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Japanese Animal-Wife Tales

Narrating Gender Reality in Japanese Folktale Tradition


Fumihiko Kobayashi

A familiar, beloved, and yet misunderstood character in the Japanese folktale tradition is the animal-woman, an earthly animal that assumes the form of a female human. In order to articulate the characteristics that make Japanese Animal-Wife tales unique, this trailblazing book Japanese Animal-Wife Tales: Narrating Gender Reality in Japanese Folktale Tradition challenges long-held characterizations of them in folklore scholarship. By re-examining the gender-specific behaviors of both the animal-woman and her human spouse, the book recovers the sociocultural and historical contexts that underlay their behaviors to demonstrate the actual gender characteristics that shaped the original Japanese Animal-Wife tales, highlighting the assertive, rather than naïve, personality of women in early Japanese folktale tradition. This new approach to the study of Japanese folktales and culture will interest researchers and students in a variety of fields, including Japanese studies, comparative folklore studies, culture studies, Asian studies, and anthropology.
Fumihiko Kobayashi received his PhD in Jewish and comparative folklore studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel. His research applies cross-cultural perspective to the study of folklore of Japan and other cultures. He has presented research papers at academic conferences worldwide, including meetings on comparative folklore studies between the East and the West, culture studies, gender studies, and Japanese and global history, as well as the International Society of Folk Narrative Research (ISFNR), International Society for Contemporary Legend Research (ISCLR), International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS), and American Folklore Society (AFS). He currently serves as an assistant editor of the academic journal Crossroads: Studies on the History of Exchange Relations in the East Asian World.