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Aoko Matsuda

Author of Where the Wild Ladies Are

8+ Works 338 Members 11 Reviews

About the Author

Includes the names: Matsuda Aoko, 松田 青子

Works by Aoko Matsuda

Associated Works

The Penguin Book of Japanese Short Stories (2018) — Contributor — 328 copies
Monkey Business: New Writing from Japan, Volume 05 (2015) — Contributor — 10 copies
Monkey Business: New Writing from Japan, Volume 07 (2017) — Contributor — 8 copies
Monkey Business: New Writing from Japan, Volume 06 (2016) — Contributor — 5 copies
早稲田文学増刊 女性号 (2017) — Contributor — 1 copy


Common Knowledge

Canonical name
Matsuda, Aoko
Legal name
Matsuda, Nobuko



This was an absolute delight of loosely interconnected short stories, which take Japanese folktales and ghost stories and give them modern and often feminist twists. It's also lovely that the book contains a section at the end identifying the folk legends, plays, etc. that the stories are inspired by, making it easier to dig deeper if you want to.

I tore through this book fairly quickly, loving the manic, slightly unhinged energy of many of the stories. For instance, one of my favorite stories is of a woman who goes to absurd lengths of jealousy, specially purchasing cheap bits of ceramic and crockery for smashing in fits of rage, and just when you think she is going to be embarrassed and tone it down, she recommits instead, and moments later is being recruited by someone who mourns that people these days just don't have the necessary passion to become ghosts anymore...

Compulsively enjoyable!
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greeniezona | 9 other reviews | May 28, 2023 |
This is a hard one to rate because I think it might just not be my type of book? But at the same time, I thought it sounded really interesting but I found myself trudging through some of the stories and just not really getting the point of others. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t as amazing as I thought it would be.
ninagl | 9 other reviews | Jan 7, 2023 |
Traditional Japanese folktales reimagined as interconnected, contemporary feminist ghost stories, this collection was odd and strangely flat reading. For readers unfamiliar with the Japanese myths and legends these stories are based on, there is an "Inspiration for the Stories" section in the back of the book which helps the reader understand what Matsuda is trying to undermine in her retellings but still doesn't give someone who doesn't know the originals enough of the cultural background and understanding to make this an entirely successful collection. There is a very strong Japanese sensibility here and the stories are all fantastical, populated by the supernatural in some way. The main characters subvert traditional Japanese gender roles, if not in life, then after death as ghosts or other creatures. Each of the stories is strange and complete from a ghostly lover recovered from her watery grave to an aunt against hair removal to a gift shop owner living in the shadow of her namesake shrine to a foxlike young woman and more. Fans of Japanese literature and those who have a working knowledge of the folktales these stories take their inspiration from are probably the best audience for this collection.… (more)
whitreidtan | 9 other reviews | Oct 5, 2022 |
I almost did not finish the collection - the first few stories are competent but not really special - the Japanese setting is fascinating but they were just a bit flat. Until they started connecting to each other - and the flatness made sense - they were complete stories but they missed something and that something came from a different story later on (and in some cases early on).

17 interconnected stories (in 250 pages or so) build a single picture of a supernatural Japan that lives just under the surface on real-life Japan. This world is populated by ghosts (and if you think you know what ghosts are, you have another thing coming) and mythical creatures, existing in the same spaces the real one exists but hidden by the inability of most people to see it. Aoko Matsuda did not just recreate the legends (and old plays and myths and what's not), she also shuffled them together until they fit together as a unified whole.

I did not know most of the stories which became the base for the collection and its characters - in some cases things made a lot more sense after I read the notes at the end which were discussing the original tales that became the base for the specific story. There is a shared history and culture that you get only if you are deep inside of a society and this book is deep into the Japanese version of it. The notes helped but they also made me want to know more.

When I reached the end of the last story, I wished that there were more of them. Not because it was incomplete but because it was like a glimpse into a world which is so different and large that it is impossible to fully describe it. And yet - it felt complete. It could have easily been called a novel - it is connected enough for that and there is a thread in the middle which can become the base for a novel. But the collection format allowed for a more dispersed narrative - the company at the heart of the story is there in all of them, each story adding more details but without the need to have a plot around it. In a lot of ways, the collection is a slice of life story - just set in a life which you cannot really see. Unless you can.

The writing has this peculiar Japanese sharpness and sparsity that sound almost like being too easy in English and which makes Japanese writing so distinctive. In a collection so deeply tied to the Japanese myths and beliefs, other styles would not have worked.

With all that being said, it is not a perfect collection - not all the stories worked for me and some of them could have used some more in-story explanations (as opposed to allowing things to click only after you read the notes on the sources). But if you combine the stories and the notes, the unified whole works. And I was not surprised to see it nominated for the World Fantasy Award this year.
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AnnieMod | 9 other reviews | Aug 30, 2021 |



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