Ancient Tales and Folk-lore of Japan
Japanese folklore are heavily influenced by the two primary religions of Japan, Shinto and Buddhism. Japanese mythology is a complex system of beliefs that also embraces Shinto and Buddhist traditions as well as agriculture-based folk religion. The Shinto pantheon alone boasts an uncountable number of kami (deities or spirits). One notable aspect of Japanese mythology is that it provided a creation story for Japan and attributed divine origins to the Japanese Imperial family, assigning them godhood. The Japanese word for the Emperor of Japan, tennō (天皇), means "heavenly emperor."
The stories in this volume are transcribed from voluminous illustrated diaries which have been kept by me for some twenty years spent in travel and in sport in many lands--the last nine of them almost entirely in Japan, while collecting subjects of natural history for the British Museum; trawling and dredging in the Inland Sea, sometimes with success, sometimes without, but in the end contributing to the treasury some fifty things new to Science, and, according to Sir Edwin Ray Lankester, 'adding greatly to the knowledge of Japanese Ethnology.' As may be supposed, such a life has brought me into close contact with the people--the fisher, the farmer, the priest, the doctor, the children, and all others from whom there is a possibility of extracting information. Many and weird are the tales I have been told. In this volume the Publishers prefer to have a mixture--stories of Mountains, of Trees, of Flowers, of Places in History, and Legends. For the general results obtained in my diaries I have to thank our late Minister in Tokio, Sir Ernest Satow; the Ministers and Vice-Ministers of Foreign Affairs and of Agriculture, who gave me many letters of introduction; my dear friend Mr. Hattori, Governor of Hiogo Prefecture; the translators of the original notes and manuscripts (often roughly written in Japanese), among whom are Mr. Ando, Mr. Matsuzaki, and Mr. Watanabe; and Mr. Mo-No-Yuki, who drew and painted the illustrations from sketches of my own, which must often have grated on his artistic ideas, keeping him awake in reflection on the crudeness of the European sense of art. To my faithful interpreter Yuki Egawa also are due my thanks for continual efforts to find what I wanted; and to many Japanese peasants and fishermen, whose good-nature, kindness, and hospitality have endeared them to me forever. Well is it that they, so worthy a people, have so worthy a Sovereign.
R. GORDON SMITH. June 1908.