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The Japanese Myths

A Guide to Gods, Heroes and Spirits

Joshua Frydman


The perfect introduction to the world of Japanese myth and legend

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This is a smart and succinct guide to the rich tradition of Japanese mythology, from the earliest recorded legends of Izanagi and Izanami, their divine offspring and the creation of Japan, to medieval tales of vengeful ghosts, through to the modern-day reincarnation of ancient deities as the heroes of mecha anime. While many around the world love Japan’s cultural exports, few are familiar with Japan’s unique mythology - enriched by Shinto, Buddhism and regional folklore.

Mythology remains a living, evolving part of Japanese society, and the ways in which the people of Japan understand their myths are very different today even from a century ago, let alone over a millennium into the past. Offering much more than any competing overview of Japanese mythology, The Japanese Myths not only retells the ancient stories but also considers their place within the patterns of Japanese religions, culture and history, helping readers to understand the deep links between past and present in Japan, and the ways these myths live and grow.

Joshua Frydman takes the very earliest written myths in the Kojiki and the Nihonshoki as his starting point, and from there traces Japan’s mythology through to post-war State Shinto, the rise of the manga industry in the 1960s, J-horror and modern-day myths. Reinventions and retellings of myth are present across all genres of contemporary Japanese culture, from its auteur cinema to renowned video games such as Okami. This book is for anyone interested in Japan, as knowing its myths allows readers to understand and appreciate its culture in a new light.

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'Well-written, thought-provoking, and visually engaging … this book is a wonderful guide to an enduring fascination with stories and the supernatural in Japan. Frydman’s explanations prove mythology acts as a compass to guide past, present and future generations'
The Japan Society

'Students, travellers, and all readers interested in the history of Japan, Japanese ideology, and the nation's current cultural products will find this authoritative work absorbing'
Library Journal

'Eminently readable, interesting and authoritative ... Highly recommended'
Fortean Times

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Product Information

Book Details

Format: Hardback

Size: 19.6 x 12.9 cm

Extent: 224 pp

Illustrations: 90

Publication date: 14 April 2022

ISBN: 9780500252314

Contents List

1. What are the Japanese Myths?
2. Age of the Gods
3. The Imperial Mythos
4. Living Kami and Divine Humans
5. Canon Foreigners
6. A World Flush with Spirits
7. Invention and Rediscovery

About the Author

Joshua Frydman is Assistant Professor of Japanese in the Department of Modern Languages, Literatures and Linguistics at the University of Oklahoma. An expert on ancient Japan, his academic interests include the development of writing systems (in East Asia and worldwide), and the role of transregional and global cultural interactions in the development of premodern societies as viewed through literature and art. He is also the author of Inscribed Objects and the Development of Literature in Early Japan.

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