THE thirty-four stories included within this volume do not illustrate the bloody, revengeful or licentious elements, with which Japanese popular, and juvenile literature is saturated. These have been carefully avoided.
It is also rather with a view to the artistic, than to the literary, products of the imagination of Japan, that the selection has been made. From my first acquaintance, twelve years ago, with Japanese youth, I became an eager listener to their folk lore and fireside stories. When later, during a residence of nearly four years among the people, my eyes were opened to behold the wondrous fertility of invention, the wealth of literary, historic and classic allusion, of pun, myth and riddle, of heroic, wonder, and legendary lore in Japanese art, I at once set myself to find the source of the ideas expressed in bronze and porcelain, on lacquered cabinets, fans, and even crape paper napkins and tidies. Sometimes I discovered the originals of the artist's fancy in books, sometimes only in the mouths of the people and professional story-tellers. Some of these stories I first read on the tattooed limbs and bodies of the native foot-runners, others I first saw in flower-tableaux at the street floral shows of Tokio. Within this book the reader will find translations, condensations of whole books, of interminable romances, and a few sketches by the author embodying Japanese ideas, beliefs and superstitions. I have taken no more liberty, I think, with the native originals, than a modern story-teller of Tokio would himself take, were he talking in an American parlor, instead of at his bamboo-curtained stand in Yanagi Cho, (Willow Street,) in the mikado's capital.
Some of the stories have appeared in English before, but most of them are printed for the first time. A few reappear from The Independent and other periodicals.
The illustrations and cover-stamp, though engraved in New York by Mr. Henry W. Troy, were, with one exception, drawn especially for this work, by my artist-friend, Ozawa Nankoku, of Tokio. The picture of Yorimasa, the Archer, was made for me by one of my students in Tokio.
Hoping that these harmless stories that have tickled the imagination of Japanese children during untold generations, may amuse the big and little folks of America, the writer invites his readers, in the language of the native host as he points to the chopsticks and spread table, O agari nasai.
Sept. 28th, 1880.