Are you looking for the best Japanese mythology books? Get your hands on the books mentioned in this list. They are sure to captivate you and take you into the mystical world of Japanese mythology without actually having to go to Japan.
With that being said, these books about epic Japanese mythology and vibrant Japanese culture are definitely worth your time.
7 Best Japanese Mythology Books
Paperback, hardcover, or Kindle: Here are the seven best books you should read right away!
1. The Book of Yokai
This is one of the best books that provide interesting accounts of several Japanese mythology folklores revolving around Yokai. The book talks about different legends about Yokai. Yokai are Japanese mythology creatures or entities that have the unique ability to display a wide range of forms and behaviors. They can be demons, spirits, or supernatural monsters. The author of this book Michael Foster is a Professor and the Department Chair of East Asian Languages and Culture at the University of California Davis.
The book provides a detailed description of the history of Yokai along with their cultural significance or beliefs in Japan. The book covers mind-blowing trivia, true illustrations, and mysteries about over fifty creatures. You will also understand the influence of Yokai on Japanese tradition and culture. With respect to the contemporary relevance of Yokai, they are even depicted in a great many Manga comics, anime, movies, and video games popular across the world.
The interpretations of yokai through their catalogs by Michael Foster are not only informative but also quite vivid. If you love reading about creatures and like to explore different perspectives showcased by the Japanese yokai, this is the book for you.
2. Handbook of Japanese Mythology
Handbook of Japanese Mythology by Michael Ashkenazi is an in-depth account of various aspects of Japanese mythology. The book has superb attention to detail. Achieving a harmonious amalgamation of multiple cultures, religions, and beliefs is difficult. But this book does the job like a true pro.
There are about eight million gods and ancient deities in Japanese mythology. And this book captures it all beautifully without making it seem too vast and complex.
In the book, you come across interesting Shinto and Buddhist myths. And you get a vivid understanding of a great many historical figures, icons, rituals, and events in core Japanese mythology.
If you are on the lookout for a value-for-money guide on Japanese mythology and culture. If you want explanations and illustrations with top-notch clarity, this is your go-to book that is well-documented. It also helps you understand the current Japanese society based on the influence of its ancient mythological beliefs.
The book is like a glossary or a dictionary in alphabetical order depicting Japanese mythology gods, deities, people as well as mythical creatures. So, suppose you think you want to delve into the magical world of Japanese mythology deeply. In that case, you can take this one home for its effective attention to detail. The good thing is that it is written by someone who himself is a Japanese mythology and religion specialist.
3. The Kojiki
Kojiki is the oldest book recording legends from Japanese mythology. The origin of Japan’s imperial ancestors and the Japanese kami is depicted in the Kojiki, also known as Furukotofumi. The myths in the Kojiki are responsible for many Japanese traditions, rituals, and practices: even the Shinto culture emulates them. The Kojiki consists of semi-historical and genealogical accounts of the Japanese imperial line.
It emphasizes the significance of Yamato’s supremacy over ancient Japan and all its cultures and traditions. The book states his divine right to rule the island of Japan. It records and takes you back to the historical roots of the Japanese. It is therefore known as one of the best existing depictions of a mix of Japanese legends and history, genealogy, and poetry.
Moreover, the book artistically captures the mythological creation of heaven, earth, and the island of Japan by siblings Izanami and Izanagi. There are narratives about the birth of several other Japanese deities and gods.
This description right here may not be enough to express the diversity and enormity of this book. So, if you like what you just read, you can grab a copy to explore the vastness of Japanese mythology yourself. A true Japanese mythology and religion scholar is recommended to have a copy of the Kojiki in their collection.
4. Nihon Shoki
The Nihon Shoki, also known as the Chronicles of Japan, is another authentic Japanese mythology book. It is one of the oldest sources of several interesting legends from Japanese mythology, classical history, and culture.
The book covers a detailed account of the mythical creation of Japan, similar to the Kojiki. It also talks about the first seven generations of heavenly Japanese beings. Furthermore, Nihon Shoki focuses on the acts of courage and chivalry of the Japanese rulers. And it also sheds light on their negative qualities and the mistakes they committed. Therefore it shows the good as well as the bad from both historical and mythological perspectives.
5. Tales Of Old Japan: Folklore, Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories, and Legends of the Samurai
Tales of Old Japan is a fascinating read. A.B.Mitford, a British writer and diplomat, managed to write this masterpiece inspired by his short stay in Japan. It covers gripping fairy tales, classic ghost stories, spellbinding narratives of vampires, samurais, as well as Buddhist sermons.
The bone-chilling ritual of Harakiri is also depicted in the book. The Harakiri ceremony mentioned in the book is believed to be a first-hand account of someone who witnessed the entire ritual happen in front of them.
The book attempts to capture multiple themes on both sides of the spectrum, such as great acts of devotion, love, and chivalry. And cold-blooded acts showing no mercy.
It is called one of the best Japanese mythology literary compendiums. The book is a great introduction to the mythical world of Japanese culture and beliefs. It gives a well-rounded view of ancient historical traditions in Japan, animal fables, and details about bizarre Japanese ceremonies.
Additionally, there are many more legends that are perfectly illustrated. With a good diversity of stories and excellent presentations that seem almost real, this book could be one of your best picks and will most certainly not fail to impress you.
Kwaidan is another well-known compilation of Japanese tales and horror stories. It involves not just Yokai but several other ghosts and supernatural elements. Again, it is a wonderful creation of author Lafcadio Hearn. Hearn’s interpretations are not only terrifying enough to spook you. But also very entertaining and well-presented without any repetition of the themes used.
From man-eating hobgoblins to strange insects imitating humans, Kwaidan amazingly captures haunting narratives from Japanese folklore. The book has a balanced mix of horror stories and tales about several superstitious fears. Some of the tales mentioned in the book specifically have Chinese origins. That is not it.
It beautifully captures a wide array of things in one volume. It is a great collection of Japanese and Chinese legends, fascinating horror mysteries, and folklore. What is best is that it also has fascinating studies about insects.
You can even call it the Japanese version of stranger things 🙂 Although it is mentioned as the last book on this list, it is quite an intriguing read. And you might even be tempted to put this on the top of your bookshelf, especially if you are a sucker for short stories with horror undertones to them.
7. Myths and Legends of Japan
Myths and Legends of Japan by F. Hadland Davis is one of the most read books on Japanese mythology and culture. The book illustrates several spellbinding legends that venerated many ancient Japanese warriors and heroes.
Why should you read this book? The expression of love and romance through beautifully written poetry is the reason. This book is great for exploring the artistic side of Japanese culture through the lens of appreciation for beauty and nature. The creative and accurate depictions of different legends in the book further make it an interesting read.
So, it is absolutely worth exploring for avid Japanese mythology lovers. The book even covers mystical myths of gods and goddesses from ancient Japanese mythology, as well as the popular legends of Lord Buddha.
What is good is that it does not overload you with too much information. Instead, it makes everything interesting to read and easier to process. It deserves to be on this list for giving extensive yet vivid accounts of several mind-blowing Japanese myths and legends.
The book is comprehensive and magical with lessons, myths, ghost stories, a mixture of Buddhist and Shinto traditions, and more. So, if you are fascinated with Japanese mythology and culture and wish to immerse yourself in its mysterious tales, this book should pique your interest.
So, which book have you picked to read? You could get them all if you have even a passing interest in ancient Japanese culture and mythology.
In case your favorite book is not listed here, let us know in the comments below. What are your favorites, and why? Also, it would be nice if you could share your thoughts on this article. Happy reading!! “Saraba Da” because Sayonara is too mainstream.