelf - a copy of Grimm's Fairy Tales, a volume of stories by Hans Christian Andersen, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and so on. Stealing a little bit from here, a little bit from there, he somehow managed to throw something together. All stories have been told a thousand times already, so why not have some fun with Rapunzel? The youngest son mixes in a few alien elements, but who's complaining? Dinner consisted of frogs grilled on skewers; the skin of a pit viper stuffed with the fingers of small children; a salad of death cups, wet mouse noses, and the innards of green caterpillars; swamp-scum liqueur; and a citric acid wine, fresh from the grave it was brewed in. This was all topped off with a confection of rusty nails and fragments of church-window glass. The elder sister makes an effort to strike a more original note:The real story always begins where the love story ends., so she explores what happens with the prince and Rapunzel after the happy ending. The days of wine and roses are slightly incompatible with the modern worldview: We are born to spend most of our days in the midst of bland, bleak reality. The second son and the second daughter do their best, but their own personality shortcomings serve mostly to muddle the waters. The eldest son is not much help either: The eldest son had always been too serious, and his powers of imagination were as a consequence severely underdeveloped. It would seem that the more irresponsible and crafty one is, the more likely one is to have a talent for storytelling. Grandfather to the rescue! The old rogue who still likes to visit the geisha houses at eighty puts the cherry on the cake:Any connoisseur knows you've got to be drunk to really enjoy a good romance. In other words, most of the stories we read are an attempt to escape from a grim reality. But what else can we do? Suicide, like Dazai did a few years later, is not a valid solution for me. I would rather have romance.>><<>><<>><<>><<>><<I lied myself just now. The epilogue is not an invitation to get drunk and party while the world burns. Grandfather gives the symbolic medal for storytelling to his daughter-in-law and tells her not to give up, to continue to tell stories: Promise you'll always take good care of these fine grandchildren of mine. >><<>><<>><<>><<>><<I am strongly persuaded to read more from Osamu Dazai, but I am a little shy of finding out his other books are more bleak, less hopeful than this one.

  • Mariel
    2018-12-12 08:16

    I wish that I could hand a teenaged Mariel a copy of Osamu Dazai's Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy. I would now say, "You were here for me." I'm unsure where the nostalgic feelings are coming from, not knowing what is Dazai and what is his own growing (up or down?). Maybe the believing suspension would be as an atmosphere like a starry sky over the fairy tales, to have grown up with the original Japanese fairy tales, instead of Dazai's exercises alone in standing. My two favorite stories, On Love and Beauty and Lanterns of Romance have the under the same moon many miles away quality for the foriegn fairy tale feeling of things that have been there for me in my life: J.D. Salinger's Glass family and Rapunzel. I am not twisted smiling over why I felt the strange outside quality of make believe outside the every day life. I've been doing this my whole life. This I know. Making up stories about other stories. This smile feels like an expression I could have made other days in my life. "I missed you!" If only every story was like that. Maybe I'm all wrong about the time thing. I missed the family of five siblings and a mother when they appeared again at the last. The grandparents were omitted until then. I agree with Dazai that that was a mistake. He knew a family like them. I don't know which is him, and which is them. I guess I don't need to know which of the Japanese fairy tales was Dazai... but I'd like to have the under the same sky feeling, you know? That there are more eyes looking up. In 'Lanterns' the siblings have a story writing contest. The youngest son chooses to do a retelling of Rapunzel. "But unhappiness lay ahead. There's just too great a social gap between a prince and the daughter of a witch. Misfortune was about to befall them. I'll leave the rest up to my eldest sister. Please take good care of Rapunzel." I loved that last line. Each sibling writes the rest of their tale concious of each other, unconcious of their own inner passions, yet more concious of their ideals. Eyes. Lots of them. Better than the story of Rapunzel was their eyes. I am beginning to think that fairy tale retellings need lots more eyes. Would the prince not love Rapunzel any more if she weren't beautiful? Was she too wild for acceptance? It was too big for a moral, just how I like it. That the family were rich and bored living in an eccentric lifestyle outside of the spheres reminded me of my favorite (of the three I've read so far) Dazai, The Setting Sun, as well as the Glass family of exceptional geniuses. I loved 'Setting' soooooo much because it touched the fantasy I've yearned for as long as I can remember wanting anything. A fantasy for that very life lived outside the gaze of the every day. It wasn't their freedom of being able to do whatever they wanted, having money to spare and all that. They weren't free unless they were spinning... So true. The Chrysanthemum Spirit is untraditional to me folktale about the romance of poverty. Since I reminded me of The Setting Sun (ha! I've been pining for when I read it), it isn't surprising that Dazai chose this story. Like Eeyore kinda enjoying sulking off by himself and not getting invited to the parties. Or Jean Genet loving prison. There's beauty to wallowing in what looks to be the bottom. Didn't anyone ever tell Sainosuke that there is always another bottom to the bottom? I may have liked this a whole lot when I was younger and attached to feeling miserable. It could be the translation that the tongue in cheek's accent is unnatural to listen to. I just only liked it. I'm trying to come up with reasons to explain why I don't feel warm in the now... I GET messages about wallowing. Finding the right moment when you don't need it any more is key. I guess these reached me too late because I don't need that. Reality and fantasy should be the same sides, light or dark as needed, of the coin. Blue Bamboo is a moral of the story tale. If any gods knock on my door... If I was going to do more than nod "Oh, that was good" it'd have to reach me where I sleep. Okay, no more of that. I was really wanting to read another book like The Setting Sun that kept alive within me the fantasy I've always wanted to have as often as possible. It can't only be time. It's the sky thing, right? Dazai's Crackling Mountain should reach me soon. I'm going to read it. Please take care of me, of Rapunzel and of Dazai. P.s. I love the cover art of the birds. P.s.s. I forgot to say that the talking to onesself as understanding the world reminded me of No Longer Human. The family felt "protected" (I guess that's it?) through the dreaminess, while the reciting of facts and art caused + timed the protagonist of No Longer Human to feel further alone. Both feel right for my weird feeling of alone in fantasy. I crave both. P.s.s.s. If only I were more analytical than emotional for times like this. Okay, the teen feeling means unfinished. I don't feel finished, but it does feel like there could be MORE. The fairy tale/teen thing feels an incomplete finished work. And I swear this has nothing to do with the deciding if I wanna live or die suicidal feeling. Dazai did kill himself. I am always trying to decide all of the time if I want to live or die, forget it as action (the deciding isn't action. It's foriegn fantasy mood). Fantasy is the leaning in to those feelings. P.s.s.s.s. Cherry Leaves and the Whistler was good. I forgot to mention that one. I liked the story about the dying younger sister writing love letters to herself. Her sister writes her love letters (not knowing they were not from a real man) to make her feel better. When she's an old woman, and both sister and father are dead, she wonders if their father didn't take part in the myth of the lover to make them both feel better. I would have liked that better if she didn't decide it was god. The old woman wishing she'd taken lovers in youth reminded me of the seventy something year old character in John Gardner's October Light. The narcissistic desire rather than wistfulness wasn't suited for a fantasy, in my tastes.

  • Akylina
    2018-11-25 06:11

    My review is also posted at The Literary Sisters.Dazai Osamu is an author quite well-known amongst fans of Japanese literature. Born in 1909, he contributed greatly to the Japanese literary tradition with works such as No Longer Human (1948), The Setting Sun (1947) and a plethora of other novels and short stories, before taking his own life in 1948. He is mostly known for the darker and depressing themes he tackles in his work, which were mostly drawn by the horrendous events of World War II.Being acquainted with the bleak and dreary side of Dazai’s writing, I was quite surprised when I started reading Blue Bamboo, a collection of seven tales inspired by Asian tradition and mythology. As Ralph McCarthy, the translator, informs us in the Introduction, all of the tales contained in this collection, apart from one, belong to Dazai’s “middle period”, one which is often neglected by both readers and scholars.The first story, “On Love and Beauty”, caught my interest initially because of its structure. It begins by introducing us to the members of a family that consists of five brothers and sisters. Despite being completely different in their characters and interests, they have the tradition of making stories together. One of them comes up with the beginning and each one of the rest of them subsequently adds their own parts until the story is concluded. Dazai revisits this very interesting family in the last story of this collection, “Lanterns of Romance”, where we get the opportunity to become more acquainted with this curious family, as they embark on the journey of retelling a version of Brother Grimm’s “Rapunzel”.“The Crysanthemum Spirit” and the title story, “Blue Bamboo”, are both stories based on old Chinese tales, but Dazai manages to add some elements of his own and make them quite distinctive. “Blue Bamboo” in particular, according to McCarthy’s notes, was even originally written in Chinese as Dazai meant for the Chinese people who were already familiar with the traditional tale to read and enjoy his own take on it.Another retelling of a Japanese story this time was “The Mermaid and the Samurai”, which I did enjoy but it definitely was my least favourite. “Romanesque” is Dazai’s earliest story, written in 1934, and it is preceeded in the book by “Alt Heidelberg”, the only story which is not based on any myth or legend but which instead is a biographical account of the days Dazai spent whilst writing “Romanesque”.Without meaning to sound biased, I absolutely adored this collection of short stories. I was already quite fond of Dazai’s writing from what I had read before, but seeing a literary face of his radically different from the significantly darker one presented in most of his later work, made me appreciate his literary aptitude and realize that apart from a deft storyteller and analyst of the human psyche, he is also a truly versatile author who is inspired by the tales of the past and doesn’t merely stick to writing a specific type of books.Furthermore, I truly enjoyed the fairytale atmosphere and the humorous tone most of the stories contained. Myths and fairytales fascinate me no matter where they originate from and discovering old and new retellings of them is more than enough to make me excited. Regardless of whether or not you are familiar with Dazai’s work, I would highly suggest picking up this collection, as it is a real treasure.I received a review copy from the publisher upon my request, but that does not affect my opinion of this book in the slightest.

  • Meghan Fidler
    2018-11-24 10:34

    Osamu Dazai is, in my humble opinion, underrated as an author. This book contains seven short stories: 愛と美について (ai to bi nit suite) “On Love and Beauty” ,葉桜と魔笛 (hazakura to mateki) “Cherry Leaves and the Whistler”, 清貧譚 (seihintan) “The Chrysanthemum Spirit”, 人魚の海 (Ningyo no umi) “The Mermaid and the Samurai”, 竹青 (Chikusei) “Blue Bamboo”, ロマネスク (Romanesuku) “Romanesque”, and ろまん燈籠 (Roman dourou) “Lanterns of Romance”.The narrative lines of these stories range from mundane topics to those which include the supernatural. The prosaic stories lines include: children taking turns story telling [ろまん燈籠 (Roman dourou) and 愛と美について (ai to bi nit suite)], and the power of letter writing [葉桜と魔笛 (hazakura to mateki)]. The supernatural motifs include the events surrounding the death of a mermaid [ 人魚の海 (Ningyo no umi)... on a side note, I would translate this title as "The Mermaid's ocean," not "The Mermaid and the Samurai, which was provided in the text], the multiple rebirths of ill-treated scholar through the blessing of the gods 竹青 (Chikusei), and wizards [ロマネスク (Romanesuku)]. This set of short stories is refreshing. "Blue Bamboo" does not hover insistently in the colors of depression, and the entries include concepts from outside of Japan without the use of orientalist devices. Because I study contemporary literacies, this book was particularly enjoyable for me. It was filled with references on how people write one another, make stories, and use books. One of my favorite excerpts was from "Saburō the Liar," a character in ロマネスク (Romanesuku). Here is an excerpt for your enjoyment!“As his skill at lying grew ever more remarkable, Saburō began to ghostwrite letters for two or three of the students who studied under Kōson. His specialty was writing parents to ask for money. He would begin with a brief description of the weather and scenery, express an innocent hope that all was well with the beloved and respected parent, then delve right into the matter at hand. Nothing, to Saburō’s mind, could be more ineffective than to begin with long, drawn-out passages full of groveling flattery and end with a plea for money. The plea only made the flattery all the more transparent and gave the whole letter an air of sordid insincerity. Better to pluck up one’s courage and get to the heart of the matter as quickly as possible. It was also advisable to keep things short and succinct. Like this: 'We are about to begin our study of the Book of Songs. If purchased from the local bookseller, the text costs twenty-two yen. Profvessor Kōson, however, having kindly taken into consideration the financial status of his students, has decided to order the books directly from China. The cost comes to fifteen yen, eighty sen per volume. Since passing up this opportunity would mean suffereing a substantial loss, I should like to order one of the books from him as soon as possible. Please send fifteen yen, eighty sen posthaste…After getting the request for money out of the way, one should then describe some trifling everyday occurrence. For example: Yesterday, looking out my wondow, I watched a single hawk doing battle with any number of crows—truly a valiant, soul-stirring sight. Or: The day before yesterday, as I was taking a walk along the banks of the Sumida River, I found the most peculiar little flower. It had small petals, like those of a morning glory, or, rather, quite large petals, you might say, like a sweet pea, and was white, but on the reddish side—such a rare find that I dug it up, roots and all, and replanted it in a pot in my room…' And so on, rambling leisurely along as if one had forgotten all about money, or anything else. The beloved father, reading this letter, would reflect upon the tranquility in his son’s heart and, ashamed of the wordly cares that plagued his own, send off the cash with a smile. Saburō’s letters really did have such an effect.”

  • David
    2018-12-10 04:32

    On Love and Beauty: Adorably pretentious family and their silly story-telling game. All wrapped up in gentle irony. Cherry Leaves and the Whistler: I like that this cute, sad little tale hinges on someone whistling this mad wartime classic: The Chrysanthemum Spirit: Stubborn little chap is determined to grow Chrysanthemums."When autumn came, Saburo's seedling, which Sainosuke had replanted in his garden, produced a single blossom. The flower was faintly rouge, like a drinker's blush, and gave off a light scent of sake."The Mermaid and the Samurai: This little story should be a film. Gripping, magical, adorable."These words of encouragement, stouthearted though they were, only left Konnai feeling all the more keenly his sorrow and woe, and for some moment, wracked with mournful sobs, he could make no reply at all. Such it is for those in the grips of misfortune: declarations of support and sympathy, rather than providing comfort, may merely increase the victim's pain. Overwhelmed with despair, Konnai bowed his head and cried manly tears, even as he resigned himself to the fact that his life was all but over. At length, wiping the tears away with his fists, he looked up and spoke in a voice still punctuated with sobs:'Thank you. The abuse whch Hyakuemon has heaped upon me today is scarcely such as I can find it in me to ignore. ... Being in the presence of His Lordship, however, I had no choice but to endure the unendurable and choke back the tears of vexation.'""'To think that all for some meaningless debate over mermaids, a worthy man must die!'""Certain now that her father was in some sort of trouble, Yae, samurai child that she was, slept that night in her kimono, with the sash firmly tied, curled up in a ball and hugging a dagger to her breast."Blue Bamboo: Poor chap with awful life meets a new crow girlfriend. Romanesque: This was my absolute favourite. It's in three parts, with a sting in the tail.Taro the Wizard:"Autumn brought even better things: apples as big as grapefruit and as red as coral hung from the trees in dense clusters. So juicy were these apples that if you plucked one and bit into it, the skin would burst with a loud crack and sweet, cold spray would gush out to soak your nose and cheeks.""Before long he learned how to turn himself into a praying mantis as well, but this proved disappointing. There was nothing particularly fun about being a praying mantis.""Taro approached the mirror with his heart in his mouth ... and received the shock of his life. His skin was so white as to be almost colorless; his cheeks were full and round and soft and smooth; his eyes were the narrowest conceivable slits; and a long, stringy mustache drooped down below his chin. It was a face that would have looked right at home on any eighth-century Buddhist statue. Even the splendid article between his legs resembled those of the men of old, hanging down long and fat and heavy."Jirobei the Fighter:"When you find yourself looking ridiculous, reasoning isn't worth a turd. If a man offends you, strike him down.""The training was complete. Jirobei looked more solid and imposing than ever and was so musclebound that it took him a full minute just to turn his head to the left or right."Saburo the Liar:"Saburo felt as if he could smell the unbearable stench of deception's final, sputtering fart.""The lies become blacker and more complex, they mesh and rub together until in the end they shine with the luster of truth."Lanterns of Romance: The same charming family from the first story, playing one of their story-telling games again.

  • Eddie Watkins
    2018-11-20 09:33

    Most of these stories are very charming retellings of (and elaborations upon) old Japanese and Chinese folktales, and so have a timeless quality, but also less individualism, though some subtleties giving these the "mark of Dazai" may've been lost in translation, or just lost on me. There is apparently a Japanese tradition for authors to lose themselves through the sublimation of their egos in the retelling of old tales; a practice not very common here in the US to my knowledge.So being an American my two favorites were the two that are closest to being whole cloth inventions - On Love and Beauty and Lanterns of Romance. These two stories feature five siblings of varying temperaments engaging in collaborative spontaneous storytelling - one sibling starting a story which is then continued by the next and so on. They both present a classic domestic fairy tale atmosphere and the romantic roots of storytelling. These "romantic roots" are what are referred to in the subtitle of this collection, which I understand as the "sea of stories" that have enveloped us for millenia, and which over the centuries has created an alternate reality in words that is continually being augmented and expanded upon; a thoroughly seductive idea for a story whore like myself (I'm not ashamed to admit it).

  • Tosh
    2018-11-23 03:12

    When ever I put pen on paper I usually think of Osamu Dazai. He is the one writer that i look up to for various reasons. The major thing I like about his work is how he puts himself in his narratives, or by design we think of Dazai as a character in his stories. I enjoy the confusion between fact and fiction. I bought this edition in Tokyo, because it can't be purchased in the U.S. And most importantly the translator, Ralph McCarthy, updated his translation. Here Dazai mixes his 'true' fiction with fairy tales, and comes up with work that is always charming, funny and genius like.

  • Lauren
    2018-12-03 05:21

    Different for Dazai, at least compared to what else I've read by him at this time (just 'The Setting Sun'). He is not usually so cheerful. My favorite tale here is "The Chrysanthemum Spirit", which tells the story of a passionate chrysanthemum gardener and his envious, fairweather friendship and benefaction of a younger man who, incidentally, is a cultivator of far more beautiful chrysanthemums than he's ever grown. The title story is a very sweet (not insipid!) look at taking life for granted.

  • Farah SA
    2018-12-12 10:16

    Compared to The Setting Sun and No Longer Human, this book is surprisingly a light reading. My favorite stories are the ones featuring the "quirky family": On Love and Beauty and Lanterns of Romance. Except for the lengthy lecture on mathematics by the youngest brother, I'd like to read more about the family and their favorite pastimes (that's including grandfather's giving medal to any family member).

  • Jeannine
    2018-11-19 03:38

    This unexpectedly charming and funny collection of stories (compared to Dazai's much bleaker autogriographical novels of Post-War Japan) reminds me in tone of JD Salinger - witty, observant, and introspective. My two favorite pieces are the first and the last, which both focus on a talented, eccentric family that will remind some of Salinger's "Glass" family, and their interwoven storytelling (particularly the last story and the characters' revision of Rapunzel.)

  • Brittany
    2018-11-18 09:20

    So, I'm not a fan of short stories, but I think this book restored my faith in them as I kinda liked this book. I think it has to do with that the stories are "romanchiku" (romantic). I liked the two stories about the family where they write the chain stories. I wish the author would have done more stories like those.

  • Billy
    2018-11-26 10:35

    Dazai has a creppy and oddly familiar Glass Family Motif that Salinger probably totally ripped off. What a Dallas Actress Sating Prickozoid Thief.If you like Seymour, Buddy, Boo-Boo, Walt and Waker, Franny, and Zachy: you'll love this translation with two of his "family" stories.

  • Rachael
    2018-11-16 04:26

    It’s far too easy when you think of Dazai to imagine and limit him to his longer and more weighty works. They leave an impression with their dissection of the human condition, the dark, depressing realism and nihilism that everyone can relate to. Yet while all of these elements can be found in the work of his early and middle years, the middle years tend to have a light-heartedness to them. There’s more humour plain and simple even while Dazai prods at questionable morals and humanity’s flaws. There’s no way you can’t laugh at so many of his quirky little tales. The way he retells both Chinese and Japanese mythologies while making them distinctly Dazai-ish, leaves you with this sense of originality.On Love and Beauty and Lanterns of Romance, follows five siblings, their mother, and grandfather and grandmother (in Lanterns of Romance leading to a story within a story. This family is quirky and entertaining but of course not without flaws. Yet rather and feel like an exploration into humanity it feels more like a rounding out of the characters. They become more, giving them personality and making the stories all the more enjoyable. Then there is the family dynamics. Even though these stories are short Dazai manages to flesh out the family in great detail. I've noticed throughout all his works, family dynamics is something Dazai does extremely well. To so extensively explore the connections, thoughts and feeling of each member in relation to the others just gives this family, not only their quirks, but life and relatability. You really feel as if you know them.There is a moment right at the end of On Love and Beauty where the eldest son talks about the importance of fleshing out a character’s physical appearance because it makes the character more real for the reader – allows the reader to connect and empathise. I just couldn’t help but think, this is one of the things Dazai does so well in his works, detailing out every aspect of his characters, physically and emotionally, making them seem all the more real.One of the things I loved about this volume was the other worldly aspect. Dazai work tends to be brutally real. So it was fun to have him step more into the fantastical with The Chrysanthemum Spirit, The Mermaid and the Samurai and Blue Bamboo. I really enjoyed his collection of fairy tales and certainly wasn’t disappointed to read these three stories that also stepped out of the realm of realism.Alt Heidelberg. The odd man out in this collection. In all the other stories Dazai wrote from the third person but this one was autobiographical and not in his typical style. There was no stylising the main character after himself. The character was himself. It was just a fun little memory that turned out to be the perfect prelude into Romanesque. I adored this one. A wizard, a fighter and a liar, bordering on the surreal but also grounded in reality. Though to be honest I wasn’t quite expecting Dazai to tie them all together in the end. I feel like I should have seen it coming but really anything is possible with Dazai.

  • Cherie
    2018-12-08 05:23

    Contrary to his best selling novels, No Longer Human and The Setting Sun, Osamu Dazai offers a lighthearted and charming read in this short story collection, Blue Bamboo. This collection of short story is far from our usually gloomy Dazai, whose more optimistic view of the life translated itself to this enjoyable and delightful read. I, for one, is a dunce when it comes to short stories, I consider it the most difficult form of prose writing, but having read this, he truly deserve all the praises.This collection comprises of the following stories;On Love and Beauty - I wish so much Dazai should have written more about them; but the beautiful ending to this short story is the "Lanterns of Romance" that also delivers. This story is about a family who loves to tell stories in chains. Dazai not only paints each characters with a distinct and quirky trait, these traits also reflect how they tell their stories.The Chrysanthemum SpiritThe Mermaid and The SamuraiBlue BambooAlt Heidelberg - This autobiographical piece, I felt was out of context. I find myself wishing that they could have included his other works instead of this.RomanesqueLanterns of RomanceI feel an undeniable poignancy when I finished reading it. Having read No Longer Human (his autobiographical novel), it is still unfathomable to me, how this man who committed multiple attempted suicide and eventually succeed in it, could write something so beautiful and funny and heart warming? There was so much potential in his writing that I am deeply moved by the transition that reflected his works. I highly recommend reading his works per publication date. It is imperative that the reader should do this and discover the greatness of Dazai as an artist, an author and as a human.

  • Rudolph
    2018-12-13 10:27

    Six amazing stories that I found oddly refreshing. The novels I read from Dazai Osamu were No Longer Human and The Setting Sun. I was expecting to feel the same levels of hopelessness and anxiety that Dazai was infamous for, but I was glad to find out that I was wrong, that there was a time when he was hopeful and his stories were full of romance and humor, rather than melancholy and suicide.

  • Taani
    2018-11-18 07:14

    Good collection of stories, especially Blue bamboo and the chrysanthemum spirit was my favourite :)

  • Hannah
    2018-11-22 09:18

    A Japanese Dostoevsky; a sardonic, cynical, detached story-telling style while not hiding as well its autobiographical nature.

  • Rebecka
    2018-12-02 10:14

    I really enjoyed this! I'm glad I bought it so I can re-read it soon

  • Cris N.
    2018-12-10 09:20

    These are some of the more light-hearted stories written by Osamu Dazai (everyone immediately thinks of the depressing "No Longer Human" when his name comes up), many of which are based off of or inspired by Japanese and German fairy tales. They're not necessarily the sorts of "fairy tales" meant for children, although if you wanted to have kids read them, I'd say any of them could be read by older children (like middle school age). The distinctly fairy tale stories were "The Chrysanthemum Spirit" and "The Mermaid and the Samurai," and "Romanesque" might have been based off of a fairy tale but I'm not sure. The others were not really fairy tales but had a fairy tale feel to them: the stories "On Love and Beauty" and "Lanterns of Romance" were about a family that has a story-telling hobby, while "Alt Heidelberg" was about a young man's travels to a quirky town (don't let the name of the story deceive you, it's not the same story as the German play). Finally, "Blue Bamboo" was more of a folk tale with supernatural elements. Anyways, personally I'm not really into fairy tale type stories, but they were alright. "Romanesque" was very amusing, so it was kind of fun. I did especially enjoy the story "On Love and Beauty" (which was the least fairy-tale-like story) and most of all the story "Blue Bamboo", which is actually an old Chinese folk tale that teaches a good lesson to people in a terrible life situation contemplating suicide. A comment about the translation: it was well-done and smooth, although it has a distinct British style that occasionally makes you feel like you're reading a work written by an Englishman. I wasn't bothered by that because I've read British novels before, but some people might feel that it takes away from the "Japaneseness" of the works.

  • Emi
    2018-12-13 10:34

    osamu dazai is now my hero. :)this is a lovely collection of short stories written by a most amazing Japanese writer. a lot of the stories in Blue Bamboo have a nice vibe, kind of like fairy tales. the language is a little formal and serious but every story has a nice ironic humour to it, making them all very favourite story from the collection is probably "Lanterns of Romance", about the eccentric Irie family. i also really loved the first story "On Love and Beauty", also about the Irie brothers and sisters. i really wish Dazai had written more about them, in just two short stories, you find yourself really interested in this family and every character. anyone who can show the nature of a character and how they relate to others and how they think and make the audience care about them is a genius. as said before, these stories all have a romantic fairy-tale esque feel to them, sometimes making them a little like parables or aesop's fables. i really enjoyed "The Chrysanthemum Spirit" and "Romanesque". the titular "Blue Bamboo" was an odd story but also pretty good. "Cherry Leaves and the Whistler" and "The Samurai and the Mermaid" were fair stories, but not really terribly striking to me. every story has a little mystery, some fantasy and are quite lenient when it comes to making sense. :)Ralph F. McCarthy also did a great job with the translation, and an intro at the front giving a good basic background on each story don't hurt. overall, this is a fantastic collection of short stories, and each one is a real gem. :) don't you love it when short story collections are full of only good ones?

  • Anna
    2018-11-22 03:23

    Comments focus on my three favourite stories, but in general: Absolutely LOVED IT. The stories are fantastic, whimsical, beautiful, touching, and utterly Romantic. My three favourites are "On Love and Beauty", "Blue Bamboo", and "Lanterns of Romance". For the first, I think it was the family and all their quirks that first drew me in, and then their story told in so many different voices made me laugh, smile, and just touched me. One thing I must admit I really liked was the "twist" at the end with the mother -- it made me laugh out loud!"Blue Bamboo" was my favourite. The whole tale felt so magical and yet so down-to-earth. What made me love it the most, I think, was that in the end the hero realizes the value of his wife, and of his life, and ceases trying to be something he is not and never could be."Lanterns of Romance". I was delighted to discover that this featured the same family as the very first, and I loved how different all the parts of the tale were; it made for an unpredictable yet highly enjoyable story, as I was never certain what would come next. The ending reminded me a bit of the Arthurian legend featuring Dame Ragnall. The eldest son's postscript was hilarious (he's so pompous!!) and I liked how the grandfather's medal was finally given in a manner deemed fitting by all -- I actually found it really touching.All in all, highly, highly recommended and I'm curious to read more of his work.

  • Quiet
    2018-12-06 02:32

    Tail and head stories are worthwhile, those which deal with the Irie family. You see the snark, the bitter, and the confused of Dazai in those two, and it's really very funny. Reminded me much of Salinger's Glass family, but less tragic and more (humorously) desperate.But the rest of the stories follow, mostly, Dazai's interest in the reinterpretation, or modern-ish-ization of classic Japanese stories. I use that dumb trio of hyphens because the stories are odd; they are only 'updated' often to reflect very minimal qualities of Dazai himself, namely that everyone is often drinking where they once were not, or drinking more than they once were. But the power of this hardly reaches, because anyone who has read classic Japanese stories as a foreign reader (and goodluck finding the stories Dazai references here) knows that the sensibility inherent in them is very different from western, and often blatantly transparent, majorly Confucian moral fables. So that remains here also, but--- just tweaked, barely at all.Japanese readers may find these stories humurous and engaging should they have familiarity with the past stories, but if you don't then really they're ultra flat.But the first and last stories, which deal with the Irie family, are certainly worth reading.

  • Ben
    2018-11-14 03:16

    Originally published in English by Kodansha in 1993, Blue Bamboo was reissued by Fukuoka-based Kurodahan Press in 2012, with revised translations and a helpful introduction by original translator Ralph McCarthy (a nice touch by the new publisher is the bamboo and chrysanthemums painting, from Fukuoka Art Museum, on the cover). Self-loathing frequently permeates, even characterizes, Dazai's output. This can be hard-going. Sometimes it detracts from the art, as in the angst-filled novella Schoolgirl (1939). Other times, as in the two great novels, Setting Sun (1947) and No Longer Human (1948) it is carefully controlled and processed to great effect. In contrast, these stories are light and readable. We see Dazai in a more playful mood and, since the stories span quite a large time period, 1934-1945, they were perhaps selected to bring out this aspect of the author. In subject matter, they range from the fantastical, through mythical Chinese-influenced (and Lafcadio Hearn-influenced?) folklore, to the realistic. An enjoyable, readable collection, showing a less well-known lighter side of this important C20 Japanese author.

  • Joe Cummings
    2018-11-20 08:29

    "Blue Bamboo: Japanese Tales of Fantasy" by Osamu Dazai is a wonderful read for the Halloween season. If for no other reason, the stories concern all sorts of "ghoulies, ghosties, and long-legged beasties and things that go bump in the night" that the old Scottish prayer reminds us that from whom we need protection. Within its pages are mermaids, wizards, chrysanthemum spirits, mysterious whistlers, and magical crows who are agents for gods that test the true intentions of mortals as well as those modern monsters-familial dynamics and social distance. Beyond that, Osamu was a masterful short story teller, and his stories often reveal idiosyncrasies of Japanese culture during the first half of Showa era. Nevertheless, his characters have universal qualities that are easily recognizable. More importantly, the stories are fun to read. I recommend this collection.

  • Elizabeth
    2018-11-30 08:15

    Quite enjoyed this brisk, stylish collection of stories, but could not disagree with the description more. I read it as a satirical jaunt through the forest of human folly. Dazai doesn't engage in much harsh judgement, but neither did I find much excuse making or treacly whitewashing in the 'well, we're all human' vein.At heart, this is a bleak little book. And yes, I do think that can be read out of rather than into the stories, biographical knowledge of the author aside. Picturesque though. You'll want to linger.

  • Diego Flores
    2018-12-09 05:38

    Probably would have rated it a 3.5. A few of the stories, particularly "On Love and Beauty" and "Lanterns of Romance", were great, with a few other good ones, and a couple ones I didn't get much out of. The title story reminded me heavily of a paler version of the Chinese tale "A Dream Under the Southern Bough".

  • umberto
    2018-12-11 08:33

    Compared to his novel “The Setting Sun” (Tuttle 1981) I read some years ago, this 7-tale collection has proved Dazai Osamu’s versatility and originality as one of the great Japanese story-tellers. I mean while reading any tale we could observe his skilled hand and uniqueness in terms of its fantasy and romance taken from old Chinese and Japanese tales.

  • Alina Seniuta
    2018-12-14 07:31

    On Love and Beauty and Lanterns of Romance had this Salinger (read: 'love!') air for me. The extravagance of family members together with their warmth to each other reminded me of the Glasses so much. I certainly have some kind of soft spot here.