- About the Book
The Otogibōko is a collection of 65 fictional tales written in 1666 by Asai Ryōi (d. 1691), an acclaimed writer of kanazōshi (prose literature). Asai adopted most of these stories from Chinese and Korean texts and then shaped them for the Otogibōko's didactic Buddhist framework. In some tales he replaced historical contexts and names of places and people with ones familiar to his Japanese contemporaries. Asai embellished the Otogibōko with waka poems, giving it an elegance reminiscent of Heian-period romantic fiction.
Otogibōko be translated as A Doll for Entertainment. Like the bōko (doll) traditionally kept next to children to ward off evil spirits, Asai wrote the Otogibōko as a companion for young readers and guide to the Buddhist Way. The stories are at once entertaining and instructive. They mix in equal measure human passion and intrigue with suspense and supernatural spectacle. As morality tales, each one's denouement exemplifies Buddhist teachings and precepts.
With this new English translation of the Otogibōko, today's readers can enjoy the later work of Japan's finest writer of kanazōshi. The Otogibōko will be of interest to scholars of Edo-period history and religion and to folklorists. As a kanazōshi masterpiece, this collection is an excellent introduction to a popular Japanese literary genre for the reader whose imagination likes to wander.