Horror in Japan: A Review of KOWABANA by Tara A. Devlin


(Above, book cover and photo copyright, T.A Devlin)


For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by horror as a genre. I love the idea that darkness, danger and creepy adventures lie around the corner in every good ghost book, film and game. Equally so, I have spent years watching many Japanese horror films, and found that I soon came to love the originality and unique expression from Japan when it came to the genre.

So, you can see why – when I came across author Tara A Devlin – that I immediately wanted to order all of her titles and devour as much as I could of her work. Devlin is an author and translator; she studied Japan at the University of Queensland in Australia, and then went on to live in Japan in 2005 for several years. Her passion for both horror and Japan as a country mirrors my own, so I was happy to start making my way through her work. I recently finished Kowabana Volume 1 and here are my thoughts…



Kowabana Volume 1 is a collection of true Japanese ghost stories and personal experiences written by people in Japan, which have been collected from across the internet and translated by Tara A Devlin. Tara has used her language and story-telling skills to form each entry beautifully and concisely. The stories in Kowabana range anything from a simple page to several pages, but one thing they all have in common is that they come from people who claim their paranormal or weird experiences are genuine and true.

I found the book to be scary. I am not exaggerating here – I grew up reading and watching horror and I have experienced many scary stories, but Kowabana genuinely made me feel uneasy. There were several stories that I read that felt so creepy and disturbing that I had to force myself to stop reading once it got dark, because I was sure I would not sleep well if I continued into the night.



The volume is split into several sections, including haunted buildings, curses, disappearances and technology. Sometimes the stories are simply weird/odd, at others, really disturbing.

The nice thing about reading a collection like this, is that you can dip in and out; with each entry usually being quite short, it is lovely to be able to pick it up in free time to read a few stories and then put it down until you have a few spare minutes again. It’s a perfect read for a super-busy person who wants to have a few moments of fear throughout the working day. Equally, there were times I was so involved in the book that I intended to read a few pages – but looked up and found myself staring at a clock that told me I had escaped into the pages for over an hour. It’s quite an addictive book!

I was really pleased to learn that Kowabana is one of three volumes, each containing even more genuinely-sourced Japanese ghost stories. It’s fascinating to be able to read from the cultural perspectives of another country, especially one as embedded in deep myth, legend and spiritualism as Japan. Tara A Devlin managed to capture the spirit of this wonderfully in the book.

I have since ordered many other titles of this author and look forward to becoming further engrossed in the world she has so expertly captured for us in these pages.

I highly recommend KOWABANA, and rate it 5/5 stars.




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