A classic collection of Japanese folk tales

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FOLK TALES FROM JAPAN: FABLES, MYTHS, AND FAIRY TALES FOR CHILDREN

By Florence Sakade, illustrated by Yoshio Hayashi (North Clarendon, Vt.: Tuttle Publishing, 2020, 80 pp., $14.99, hard cover)

“Folk Tales From Japan,” compiled by Florence Sakade, is a delightful collection of stories that has been enchanting children for more than 60 years. Previously published as “More Japanese Children’s Favorite Stories,” it is part of a series “created to share the folktales and legends most beloved by children in the East with young readers of all backgrounds in the West.” These stories were a part of my childhood and I remember them fondly. 

Some of the folktales include:

• “The Rolling Mochi Cakes” — a story of kindness and sharing

• “The Princess and the Herdboy” — a tale explaining the origins of the Tanabata Festival 

• “Urashima Taro” — one of the most popular folktales in Japan

• “The Fairy Crane” — a story about gratitude and what happens when one breaks a promise

• “Kintaro’s Adventures” — an account of the famous boy folk hero with super strength

Yoshio Hayashi’s watercolor illustrations bring the stories to life. His characters are expressive and vibrant from the mice pounding mochi cakes to Kintaro and his sister Misuzu having tea and rice dumplings with their animal friends. Hayashi transports us to an extraordinary world where animals, magical beings, and humans all interact. 

I teach at an elementary school where students learn Japanese language and culture. We read “The Rolling Mochi Cakes” to our kindergarten students and our fifth graders performed a play of “Urashima Taro.” These stories continue to captivate and teach young children about Japanese culture and folklore. 

“Folk Tales From Japan” would make a good bedtime book, as most tales are three to five pages and there are many stories from which to choose. It is also a fantastic choice for reading aloud and acting out parts from the stories. I can see my students acting out parts of Kintaro, where Kintaro wrestles with the forest animals or where he learns to leap like a deer. I hope this book becomes a favorite at home or in your classroom.

 

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