Better known for her crime and fantasy writing abroad, precious few of the prolific Miyuki Miyabe’s tales of terror have actually made it into the English language. Haikasoru’s publication of “Apparitions: Ghosts of Old Edo” addresses this oversight. Capably translated by Daniel Huddleston, this collection of short stories is set against the exotic backdrop (to foreign readers, anyway) of old Edo — essentially Tokyo before it became Tokyo, in the early 19th century.
Old Edo doesn’t much resemble the metropolis we know today. It’s a low city of wood and paper homes with a disturbing tendency to burn to the ground. Children are sold into indentured servitude or prostitution; aristocrats and masters kill those beneath them with impunity; the elderly are tossed into dank dungeons. Everywhere disease, murders, and suicides take their toll on the beleaguered residents of the city. And those are just their normal, everyday travails. Miyabe’s Edo also seethes with curses, ghosts and strange creatures beyond human understanding.