Cthulhu Mythos In Japan

I found this article over at Lovecraft eZine very interesting.

My educational background actually focuses on East Asia, Japan in particular. I have a degree in Asian Studies, I speak and read fluent Japanese, have lived in Japan, and started (though never actually completed) a Master’s degree in Japanese Studies.

Consquently, I was very pleased to see this article addressing the connection between two subjects about which I am very passionate. Japan’s literary, and particularly its film, traditions often are marked by subtlety, ambguity, and atmosphere. Though I am admittedly no expert on either, I am always fascinated to watch some of the classic films of Japanese cinema. The Samurai epics of Akira Kurosawa are especially compelling in their moral abiguity, as in the case of the peasants in
The Seven Samurai, who employ samurai to defend them from brigands who have been raiding them and stealing their livelihood for years. Shortly after these samurai arrive at the village, it is revealed that these same peasants in the past have killed samurai in years past and confiscated their belongings, though it was unclear whether it was an opportunistic action or one taken in self-defense.

Similarly, some of the older films in Japanese horror, such as Kwaidan and Yabu no Naka no Kuroneko achieved thier chilling effect largely via atmosphere.

(Incidentally, for anyone interested in seeing a Japanese adaptation of a classic tale from the American pulp tradition, I highly recommend Matango: Attack Of The Mushroom People. Despite its misleading name, this is actually a very good interpretation of William Hope Hodgson’s “The Voice In The Night,” and has been made available in a subtitled version on DVD. Though out of print, it is easily obtainable though various secondary marketplaces for a reasonable price.)

While all of this may seem like a rambling discourse on a topic that is only tangentially related to the immediate topic, my point is that Japan, both as a setting and as a storytelling tradition, is an excellent vehicle for tales of Lovecraftian horror. While it seems that there have only been a few stories from Japan made availabel in English, the titles mentioned in the aforementioned article sound fascinating enough for me to try to track down.


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