What is it about “Kwaidan”? It wasn’t Lafcadio Hearn’s first take on Japanese ghost stories — it wasn’t even his first such book whose title was a single Japanese word starting with “K” (“Kotto” was published two years earlier, in 1902). But it’s “Kwaidan” that still claims a place in literary history, even as its siblings among Hearn’s prodigious oeuvre recede into cult status.

This can partly be attributed to “The Story of Mimi-Nashi-Hoichi” and “Yuki-Onna,” the best-known tales from the “Kwaidan” collection, both of which marry slowly ratcheting dread to an eerie, unsettling quasi-climax. It’s no coincidence that these are the two stories from this anthology that were included in Masaki Kobayashi’s 1964 movie of the same name.

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