Rashomon and Other Stories by Ryūnosuke Akutagawa

This brief collection of stories is by the chap whose name is used for Japan’s preeminent literary prize. So, you could forgive me for feeling the reading of it might be hard-going. Actually, it wasn’t at all and I’d dispatched it in the course of one evening.

But I have to say, I might need to re-read it with more care because I didn’t really get the subtlties of meaning that were no doubt at play in the title story and the In the Grove story that together were reworked into Kurosawa’s famous 1950 film. It’s all about honour, particularly a lord’s honour after his missus has been defiled. Akutagawa liked to tell the same story from different characters’ POVs. Apparently the only recourse for all concerned is death. Bummer. See also the 47 Ronin, another such Samurai tale in which after someone calls the lord’s missus a slut, the only recourse is mass killings and suicide. Honour’s a bitch, evidently.

* * *

No. 1 of 50 books I intend to read and review in 2023.

I’m Patrick Sherriff, an Englishman who survived 13 years working for newspapers in the US, UK and Japan. Between teaching English lessons at my conversation school in Abiko, Japan, I write and illustrate textbooks for non-native speakers of English, release Hana Walker mystery novels, short stories, paint, sketch and write essays and a monthly newsletter  highlighting good writing in English, often about about Japan, art, crime fiction and teaching.