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Sleep Stories in Japanese

Relax tonight while listening to a famous Japanese story. The sound of gentle rain and Yumi's soft voice will help you sleep while enjoying this famous story.

While the story is intermediate level, even beginners can listen to begin training their ears to hear the sounds of Japanese.


Tips:

  1. Relax in a comfortable position in your bed.
  2. Turn the volume down until you hear her voice and a hint of the rain.
  3. Slip into a restful sleep and wake up wondering what happened to the rest of the story!

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鼻 Hana (the Nose) by  芥川龍之介 Akutagawa Ryuunosuke

The story explores themes of obsessive vanity and how this affects those around us. View the Japanese and some vocabulary help here.

Makoto+ members can download a PDF of the story and the audio file with or without the background rain. If you are a member, please click here. If you aren't yet a Makoto+ member, please learn more here.

Summary in Japanese and English

注文の多い料理店 Chuumon no Ooi Ryouriten (The Restaurant with Many Orders) by  宮沢賢治 Miyazawa Kenji

Two young gentlemen are tired and hungry after a full day's fruitless hunt. They happen upon an impressive Western-style restaurant right smack in the middle of the woods. But perhaps they aren't as lucky as they first appear. 

Here is an English translation of the story or view the original text on Aozora.

よだかの星 Yodaka no hoshi - The Nighthawk Star by  宮沢賢治 Miyazawa Kenji

The yodaka (Nighthawk/Nightjar) is an ugly bird. Everyone knows it. The hawk (taka) is very upset the yodaka uses his name (the taka becomes daka) and demands the yodaka change his name.

The yodaka would rather die than to change who he is. He seeks the sun, the star of the West, South, North, and East. All reject him and tell him he doesn't have the status or money to become a star.

When it seems he is nothing but a great failure and is about to plummet to the ground, he shoots up and...

Does he become a star? Listen to the sleep story to find out.

View the original text on Aozora.

走れメロス Run, Melos! by Dazai Osamu 太宰治

Published in 1940, Run, Melos! is a Japanese classic widely read in Japanese schools. Based on an ancient Greek legend, it is a story about a man named Melos who, despite hardships, keeps his promises and values honesty.

The opening line is:メロスは激怒した。必ず、かの邪智暴虐(じゃちぼうぎゃく)の王を除かなければならぬと決意した。Melos was furious. He decided that he must get rid of the evil and tyrannical king.

Synopsis from Wikipedia:

Melos is a naïve young shepherd with a sense of equity. The land in which he lives is ruled by Dionysius, a tyrant king who because of his distrust of people and solitude, has killed many people, including his own family members. When Melos hears about the King's deeds one day, he becomes enraged. He decides to assassinate the King, and to this end he sneaks into the castle with a knife, but is caught and arrested. Melos defiantly owns up to his plan to kill the King but pleads with the cynical tyrant to postpone his execution for three days so that he can return home to organise his younger sister's marriage. As collateral for his pledge to return, Melos offers his friend Selinuntius as hostage, to be executed in his stead should Melos not return in time. The King agrees to Melos' conditions and offers him a full pardon should he return moments too late. Indignant Melos insists that saving his own life is not his intention. Informed of the situation Selinuntius readily agrees to the role for which Melos has volunteered him without consultation.

Back in his home town Melos persuades first his eager sister and then her hesitant fiancé that there is urgent need for them to be married, without revealing his reasons. While the wedding festivities are in progress, Melos retires for some rest but oversleeps and only sets off to return to the city the next morning. Along the way he encounters many tribulations, such as a broken bridge due to the overflowing of the river and attacks by bandits. The running and all of these impediments along the way exhaust him. In his fatigue becoming indifferent to the fate of his friend and the impact Selinuntius' death will have on his own reputation, Melos slows down and nearly gives up while taking a break. After long contemplation of the consequence—for the sake of his friend's life and to prevent the King from claiming to have been justified in his cynical view of his subjects—and reinvigorated from drinking water from a clear spring, he rushes off with renewed urgency. As the now desperate Melos runs back to Syracuse, a mutual acquaintance attempts to persuade him to give up, claiming there is no rush to return since Melos is already too late. Melos persists.

At sundown Melos finally arrives at the city, just in time to save his friend Selinuntius from public execution. Melos implores Selinuntius to hit him, in penance for his treachery, and Selinuntius asks him to do the same, for having doubted Melos' return while held captive on his promise. The King, forced to reexamine his position by their display and the crowd's reaction, decides to let Melos go with impunity.

View the original text on Aozora.

Natsume Soseki 夏目漱石 Ten Nights of Dreams (夢十夜, Yume Jūya) Stories 1-5

Originally serialized in the Asahi Shimbun in 1908, Natsume Souseki wrote ten short "dreams" are written in a surreal, dreamlike style. Weird, disturbing, and somewhat humorous, these short stories are like haiku—they hint at a much bigger story which is left to the reader to fish out.

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From Wikipedia:

The First Night

The dreamer sits at the bedside of a woman who says she is dying. Because of the warm color in her lips and cheeks, he questions, several times, if she truly is dying. After confirming that she must indeed die, the woman asks a favor. After she dies, he should dig her grave with a large shell, mark it with a fragment of fallen star, and wait at its side a hundred years for her return. The dreamer prepares her grave and buries her as requested. Then he begins his vigil, losing count of the days as years go by. As he begins to wonder if she didn't deceive him, a slender stem emerges and a white lily blossoms before him. He touches his lips to a dewdrop on the lily and knows in that moment that a hundred years have passed.


The Second Night

The dreamer, who is staying in a temple, returns to his chamber after leaving the high priest's quarters. He settles himself and reaches under his seating cushion to confirm the presence of a dagger. Then, he reflects on his exchange with the high priest. The priest had scorned him for his years of failure in attaining enlightenment. No true samurai, the priest had said, would succumb so to failure. The dreamer decides he must take either the priest's life or his own, that very evening, when the clock strikes the next hour. If he succeeds in attaining enlightenment, then the priest will pay. If not, then he will commit seppuku. He struggles mightily to find “nothingness.” His struggle turns to frustration and then to anger. As he struggles without success, the clock strikes the hour.


The Third Night

The dreamer is walking at dusk with a six-year-old child on his back. He believes the child is his own, and he knows that the child is blind and that its head is shaved. However, he does not know when the child lost its sight or why its head is shaved. Despite its blindness, the child seems to know where they are and where they are going. Its voice is childlike, but its words are mature. The dreamer grows ill at ease, and he resolves to abandon the child in the woods up ahead. As they enter the woods, the child directs the dreamer to the base of a cedar tree. The child states that he was killed by the dreamer, in this very place, on a similar night, a hundred years before. The dreamer remembers the night, and at the same moment the child grows heavy as stone.


The Fourth Night

An old man sits alone at a large table in an earthen-floored room, escaping the heat of the day. He drinks saké and converses enigmatically with the proprietress. When he departs, the dreamer, who is a young child, follows him to a willow where children are playing. The old man produces a towel and tells them to watch it become a snake. He blows a whistle and circles with dance-like steps, but the towel remains a towel. Finally, he puts the towel into his box and walks on, still insisting it will change. They reach the riverbank, but the old man doesn't stop. The dreamer watches him wade in, still hoping to see the snake when he emerges on the other bank. The old man, however, disappears beneath the surface and does not reappear.


The Fifth Night

The dreamer is defeated in battle and captured alive. Brought before the enemy general, he chooses death over capitulation. However, he requests to look one last time on the woman he loves before dying. The enemy general gives him until daybreak, when the cock crows, to summon his woman. The woman mounts her unsaddled white horse and races through the night, black hair streaming behind her. Suddenly, she hears the crowing of a cock from the darkened roadside and loses hope. When the cock crows a second time, she releases the taut reins, and horse and woman tumble into a deep canyon. The crowing of the cock was in fact Amanojaku, a mischievous goddess, who from that moment on is the dreamer's eternal nemesis.

Natsume Soseki 夏目漱石 Ten Nights of Dreams (夢十夜, Yume Jūya) Stories 6-10

Originally serialized in the Asahi Shimbun in 1908, Natsume Souseki wrote ten short "dreams" are written in a surreal, dreamlike style. Weird, disturbing, and somewhat humorous, these short stories are like haiku—they hint at a much bigger story which is left to the reader to fish out.

Support us and get our Makoto e-zine at https://www.MakotoPlus.com or become a Patreon supporter at https://www.patreon.com/TheJapanesePage (Both methods are the same price and have the same benefits)

From Wikipedia:

The Sixth Night

The dreamer hears that Unkei is carving Niō guardians at the main gate of Gokoku-ji. He stops to see, and joins a large crowd of onlookers. Unkei, dressed in Kamakura attire, is suspended high up on the work, carving away industriously, oblivious to the crowd below. The dreamer wonders how Unkei can still be living in the modern Meiji period. At the same time, he watches in awe, transfixed by Unkei's skill with mallet and chisel. A fellow observer explains that Unkei is not really shaping a Niō, but rather liberating the Niō that lies buried in the wood. That's why he never errs. On hearing this, the dreamer rushes home to try for himself. He chisels through an entire pile of oak, but finds no Niō. He concludes, in the end, that Meiji wood is hiding no Niō. That's why Unkei is still living.


The Seventh Night

The dreamer finds himself on a large ship that is steaming and sailing through the waves at great speed. There are many crew members and fellow passengers, but the dreamer has no comrade or compatriot. He also has no idea where the ship is headed or when he might next set foot on dry land. He becomes terribly discouraged by his situation, and finally decides to throw himself into the sea and end it all. One evening, in an hour when the deck is deserted, he jumps overboard. As he plummets toward the dark sea below, he is seized by fear and regret. He knows with certainty now, for the first time, that he should have remained on board.


The Eighth Night

The dreamer enters a barber shop and seats himself in front of a mirror. In the mirror, he can observe the window behind him and the activity in the street beyond. He sees Shōtarō, in his Panama hat, with a new woman. He sees a tofu vendor, blowing on his bugle, and a disheveled geisha not yet made up. His barber asks if he has seen the goldfish seller, and the dreamer replies that he has not. The dreamer next hears someone pounding rice cakes, but only the sounds, and not the sight, reach him. Then he notices a woman behind the latticework counting bills. When he turns around, the counting room is empty. Leaving the barber shop, the dreamer sees the goldfish seller and observes him. All the while, though, the man remains motionless.


The Ninth Night

The dream is set in a world that has somehow become unsettled. A mother and her two-year-old child await the return of the father, a samurai, who set out in the middle of a moonless night and didn't return. In the evenings, the mother walks to the shrine of Hachiman, the god of archery and war, to pray for her husband's safe return. She carries the child on her back. After praying by the iron bell, she paces a hundred times between shrine and gate, offering a prayer on each round. The father, for whom the mother so diligently prays, has died long ago at the hands of a rōnin. This dream, the dreamer reveals, was told to him by his mother in a dream.


The Tenth Night

Ken-san reports to the dreamer that Shōtarō has returned after seven days’ absence and taken to his bed with a fever. Shōtarō (who appeared briefly in the 8th night's dream) is a good and honest fellow. However, he does have a peculiar pastime. In the evenings, he dons his prized Panama hat, sits in the shopfront of the fruit market, and admires the passing women. One evening, an exquisitely attired woman approached the market and bought the biggest basket of fruit. The basket was too heavy for her to handle, so Shōtarō gallantly offered to carry it to her home. They left the shop together, and that's how Shōtarō went missing. On finally returning, Shōtarō tells his story. The woman took him on a long train ride to the mountains, and they disembarked onto a wide, grassy plain. They walked through the grass to the edge of a precipice, where the woman asked him to jump. When he declined to jump, he was accosted by countless pigs trying to lick him. He knocked pig after pig off the edge with taps of his cane, but after seven days his strength gave out, a pig licked him, and he collapsed on the spot. Shōtarō's prognosis is not good. Ken-san, who warns against the evils of excessive woman watching, will likely be the recipient of Shōtarō's prized Panama hat.

I am a Cat 吾輩は猫である by Natsume Souseki 夏目漱石 Chapter One

From Wikipedia:

I Am a Cat (Japanese: 吾輩は猫である, Hepburn: Wagahai wa Neko de Aru) is a satirical novel written in 1905–1906 by Natsume Sōseki about Japanese society during the Meiji period (1868–1912); particularly, the uneasy mix of Western culture and Japanese traditions.

Sōseki's title, Wagahai wa Neko de Aru, uses a very high-register phrasing more appropriate to a nobleman, conveying grandiloquence and self-importance. This is somewhat ironic, since the speaker, an anthropomorphized domestic cat, is a regular house cat of a teacher, and not of a high-ranking noble as the manner of speech suggests.

-- This video is the first chapter. Originally, Souseki wrote this as a complete story. His editor, however, convinced him to continue the story. We may record future chapters if there is demand for it.

In a Grove by Akutagawa Ryunosuke 芥川龍之介 藪の中 朗読 Rashomon

Kurosawa Akira based his famous movie, Rashomon, mostly on 藪の中 yabu no naka (In a Grove). He also used some elements from another Akutagawa story called... Rashomon, but the main source was In a Grove.

From Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_a_Grove

The story centers on the violent death of young samurai Kanazawa no Takehiro, whose body has been found in a bamboo forest near Kyoto. The preceding events unfurl in a series of testimonies, first by passers-by, an auxiliary policeman and a relative, then by the three main protagonists – the samurai, his wife Masago, and bandit Tajōmaru –, but the truth remains hidden due to the contradictory recounts given.

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