Teito Monogatari

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Teito Monogatari
Covers of the 1987 republication. Art by Yoshitaka Amano.
Author Hiroshi Aramata
Language Japanese
Genre Alternate History
Dark Fantasy
Historical Fantasy
Science Fiction
Urban Fantasy
Publisher Kadokawa Shoten
Published 1985--1989
Media type Print (hardcover and paperback)

Teito Monogatari (帝都物語 lit., The Tale of the Imperial Capital?) is an epic historical dark fantasy/science fiction novel written by fantasy literature scholar and natural history specialist Hiroshi Aramata. It began circulation in a literary magazine owned by Kadokawa Shoten in 1983,[1] and was then published in 10 volumes over the course of 1985–1987.

The novel is a romanticized reconstruction of the 20th century history of Tokyo from an occultist perspective (a fictional cryptohistory).[2] It was a major success in its native country, winning the 1987 Nihon SF Taisho Award,[3] selling over 5 million copies in Japan alone,[4] inspiring several adaptations and a long running literary franchise, and pioneering a new movement in the occult fiction of its native land (through the introduction of such notable topics as onmyōdō and fūsui mythology into modern Japanese fiction).[5][6] Likewise its influence can still be felt to this day.[7]

The success of the novel started a franchise with spin-off works and prequels which elaborate on the history and backstory of the main novel.


Most of the narrative revolves around the exploits of Yasunori Katō, a mysterious former lieutenant of the Imperial Japanese Army who is actually a vengeful oni; a descendent of the indigenous tribes that inhabited the Japanese islands before the coming of Yamato people.[5] With an incredible knowledge of the supernatural and allies in China, Korea, and Taiwan; Katō dedicates his life to ruining Tokyo, the seat of power of the modern Japanese Empire. Fictional characters, such as Abe no Seimei's descendant Yasumasa Hirai and the valiant miko Keiko Tatsumiya; and historical characters, such as Koda Rohan, Izumi Kyoka, Torahiko Terada, and Yukio Mishima, band together to stop Katō. The resulting conflict, involving science, magic and politics; spans 90 years of Japan's history.

The story begins near the end of the Meiji Period and ranges through the rest of the century entailing more historical characters and reinventing major events such as the Great Kanto Earthquake, the founding of Japan's first subway, the February 26 Incident, the firebombing raids, the signing of the 1960 US Security Pact, and the ritual suicide of Yukio Mishima. It finally reaches its climax in 1998, the 73rd year of a fictional Shōwa period.

List of characters[edit]

The historical characters who play primary or supporting roles in the story include:


The tenth volume of the novel, published in 1987, was originally intended to be the final volume. However when the novel was republished in 1987-1989, additional eleventh and twelfth volumes were also written to supplement more of the story around 1945, the end of World War II. When the novel was republished in 1995, volumes 11 and 12 were inserted in the chronologically appropriate spot between volumes 5 and 6.

  • Vol. 1: Great Spirit of Tokyo (神霊篇?)
  • Vol. 2: Supernatural Babylon (魔都(バビロン)篇?)
  • Vol. 3: The Great Earthquake (大震災(カタストロフ)篇?)
  • Vol. 4: Movement of the Dragon (龍動篇?)
  • Vol. 5: Advent of the Devil (魔王篇?)
  • Vol. 6: Great War in the Capital (戦争(ウォーズ)篇?)
  • Vol. 7: Greater East Asia (大東亜篇?)
  • Vol. 8: The Phoenix (不死鳥篇?)
  • Vol. 9: Rampant Evil (The Demon's Journey of 100 Nights) (百鬼夜行篇?)
  • Vol. 10: Shrine of the Future (未来宮篇?)
  • Vol. 11: Power of the Mourning Spirit (喪神篇?)
  • Vol. 12: Resurrection (復活篇?)

List of Publications[edit]

Concept and Creation[edit]

The novel originally served as a minor side project for Hiroshi Aramata who, at the time, was focused on gathering materials for an upcoming natural history book he planned to publish.[8] While participating in the creation of Heibonsha World Encyclopedia, Hiroshi Aramata was inspired by discussions with anthropologist Komatsu Kazuhiko about sources of the strange and the mysterious in Japanese folklore. These discussions inspired Aramata to share this knowledge with general readers in the form of fiction. Thus, Aramata began work on a fantasy romance that would meld lesser known concepts of the occult with modern Japanese history.[9]


Teito Monogatari is widely credited as the beginning of the onmyōdō/occult boom, which grew to extreme prominence in Japanese popular culture during the late 80's and 90's and was reflected in such works as Baku Yumemakura's Onmyoji novels, Natsuhiko Kyogoku's Kyōgokudō (京極堂) series [5] and Clamp's Tokyo Babylon manga series. Other mystical tropes that Teito Monogatari established in mainstream Japanese fiction include shikigami, kodoku magic, shijie, gohō dōji and Kimon Tonkou magic.[10] It also ignited popular interest in fūsui across the nation.[11] This would serve as fuel for Japan's "feng shui boom" of the 1990s, where the history of the practice was explored academically in many scientific fields including cultural anthropology, history, architecture city planning, and geography.[12]

Professor of Human Geography Paul Waley cites Teito Monogatari as a catalyst for reminding a generation of Japanese readers about Tokyo's former status as an Imperial Capital.[13] Dr. Noriko T. Reider, associate professor of Japanese Studies at Miami University, describes Teito Monogatari as an "exemplary work of fiction" and credits it with raising "the oni's status and popularity greatly in modern times." [14] In 2009 Higashi Masao, a notable authority in the field of Japanese weird fiction, wrote an article entitled "The Impact of Teito Monogatari" where he discussed the novel's influence on contemporary Japanese supernatural fiction.[15] Akira Okawada, a specialist in Japanese science fiction literature, wrote a similar article in 2010 discussing the work's influence on that respective genre.[16]


In her essay "Oni and Japanese Identity", Dr. Noriko T. Reider argues that the work is a heterotopic inversion of classical oni-related mythology heavily influenced by the supernatural configuration brought about by World War II. She describes the novel as a "...heterotopic site where...contemporary representations of oni reflect past representations, where oni of the past are not simply superimposed upon the present but both act as extensions of each other in an odd continuum". The character of Yasunori Kato is intended as a homage to classic heroes from Japanese folklore such as Minamoto no Raiko (an Imperial soldier related to oni) and Abe no Seimei. Whereas those heroes were ardent defenders and valuable servants of the Empire though, Kato is presented as the Empire's worst possible enemy. More evidence for this inversion can also be found in the character of Taira no Masakado, whom is demonized by the narrator and the Japanese government as a national rebel and a threat. However the story presents him in the role of Tokyo's benevolent guardian deity worshiped by the various protectors of the city. The negative association becomes a positive one. Another example is found in the novel's fictional version of Emperor Hirohito. In pre-war Japanese culture, the Emperor was regarded as a divine figure incapable of human failing. In Teito Monogatari however, the Showa Emperor is presented as a frail figure who prolongs his life by unwittingly ingesting a nostrum made from human organs. This practice of cannibalism effectively puts him on the level of oni, a major paradox since the Emperor's divine status and the status of oni are incompatible with each other. If even the Emperor of Japan has the potential to become an oni, then when is an oni not an oni? [5]

Spin-offs and Prequels[edit]



A humorous stage adaptation of the novel was performed by the Tokyo Grand Guignol Theater in the mid-1980s.[17] It is most notable for introducing the talents of its star Kyūsaku Shimada, the actor who would become most associated with the image of the protagonist Yasunori Kato in future film adaptations.



In 1987, a cinematic adaptation of the same name, adapting the first four volumes of the novel, was produced by Exe Studios and distributed by Toho Studios. Released theatrically across Japan on January 1988, the film received positive critical reception and was a commercial success [7] becoming one of the top ten highest grossing domestic movies of that year.[18] The movie was eventually distributed to English speaking countries under the title Tokyo: The Last Megalopolis

The success of this adaptation prompted the production of a sequel Teito Taisen (帝都大戦?) (1989), loosely based on "Great War in the Capital".

In 1991, the first cinematic adaptation was remade into a four-part OVA anime of the same name produced by Madhouse. The anime was adapted to the US by Streamline Pictures under the title Doomed Megalopolis in 1995. Although the plot of the anime loosely parallels the original story, the production is renowned for being much more darker and provocative than its source material or any other adaptation preceding it.[7]

Video Games[edit]

  • Yami Fuku Natsu: Teito Monogatari Futatabi (闇吹く夏 帝都物語ふたたび?): A survival horror title published in 1999 by Bee Factory, Inc. Although marketed under the title Teito Monogatari, it is actually an adaptation of the Sim-Feng Shui series.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 文芸雑誌小說初出総覧:1981-2005. Pg. 92.
  2. ^ Clute, John & Grant, John. The Encyclopedia of Fantasy St. Martin's Griffin, 1999. page 515. (ISBN 0312198698)
  3. ^ "日本SF大賞" (in Japanese). Science Fiction Writers of Japan. Retrieved June 1, 2009. 
  4. ^ Kadokawa Shoten Press Release for SHIN TEITO MONOGATARI
  5. ^ a b c d Reider, Noriko T. Japanese Demon Lore: Oni from Ancient Times to the Present Utah State University Press, 2010. (ISBN 0874217938)
  6. ^ Kazuhiko, Komatsu. "Seimei jinja" 28-61
  7. ^ a b c Harper, Jim. Flowers from Hell: The Modern Japanese Horror Film Noir Publishing. (ISBN 0953656470)
  8. ^ Aramata, Hiroshi (1989), Birds of the World: as painted by 19th century artists, Crown Publishers, ISBN 0-517-57374-1 
  9. ^ Reider, Noriko T. Japanese Demon Lore: Oni from Ancient Times to the Present Utah State University Press, 2010. 117. (ISBN 0874217938)
  10. ^ Japanese Review of TEITO MONOGATARI (1988). Retrieved on 2012-8-07.
  11. ^ Shūkyō Kenkyūkai, Japanese Journal of Religious Studies, Volume 74, Issues 324-327, Pg. 273, University of Michigan, 2000
  12. ^ Tembata, Hideaki & Okazaki, Shigeyuki, "Enclosed Spaces for Seoul and Kaesong based on Feng-Shui". Intercultural Understanding, vol. 1, Pg. 89-97, 2011
  13. ^ Waley, Paul. Japanese Capitals in Historical Perspective: Place, Power and Memory in Kyoto, Edo and Tokyo Routledge, January 6, 2003. page 245. (ISBN 070071409X)
  14. ^ Reider, Noriko T. "Oni and Japanese Identity" Utah State University Press, 2010.
  15. ^ Masao, Higashi. "A Mammoth Story which Leads Reality: The Impact of TEITO MONOGATARI", KWAI Magazine, vol. 23
  16. ^ Okawada, Akira. "The Comprehensive Tokyo Related Science Fiction", S-F Magazine, September 2010, Hayakawa Shoubo
  17. ^ "Tokyo Grand Guignol". Usumaru Furuya Unofficial Website. Retrieved 2011-11-11. 
  18. ^ John A. Lent. The Asian Film Industry, pg. 41, Christopher Helm Publishers Ltd, February 22, 1990

External links[edit]