Asian studies in Lithuania
Original language: Japanese
Translated from: Japanese
Composers: Dumčius, Vytautas
Translated by: Dumčius, Vytautas
ISBN: 9986-02-669-5
Published in: Vilnius
Published on: 1999
Publisher: Alma Littera

Nihon no Mukashibanashi (日本の昔話) – old Japanese tales consists of  folk stories and legends talking about heroes and gods from the past. “Japonų pasakos“ (1999) – is the first book of the most popular Japanese folk tales translated into Lithuanian from the original language. This book consists of 32 short and easy to read tales and legends. Many stories are written in a casual way and tell about everyday situations in a very creative and slightly humorous way. Plot sometimes goes in unexpected direction which makes the story interesting to read. Many of the stories are closely connected with agricultural rituals, farm work (rice planting, harvesting), that‘s why it is partly similar to Lithuanian folk stories where seasonal agricultural work plays important part. Overall, diligence and earnestness towards work is probably the most frequently mentioned value: hard working men and sluggard’s life are compared. Latter usually is punished by gods or destiny, but in some stories motive aren‘t clearly displayed.

In these tales you can also see early folk religious ritual elements as well as early Shinto religious magic rituals. The main characters are deified forces of nature (Sun, wind, water, mountain spirits). Characters can be Gods as – rice god  Inari, Jiso –sama (じぞさま) and unspecified deities like – Good Spirit, Bad Spirit, Wood Spirit and so on. It is worth to mention that the devil here is often referred to as the bad spirit, but is not really angry, and even assists good people.

Book also contains a mini vocabulary for terms and words such as: kimono, bento, miso and so on, used in the stories. This vocabulary helps to easier understand the meaning of these Japanese tales, emphasized the origin of the tales and lets us to feel the spirit of the original story.

Vytautas Dumčius is first Lithuanian to translate classical Japanese poetry from the original language.  In 2008 he got an international award for the best poetry translation into Lithuanian language at “Poezijos pavasaris” festival. Right now „Šimto japonų poetų eilės / Ogura hyakunin iishu“ is fourth book translated into Lithuanian language by Vytautas Dumčius.

Initiators of the project: Japan foundation VDU