The Best Fantastical Japanese Mythology Books

Every culture has their individual myths and folklore that contain an array of whimsical beasts and heroes alike. Japan has been known to contain some of the most whimsical and even eerie tales of mythology, intriguing audiences on an international scale. We've reviewed the best Japanese Language booksCookbooks and History Books. Now we've put together a list the best Japanese mythology books for you to really get a glimpse into some of the best stories, characters, and yokai lurking in every corner of Japanese history. 

1. The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai (Yokai Series Book 1)

It would be quite the story if you stepped out one night to suddenly turn and witness a parade consisting of yokai, or Japanese spirits, making their way unnervingly down your street. Much of Japanese mythology revolves around these yokai and their mischievous outings all throughout Japanese history.

Author Mathew Meyer brings to light all there is to know about these fascinating creatures and their infamous "Night Parade" in his book The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai. Unfortunately, Western culture has little to no knowledge on yokai and even less knowledge on their significance to the folklore embedded in Japanese history. They have immense cultural value and are just plain interesting in their makeup and imagination. Yokai can embody everything from a simple talking fox to something as odd as women with extra mouths on the back of their heads. This book does wonders in the ways of depicting the mysterious figures of yokai so that anyone from around the globe can understand their origin and overall peculiarities. If you're interested in delving into Japanese mythology, comprehending yokai in the context of these stories is an absolute must. We highly suggest you check out The Night Parade of One Hundred Demons: A Field Guide to Japanese Yokai as it does not disappoint in interesting and whimsical content all about ancient Japanese text.


2. Japanese Tales (The Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)

Often we find ourselves interested in the larger span of Japanese folktales and mythology, versus just the narrowed in focus on the notorious yokai. To really delve into the mythology, we need a book that tells of us the diverse breadth of stories that makeup Japanese history and culture.

Japanese Tales by Royall Tyler just the book with expansive content containing over two hundred of Japan's most revered tales. Tales of expansive worlds, characters, and lessons that all represent the true meaning of classic Japanese culture. We invite you to explore all types of stories, even stories of quite the bizarre nature! Each one will leave you wondering how they came to be and their true origin. It can really get almost boring hearing the same Western folktales over and over in the current popular media, but this book offers a refreshing look at the myths you wouldn't normally hear or aren't quite familiar with. A book like this that offers so many stories will also inevitably spread inspiration and knowledge on a Japan from long ago. We can't say how enough how enjoyable of a read Japanese Tales is and how enlightening it is on an ancient Japan we rarely get to see today.


3. Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide

Straightforward tales of legends and myths can sometimes get mundane and tedious for even the average every day reader. Sometimes, we need to find a book that has the same kind of content, but that presents it in a way we can all enjoy even after we've finished it cover to cover

To bring forth a whole new look at yokai and their ancient histories in Japanese urban legends, both Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt bring you Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide. Yokai are a huge part of Japanese myths, and these authors knew their importance had to be shared with not only just the Japanese community, but to the world as well.  In so, they spent a majority of their time researching and studying each one in an extensive manner to compile the most accurate information. They even went through a plethora of sources and descriptions all to bring you a book that is true to each yokai's origin while also being a notably light-hearted read. The author and the illustrator truly work hand and hand in this book, bringing their audiences imaginative tales with equally as imaginative illustrations to match. Visuals are always a perfect addition to any book, especially for one dealing with a bit of an odd subject as yokai. Get ready for a wild adventure learning about the other-worldy yokai, and their hand in shaping not only the past, but the future as well, in Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide.


4. Tales of Old Japan: Folklore, Fairy Tales, Ghost Stories and Legends of the Samurai

What would folktales and lore be without looking at them through a true historical lens? To really get an accurate perspective, sometimes a history lesson is just what we need!

A.B. Mitford, a Europeon world traveler during the late nineteenth century, decided to compile his journey's adventures to Japan into a single book titled the Tales of Old Japan.  Serving as one of the very first Western diplomats to work in Edo Japan, Mitford quickly picked up the Japanese language and managed a lot of his time as an interpreter between the young Japanese Emperor and the British royalty. His travels, although brief, allowed him to genuinely explore the Japanese experience and in so he wanted to share his experiences with the rest of the world. This book is a collection of Mitford's accounts of Japanese legends, myths, ghost stories, and the like. With these tales, he also accompanies them with the accurate aspects of the culture at the time, a rarity for a Westerner to acquire in the 1800's. Such aspects included descriptions of the locals, customs, and even remarkable characters. If you know you're already interested in Japanese folklore, this book will not only provide just that, but it will enlighten you on the culture surrounding these myths at the exact time they were being told.Tales of Old Japan is a wonderful read for anyone curious in mythology and history alike.

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5. Japanese Fairy Tales

Snow White, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland seem to constantly be retold in different representations again and again in Western Media. It's time to really explore a whole new genre of folktales that will leave you saying Cinderella who?

Classically rendered books with just pure folktales are hard to come by, but Yei Thodora Ozaki has done us a favor by putting together a book with the best of the best in Japanese Fairy Tales. We believe it's perfect time to trade in our routine fairy tales of damsels in distress and start telling stories of odd animal encounters, spiteful gods, and desperate heroes of Japanese descent. Stories like these are also great in drawing inspiration from and getting a glimpse into ancient Japanese history. This classic book also has a lot of various versions to purchase, from hardback to audio, you can read these fairy tales from the comfort of your own house to on the daily commute to work. Check out Japanese Fairy Tales to escape the mundane rituals of every day life and dive in to far off lands and captivating protagonists.


6. The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore

You really can't escape stories of all kinds consisting of yokai if you're bound to learn about Japanese mythology. They're just far too prevalent and deeply rooted in the culture to just go ignored in any way.

To bring to light even more tales of these ghostly characters, The Book of Yokai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore by Michael Dylan Foster does just the trick. Foster has come to recognize how popular culture has adapted yokai into numerous anime, manga, films and more, so he went on to create a book that went beyond their current renditions, to a more classic understanding of the odd beings. Now why choose this book to read up on yokai versus the many others that exist? Well this one presents very well organized and researched history about each and every yokai that is hard to come by. Readers have claimed again and again how fascinating of read The Book of Yokai is and how much it really teaches the almost academic perspective. Consider a book like this when you're watching an anime and an enigmatic yokai appears and plays into the plot. Now you can really understand their origin and why they make constant appearances throughout Japanese history and are still such a heavy influence in even today's media. 


7. Kitsune-Tsuki (Kitsune Tales Book 1)

Yokai and short myths are interesting no doubt, but we think it can also be quite entertaining to look into a single specific Japanese fairy tale and discover all it has to offer.

Laura VanArendonk Baugh creates striking imagery and unforgettable characters in her novel Kitsune-Tsuki, inspired by actual historical events. Instead of incorporating a whole set list of folktales to briefly discuss, Baugh has chosen a single story to embellish and share with her readers. This book takes you on an adventure that features a fantastical cast including a practitioner of the magic arts, a devious fox spirit, mute twins, and even more inciting figures. The book draws influence from actual Japanese events and combines them with stories rooted from Japanese fairy tales. Readers have also complimented the book in saying that it does well giving a fresh take on folktales while still keeping the foundation of ancient Japanese mythology intact. Baugh cleverly leaves clues sprinkled throughout the novel, foreshadowing future events in the story. With this added element, you can really enjoy the overall story while also on the hunt for these mysterious clues. Kitsune-Tsuki is a great rendition of the classic Japanese myths that includes all of the yokai and odd creatures of Japanese legends we've already come to know and love. All ages and types of readers can find something really fun and whimsical about this tale!


8. The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia

A lot of books cover the topic of yokai in the context of Japanese mythology. They even tell them in stories and historical settings, yet none have put them altogether into one single encyclopedia.

For those of us ready to sit down and really learn about each individual yokai, we now can look to The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia  by Richard Freeman as the perfect book! Page after page is filled to the brim with descriptions and minute details about yokai, perfect for any Japanese enthusiast. We even get wonderful illustrations by Anthony Walls to put side by side each of the creatures. There are plenty of other books that contain yokai, as we've seen, but they mostly cover the more popular of the category, like the kappa or the kistune. This book; however, researches into every well-known and even forgotten yokai to exist, either by written tale or simply by word-of-mouth, and puts them into an easily accessible resource for us to consume at our leisure. Take a look into The Great Yokai Encyclopaedia to catch a glimpse into the very populated world of yokai!

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9. Monotagari Tales of Japan: Illustrated with works of Katsushika Hokusai (Tales of the World)

The Edo period in Japan is known to be the most classic and respected in terms of cultural value and story telling of all kinds. To even understand Japanese mythology as a genre, it's crucial we understand this classic Japan as well.

Bringing you a tales straight from the source of Edo Japan, author Elena N Grand and illustrator Katsushika Hokusai have teamed up to give us Monotagari Tales of Japan. This book is a complete source for every fairy tale and legend from Japan that one could imagine. A guide that will take us away from our over populated and produced Western stories, and introduce fairy tales of a new variety. If you're already sold on the idea of exploring Japanese culture in its entirety, then you cannot forget to include all the myths, folktales, and legends that have existed for centuries. With illustrations directly from an artist of the Edo period, Grand gives us a source that can really tune our imaginations to the realities of that time period and the stories to match. We suggest you check out Monotagari Tales of Japan ,for whether you're a casual fan of Japanese culture or you're absolutely dedicated to knowing all there is to know about Japan, this book is an excellent read!


10. A Treasury of Japanese Folktales: Bilingual English and Japanese Edition

When we think of fairy tales, most often our train of thought leads us to children. Throughout history, children have been a huge influence on how fairy tales come to be and what they have to teach.

A Treasury of Japanese Folktales: Bilingual English and Japanese Edition written by Yuri Yusada does an excellent job of revising famous Japanese folktales in a kid-friendly way that both teaches them the story and teaches them a whole new language as well. Children, up to a certain point, have a higher capacity to learn a whole new language. Yusada takes advantage of this knowledge to create a book that can teach kids another language in a way that keeps them captivated and imagining. These beautifully stunning stories and illustrations take you to never-before conceived places and on journies with remarkably relatable characters. Not only are the stories interesting, but they do you the favor of teaching you kanji and other elements to the Japanese language. If you have a kid interested in learning a new language, or even want a fun way to learn one yourself, A Treasury of Japanese Folktales: Bilingual English and Japanese Edition takes the liberty to give you all of this and more. People of all ages already have an unexplained love for fairy tales and stories alike, so why not use them to teach us a thing or two about another language?