The Big Idea: Thersa Matsuura

Folklore, superstitions, and legends are all essential parts of a place’s culture and history. Today, author Thersa Matsuura wishes to share these incredible stories and beliefs of Japan with the rest of the world, whether you’re a beginner, or a seasoned expert on the subject. Immerse yourself in the legends with her new book, The Book of Japanese Folklore: An Encyclopedia of the Spirits, Monsters, and Yokai of Japanese Myth.


I was newly married, living in a small Japanese town in the early nineties when my mother-in-law sat me down one day and enlightened me with the news that I was “sticky.”  This meant, she went on to explain, that compared to a normal person, all those spirits and ghosts that lurk pretty much everywhere all the time, like to attach to me and cause mischief. That was my first indication that living in Japan was going to be exciting and strange.

It wasn’t long after that, she told me about how an extremely wealthy friend of hers had moved house last year, only he didn’t pay proper respects to the land kami and inadvertently invited a binbōgami (god of poverty) to live with them. Afterward, came a string of bad luck and within months his business went under and now they were very poor and trying to make ends meet. Not only was living in Japan going to be strange and exciting, I had a lot to learn. Learn I did.

This was pre Internet times, so I spent many days in the library or talking to the little old men and women in the neighborhood to learn more about these superstitions, folk beliefs, and ever present supernatural entities. I mitigated the hurt of being told my careless actions brought bad luck and even sickness with the sheer wonder at and fascination with this extremely rich and layered culture. I just had to share my findings with someone, anyone. That’s when I began using my experiences living here, as well as my boots on the ground research, to fuel my writing and podcast, Uncanny Japan.

So thirty years later, when Adams Media approached me about writing The Book of Japanese Folklore: An Encyclopedia of the Spirits, Monsters, and Yokai of Japanese Myth, it sounded like a perfect fit. Only by now, thanks to games, manga, anime, and the Internet, Japanese culture had really taken off. It was everywhere. So I mulled it over and thought what is my, well, Big Idea for the book? What can I bring to the proverbial kotatsu table that all these other books and websites and Youtube and TikTok channels out there haven’t?…

The Book of Japanese Folklore: An Encyclopedia of the Spirits, Monsters, and Yokai of Japanese Myth: Amazon|Barnes & Noble|Bookshop|Powell’s

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Source: The Big Idea: Thersa Matsuura

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