Most of the following Kwaidan, or Weird Tales, have been taken from old Japanese books.... Some of the stories may have had a Chinese origin: the very remarkable "Dream of Akinosuke," for example, is certainly from a Chinese source. But the Japanese story-teller, in every case, has so recolored and reshaped his borrowing as to naturalize it.... One queer tale, "Yuki-Onna," was told me by a farmer of Chofu, Nishitama-gori, in Musashi province, as a legend of his native village. Whether it has ever been written in Japanese I do not know; but the extraordinary belief which it records used certainly to exist in most parts of Japan, and in many curious forms.
Here is an engaging collection of tales, ghost stories, and observations that capture the enduring folk-spirit and quaint "exoticism" of a land once thought mysterious and sinister. Hearn is a natural raconteur and fills his narratives with curious details and asides. Several of the pieces here were adapted for the film Kwaidan, directed by Masaki Kobayashi in 1965. Following the traditional stories are unusual "insect studies" on butterflies, mosquitoes, and ants.