The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter Book Review

This story is the oldest surviving story of Japanese fiction. It’s known as the “ancestor of romances” and goes back at least to the 10th century. I read it as part of my reading bucket list – one book a week of the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die. It’s the story of a poor bamboo cutter who discovers a tiny, beautiful princess in a stick of bamboo. He takes her home and he and his wife raise her. Not to spoil the story for those who haven’t read it, I will say that the princess, Kaguya-hime, is no traditional looking-for-a-prince heroine. She sets her suitors impossible tasks, knowing they will fail. She has no wish to marry, and the reason becomes clear near the ending, which I personally found quite moving.

This particular edition is a beautiful book to read. The illustrations are by Masayuki Miyata who was a master of kiri-e (cut-out illustrations). These alone are worth the price of the book.