Tales from the Bamboo Grove Essay - Critical Context

Yoko Kawashima Watkins

Critical Context

Tales from the Bamboo Grove offers young readers an exciting glimpse of Japanese culture and tradition and an opportunity to consider the value of oral tradition. Although there are many single-title traditional Japanese folktales in the canon of juvenile literature, few publications offer a collection of tales with such poignant points of cultural reflection. Many folktales are simply stories of intrigue. For example, Yoshiko Uchida’s The Magic Purse (1993) tells the story of a poor young farmer who wanted to go with his friends to the Iseh Shrine. His passage (and more) is paid by the mysterious maiden in the swamp who wears a silvery blue kimono. They carry on a long-distance romance; he sends gifts of wine and rice cakes to her, and, in return, she sends a gift of a tiny flower and a shiny green leaf floating on a tray down the river. The Magic Purse entertains and intrigues the reader but does not offer the depth of Yoko Kawashima Watkins’ collection. Watkins’ tales not only invite readers to enjoy well-told stories but also encourage them to ponder morality, honesty, hard work, and family values.

The introduction to Tales from the Bamboo Grove describes Watkins’ childhood in the Kawashima household. Watkins’ father, who played an important role in the Japanese military service, was separated from the rest of the family, which lived in Korea during World War II. For Mrs. Kawashima, the physical and...

(The entire section is 487 words.)