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A Tale of the Bamboo Cutter Bookshelf

Good Books and More for Getting Into Japan’s Classic Fantasy Taketori Monogatari

By Aaron Shepard

For more treats and resources, visit Aaron Shepard at www.aaronshep.com.

Copyright © 2003, 2014 Aaron Shepard. May be freely copied and shared for any noncommercial purpose as long as no text is altered or omitted.

Here are the most valuable books and media I found while researching the classic Japanese fantasy The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (Taketori Monogatari). Most links are for more info at Amazon.com, an affiliate.


The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter (Taketori Monogatari), translated by Donald Keene, illustrated by Miyata Masayuki, with Japanese text modernized by Yasunari Kawabata, Kodansha International, Tokyo, 1998. By far the best full translation, along with illustrations by a renowned contemporary artist. This is a revision of Keene’s earlier translation.

Modern Japanese Fiction and Its Traditions: An Introduction, by J. Thomas Rimer, Princeton University Press, 1978. Another source for Keene’s newer translation.

“The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter,” translated by Donald Keene, Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 11, No. 4, pages 1–27. The first publication of Keene’s earlier translation, published by Tokyo’s Sophia University in 1956.

The Tale of the Shining Princess, adapted by Sally Fisher, translated by Donald Keene, Viking/The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1980. Taken from Keene’s earlier translation. The stand‑out feature of this edition is the quality reproduction of classic illustrations from eighteenth-century Japan.

Classical Japanese Prose: An Anthology, edited by Helen Craig McCullough, Stanford University Press, 1990. Includes McCullough’s own excellent translation of several selections from the story.

The Old Bamboo-Hewer’s Story (Taketori no Okina no Monogatari), translated by F. Victor Dickins, Trübner & Co., London, 1888. An early and less accurate translation, but useful for comparison and for its notes.

Retellings and Adaptations

The Tale of the Shining Princess, by Hisako Matsubara, illustrated by Naoko Matsubara, Kodansha International, Tokyo, 1966. This elegant edition is illustrated with numerous woodcuts. The text is too loose to be called a translation, but it does present the story in full.

The Moon Princess, retold by Ralph F. McCarthy, illustrated by Kancho Oda, Kodansha International, Tokyo, 1993. A brief children’s version in verse, notable mainly for the historical detail in its illustrations.

Shining Princess of the Slender Bamboo, adapted by Sylvia Ashby, I. E. Clark Publications, Schulenburg, Texas, 1976. A script adaptation for children’s theater.


Japanese Homes and Their Surroundings, by Edward S. Morse, Dover, New York, 1961 (reprinted from Ticknor, Boston, 1886). Much of the action in The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter takes place in the home, and this classic work clarifies many details that might confuse Western readers.

Bamboo, by Robert Austin and Koichiro Ueda, with photographs by Dana Levy, Weatherhill, New York and Tokyo, 1970. The ultimate book on the uses and beauty of bamboo.

Old Kyoto, by John Lowe, Oxford University Press, Hong Kong, 2000. The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter is set in and around the imperial capital, Kyoto, then called Heian-kyo. This book includes a brief look at the city in that period.

Kyoto, by Edwin Bayrd, Newsweek, New York, 1974. Another, more lavish look at the imperial capital.


Princess From the Moon (Taketori Monogatari) (DVD, VHS), directed by Kon Ichikawa, Japan, 1987, 121 minutes, rated PG. A movie version starring the great Toshiro Mifune. Please note that the link is to Amazon UK, not US. At this writing, this video is not available for U.S. and Canadian video players.

Big Bird in Japan (DVD, VHS), Children’s Television Workshop, 1991, 60 minutes. This fun children’s travelogue weaves in elements of The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, including a play of it performed by Japanese students.

Kite (CD), John Kaizan Neptune, PonyCanyon, 1992. Neptune is an American who has become one of the most prominent shakuhachi players in Japan, playing in both traditional and modern styles and settings. This recording features three lovely selections inspired by The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, with accompaniment by acoustic guitar and string quartet.

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