Still More Ghost Stories from About Town

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Still More Ghost Stories from About Town
Author: Natsuhiko Kyōgoku
Specifications: ISBN  978-4043620043
787 pages
10.8 x 14.8 cm / 4.3 x 5.9 in (WxH)
Category: Fiction
Publisher: Kadokawa Corporation
Tokyo, 2003
Awards: Naoki Prize, 2003
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A string of six ghost tales, this is the third collection in a series following Kosetsu hyaku monogatari (Ghost Stories from About Town) and Zoku kosetsu hyaku monogatari (Ghost Stories from About Town, Continued). The stories in the earlier volumes are set in the Edo period (1603?1867), but the tales in this prizewinning work unfold in Tokyo in 1877, as Japan is embarking on its quest for modernity after the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate.

The elderly Momosuke, a man of great learning who once aimed to be a writer of fantastic stories, is traveling throughout Japan to share the bizarre tales he has collected over his 80-plus years. He tells his young audiences about the lord who reigns over a lonely island in a distant sea, never allowed to laugh; the will-o'-the-wisps with human faces that float above graveyards; the serpent that cannot be killed. He also draws on his knowledge of the land's specters and supernatural phenomena as he looks decades back into his memory to explain the mysteries of various great evils that were judged and punished in incidents of the past.

In the final chapter, Kaze no kami (God of Winds), Momosuke organizes a special telling of 100 tales?a ceremony for which participants gather in a closed room with 100 paper lanterns. As each person tells a ghostly tale in turn, one lamp is extinguished. When the last lamp is snuffed, plunging the room into darkness, it is said that the participants will witness a supernatural happening of some kind. It is here that Momosuke reveals the identity of the man who raped and murdered the daughter of a woman he knows.

Kyogoku's take on the supernatural is that "specters lurk in the hearts of those who see them." While on the one hand explaining away the eerie stories presented in his works with the statement that ghosts do not exist, he manages to cast doubt on our world of unquestioning allegiance to science and rationalism, evoking a wistful nostalgia for the apparitions in which we once believed. With encyclopedic knowledge of the literary classics and folklore, as well as a talent for crafting almost acrobatic fantasy, the author has created a profound body of ghost tales for a new era.