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Ie no Yoshikuri
Elements of Japanese Myth

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By Yoshikuri Nagayori

When we read most Japanese stories, we notice that there are three main types of tale:

Moralistic- Like morality tales in other cultures, these stories are meant to teach life lessons to the reader. They can also show us the benefits of upholding the virtues taught to us. We read about greedy badgers and their downfalls, how being too bent on revenge can turn you into a horrible demon, or, we can read about how chanting the Lotus Sutra can help you or others attain enlightenment.

Tales of Heroism- Stories of heroes and their deeds abound in Japanese Myth. The tale of Fujiwara Hidesato fighting the giant Centipede is one of the most loved tales in Japan.

War Tales- VERY IMPORTANT STORIES!!!! These tales describe the various wars in Japans history. They are actual accounts of the history, but myth is also blended in. We get amazing descriptions of the Japanese religious beliefs and the customs and ceremonies that accompany them. The myth comes into play when the authors include the supposed reactions of the gods. The Heike Monogatari (Tale of the Heike) is about the rise and fall (the Genpei War) of the Taira Clan at the end of the Heian Era (794-1185). The Genji Monogatari is also of tremendous importance.

There are also writings known as "Pillow Books" that can give us good insight into the Japanese lifestyle and insight into the minds of Japanese women.