Numerous people have asked me whether I would do book reviews on some of the Japanese books I read, so here we are! And what better to kick it off that a series that I have come to enjoy greatly, the Reiwa Kaidan series.
Chapter of the New Moon, the first in what has now become an ongoing series, was released on July 25, 2019, not long after the Reiwa era kicked in. It promotes itself as horror stories you can read in five minutes, and it’s certainly not wrong (if you’re a native speaker, anyway). Each of the stories is short, snappy, and to the point. But best of all, they are scary as well.
I was initially attracted to the Reiwa Kaidan series because of the covers. They are, put simply, magnificent. A brilliant use of colours and traditional Japanese imagery that immediately draws the eye and makes you want to take a peak inside. And if you do, you’re in for a treat. This book isn’t just full of short stories that you can finish quite quickly (five minutes may be a push for some, but in general none of them will take you very long). But each story is illustrated as well, often with more than one image per story. And some of these images are nightmare fuel.
I’m a big fan of illustrations in horror. Yes, your imagination will often come up with something even scarier than what you might see on the page, but that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy some fine horror art. On the contrary, I find it enhances any book, and it definitely takes the Reiwa Kaidan series above and beyond. There are a lot of illustrations in here, not quite manga level, but at least one picture every few pages that compliments the story being told.
Chapter of the New Moon comes with 24 stories told (or retold?) by Arigato Ami. Arigato, who is represented by Yoshimoto, is one of the newer breed of scary story tellers in Japan following in the footsteps of Inagawa Junji and other such famous storytellers. He holds tours all over Japan annually where he tells some of his best tales, and he has written numerous books as well.
Whether these are truly all Arigato’s tales or whether he gets help is, of course, up for debate (well, not really, they literally list a “story team” of not-so-ghost writers in the credits), but at any rate, the book is presented as a collection of tales that he heard as a child from a friendly old man he knew. This is just the setting, of course, but it’s not really important and doesn’t come into play with the actual stories themselves, which are simply told one by one with the occasional illustration.
Of course, the book is entirely in Japanese, and no, I don’t know when/if it will be ever translated. It was published by Gakken, so you’d best hit them up if you want it translated. If you’re in the process of learning Japanese, however, I think this book (and by extension the rest of the series) are genuinely good additions to your arsenal of learning. The text is large and most kanji will be introduced with furigana the first time it appears in a story. There are also pictures to help with comprehension, and the language used isn’t terribly difficult either. It’s not something a beginner is going to understand, but if you’re around the intermediate range, this book would be perfect. You can read a single story at a time, which usually only takes up a few pages, and not have to dedicate yourself fully to a 300 page story just to get a scare or some learning.
You’ll find the usual stories here. There are stories featuring angry spirits galore, Kokkuri-san, haunted technology, faceless creatures and creatures you’ll wish had no face, haunted houses, haunted buildings, haunted cars, so on and so forth. Most stories tend to involve children or teenagers, being that the book seems to be aged at them (hence the short length and easier language), but this doesn’t make them any less scary.
At any rate, if you’re looking for a quick and spooky read, it’s hard to go past the Reiwa Kaidan series. You could technically start with any book, seeing as they’re just short story collections, but might as well start from the beginning and then work your way up!