The best Japanese yurei and yokai books

Who am I?

I am an Anglo-Irish writer who has lived in Japan for eighteen years. During that time, my interest in the Japanese supernatural has deepened to the point where it is now the main focus of my writing. In my free time, I enjoy traveling around Japan collecting local ghost stories and folk tales. This, along with my extensive reading of both fiction and non-fiction on the topic, has provided a rich source of inspiration for my writing. I am also a keen observer of people, daily life, and the environment in which I live, which helps me to colour and add realism to my stories. 


I wrote...

Ghostly Tales of Japan

By Andi Brooks,

Book cover of Ghostly Tales of Japan

What is my book about?

A ghostly collection of short stories which explore the mysterious side of a country where the supernatural is accepted as an everyday fact of life. From the ancient past to the present day, award-winning writer and long-term Tokyo resident Andi Brooks takes you into a realm of shadows separated from our own world by a gossamer-thin veil. By turns horrific, whimsical, and moving, the thirty original stories in Ghostly Tales of Japan will make you question the reality of the world around you and perhaps think twice before turning out the light.

The books I picked & why

Shepherd is reader supported. We may earn an affiliate commission when you buy through links on our website. This is how we fund this project for readers and authors (learn more).

Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan

By Lafcadio Hearn, Yasumasa Fujita (illustrator),

Book cover of Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan

Why this book?

Kwaidan is a very special book for me. It introduced me to the world of the Japanese supernatural in my early teens. A confirmed devotee of Western horror and supernatural fiction at the time, Kwaidan opened up a whole new world that I didn’t know existed. It is written in a style that made this strange alien world totally accessible to someone who knew nothing of the now familiar tropes in a pre-Internet era where information was not so readily accessible. One of my greatest pleasures was introducing this book to my son. He loved it so much that when we finished reading it together, he asked me to tell him some new stories about Japanese yurei and yokai. This was the beginning of my own book about ghostly Japan.

Kwaidan: Ghost Stories and Strange Tales of Old Japan

By Lafcadio Hearn, Yasumasa Fujita (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Kwaidan as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A blind musician with amazing talent is called upon to perform for the dead. Faceless creatures haunt an unwary traveler. A beautiful woman — the personification of winter at its cruelest — ruthlessly kills unsuspecting mortals. These and seventeen other chilling supernatural tales — based on legends, myths, and beliefs of ancient Japan — represent the very best of Lafcadio Hearn's literary style. They are also a culmination of his lifelong interest in the endlessly fascinating customs and tales of the country where he spent the last fourteen years of his life, translating into English the atmospheric stories he so…


Tales of Moonlight and Rain

By Ueda Akinari, Anthony H. Chambers (translator),

Book cover of Tales of Moonlight and Rain

Why this book?

I came across Ugetsu Monogatari in a used bookshop at a time when I was voraciously reading everything I could lay my hands on about the Japanese supernatural. First published in 1776, it is rightly regarded as one of the most important collections of Japanese ghostly fiction. Ugetsu Monogatari gave me a greater and deeper insight into this fascinating world. Almost as Interesting as the book itself is the life story of the author. The son of a prostitute and an unknown father Ueda Akinari was born in a period when the Japanese were deeply interested in yokai and yurei. He himself was a firm believer in the supernatural. It is that belief and the influence of the period which makes this book such an essential read for anyone interested in the subject. It is a book that I often return to.

Tales of Moonlight and Rain

By Ueda Akinari, Anthony H. Chambers (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Tales of Moonlight and Rain as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First published in 1776, the nine gothic tales in this collection are Japan's finest and most celebrated examples of the literature of the occult. They subtly merge the world of reason with the realm of the uncanny and exemplify the period's fascination with the strange and the grotesque. They were also the inspiration for Mizoguchi Kenji's brilliant 1953 film Ugetsu. The title Ugetsu monogatari (literally "rain-moon tales") alludes to the belief that mysterious beings appear on cloudy, rainy nights and in mornings with a lingering moon. In "Shiramine," the vengeful ghost of the former emperor Sutoku reassumes the role of…


Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination

By Edogawa Rampo, James B. Harris (translator),

Book cover of Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination

Why this book?

This book has a special place in my heart because the author was recommended to me by my son, also a confirmed fan of horror and the supernatural. Growing up in Japan, like most school children, he had read some of Edogawa Rampo’s many books of child detectives before graduating to his much darker adult stories of horror. While my son had read the original Japanese, at that time Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination was the only volume of English translations of Edogawa Rampo’s stories that I could find. It is, however, a masterly introduction to the dark, and at times perverse, world of the author. Whereas Edgar Allan Poe, from whom the writer Hirai Tarō derived the pen name, had fueled my teenage fancy for shadow-filled gothic tales, Edogawa Rampo made me view my adopted homeland with a more wary eye.

Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination

By Edogawa Rampo, James B. Harris (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Japanese Tales of Mystery and Imagination as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This collection of mystery and horror stories is regarded as Japan's answer to Edgar Allan Poe.

Japanese Tales of Mystery & Imagination, the first volume of its kind translated into English, is written with the quick tempo of the West but rich with the fantasy of the East. These nine bloodcurdling, chilling tales present a genre of literature largely unknown to readers outside Japan, including the strange story of a quadruple amputee and his perverse wife; the record of a man who creates a mysterious chamber of mirrors and discovers hidden pleasures within; the morbid confession of a maniac who…


Ring

By Koji Suzuki, Glynne Walley (translator),

Book cover of Ring

Why this book?

I first saw the film adaptation of Ring at a film festival in 1998 and was blown away by it. The English translation of the novel wasn’t published in the UK until 2004, but it was worth the wait. It’s difficult now that Sadako has become such a cliched and parodied character to appreciate the impact the character had. The book is much bigger in scope than the film, also providing the inspiration for the film Rasen. I slightly regretted not having read it before seeing the film so that I could have felt the impact Japanese readers must have felt. Ring was the first modern Japanese novel that I read. Reading it coincided with me getting to know Japan for real and was more of a point of reference than any guidebook. Long after I leave Japan, Ringu will remind me of the country I left behind.

Ring

By Koji Suzuki, Glynne Walley (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ring as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Stunning Japanese thriller with a chilling supernatural twist. The novel that inspired the cult Japanese movie and the Hollywood blockbuster of the same name.

Asakawa is a hardworking journalist who has climbed his way up from local-news beat reporter to writer for his newspaper's weekly magazine. A chronic workaholic, he doesn't take much notice when his seventeen-year-old niece dies suddenly - until a chance conversation reveals that another healthy teenager died at exactly the same time, in chillingly similar circumstances.

Sensing a story, Asakawa begins to investigate, and soon discovers that this strange simultaneous sudden-death syndrome also affected another two…


Kaiki: Uncanny Tales From Japan, Vol. 1 Tales Of Old Edo

By Higashi Masao (editor),

Book cover of Kaiki: Uncanny Tales From Japan, Vol. 1 Tales Of Old Edo

Why this book?

This is the first in a three-volume set which I regard as one book. All are a total joy as they offer the reader the chance to read stories mostly not previously available in English. Having read the available famous stories of yurei and yokai to death, I felt like a little kid at Christmas when presented with the whole set (actually at Christmas!). Because the stories were written in many styles from the 1700s to the 2000s, and cover the whole range of Japanese ghost stories, I got a genuine insight into how tales of the Japanese supernatural have developed through the centuries and how the past influences the present. It was also interesting to see how contemporary events, such as World War II, influenced the stories. Just writing this makes me want to dive back into the stories.

Kaiki: Uncanny Tales From Japan, Vol. 1 Tales Of Old Edo

By Higashi Masao (editor),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Kaiki as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Japan has a long history of weird and supernatural literature, but it has been introduced into English only haphazardly until now. The first volume of a 3-volume anthology covering over two centuries of kaiki literature, including both short stories and manga, from Ueda Akinari's "Ugetsu Monogatari" of 1776 to Kyogoku Natsuhiko's modern interpretations of popular tales. Selected and with commentary by Higashi Masao, a recognized researcher and author in the field, the series systemizes and introduces the scope of the field and helps establish it as a genre of its own. This first volume presents a variety of work focusing…


5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in Japan, homicide, and World War 2?

7,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about Japan, homicide, and World War 2.

Japan Explore 371 books about Japan
Homicide Explore 27 books about homicide
World War 2 Explore 1142 books about World War 2

And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like Kitchen, Convenience Store Woman, and The Sound of Waves if you like this list.