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Monogatari (物語) is a literary form in traditional Japanese literature, an extended prose narrative tale comparable to the epic. Monogatari is closely tied to aspects of the oral tradition, and almost always relates a fictional or fictionalized story, even when retelling a historical event. Many of the great works of Japanese fiction, such as the Genji monogatari and the Heike monogatari, are in this monogatari form.

The form was prominent around the 9th to 15th centuries, reaching a peak between the 10th and 11th centuries. According to the Fūyō Wakashū (1271), at least 198 monogatari existed by the 13th century. Of these, around forty still exist.


The genre is sub-divided into multiple categories depending on their contents:


Stories dealing with fantastical events.


Stories drawn from poetry.


Aristocratic court romances.


Historical tales.


War tales.


Anecdotal tales.


Pseudo-classical imitations of earlier tales.

Modern Fiction series[edit]

Modern literature, anime, light novels and manga also utilize this form:

  • Hanamonogatari "flowering story"
  • Kabukimonogatari "slope story"
  • Kizumonogatari "damaged goods story"
  • Koyomimonogatari "Koyomi Story"
  • Koimonogatari "love story"
  • Nekomonogatari "cat story"
  • Nisemonogatari "imposter story"
  • Onimonogatari "demon story"
  • Otorimonogatari "decoy story"
  • Owarimonogatari "end story"
  • Tsukimonogatari "evil spirit story"
  • Zokuowarimonogatari "continued end story"


When European and other foreign literature later became known to Japan, the word "monogatari" began to be used in Japanese titles of foreign works of a similar nature. For example, A Tale of Two Cities is known as Nito Monogatari (二都物語), One Thousand and One Nights as Sen'ichiya Monogatari (千一夜物語) and more recently The Lord of the Rings as Yubiwa Monogatari (指輪物語) and To Kill a Mockingbird as Arabama Monogatari (アラバマ物語).

See also[edit]

  • Mumyōzōshi, a 13th-century literary critique on monogatari, many of which are no longer extant
  • Fūyō Wakashū, a 13th-century collection of poetry from various monogatari sources, many of which are no longer extant
  • Konjaku Monogatarishū, a collection of over one thousand Heian period monogatari, of which 28 remain today.


  • Frederic, Louis (2002). "Monogatari." Japan Encyclopedia. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.
  • Kubota, Jun (2007). Iwanami Nihon Koten Bungaku Jiten (in Japanese). Iwanami Shoten. ISBN 978-4-00-080310-6.
  • Nihon Koten Bungaku Daijiten: Kan'yakuban. Tokyo: Iwanami Shoten. 1986. ISBN 4-00-080067-1.