Yanagita Kunio called Kumagusu “the greatest benefactor of the study of Japanese folklore.”

Their correspondence began in 1911 with a letter from Yanagita to Kumagusu. Around this time, Yanagita had begun his pioneering research into folklore, and Kumagusu had published a number of articles about folklore in academic magazines.

Their correspondence included discussions of so significant topics in folklore that Yanagita carefully saved the letters he received.

Yanagita intended to form a study of folklore inherent to Japan, whereas Kumagusu aimed for a comparative study of folklore from a wider point of view that included sexual customs. Their differences in orientations gradually caused their communication to slow.

However, after Kumagusu’s death, Yanagita praised him as “the utmost limit of Japanese potential” and offered to help with a plan to publish Kumagusu’s collected work.

<strong>A Study of Twelve Zodiacal Animals</strong><br> Kumagusu published this series on the magazine “Taiyo” from 1914.<br> He wrote about the animals of the Chinese zodiac, incorporating passages from different traditional tales, and descriptions from various disciplines, and fields. <br> Kumagusu made notes for each treatise by listing information on the blank back of a newspaper. The notes allow us to see Kumagusu’s unique method of thinking that derived meanings from related items amongst the list of information.
A Study of Twelve Zodiacal Animals

<strong>Minakata Kanwa, Minakata Zuihitsu, Zoku Minakata Zuihitsu</strong><br> Kumagusu had three books published during his lifetime, all in 1926: Minakata Kanwa (Minakata’s Idle Chatters), Minakata Zuihitsu (Minakata’s Miscellany), Zoku Minakata Zuihitsu (Minakata’s Miscellany II).<br> These are important works that convey Kumagusu’s accomplishments as a folklorist and scholar of comparative narratives.
Minakata Kanwa, Minakata Zuihitsu, Zoku Minakata Zuihitsu

<strong>“Yama-no-kami likes okoze fish”</strong><br> In Japan, there is the folk custom of making an offering of an okoze, a kind of stonefish, to Yama-no-kami, or a mountain god.<br> The folklore scholar Yanagita Kunio was interested in this custom and wrote Kumagusu a letter for the first time after reading his essay on the topic of Yama-no-kami and okoze.<br> Yanagita had realized that the same pattern of oral and ritual tradition existed throughout Japan, so this communication helped him realize the importance of collaborating with regional researchers.
“Yama-no-kami likes okoze fish”

<strong>Swallow-Stone Myth</strong><br> This is an essay Kumagusu wrote in English in 1903, which was eventually left unpublished.<br> The Swallow-Stone myths came into being as a combination of different superstitions that existed from long ago around the world, which Kumagusu explained with the concept of “sympathy theory.”
Swallow-Stone Myth

<strong>Double Coconut Palm</strong><br> A specimen of a rare palm tree with double coconuts, the coco de mer (sea coconut), was among Kumagusu’s collection. The plant, native of Praslin Island, the Republic of Seychelles, is currently prohibited to collect.
Double Coconut Palm