Born in the merchant city of Osaka in 1734, Ueda Akinari, the author of Ugetsu monogatari, was a creative figure of unique talent in eighteenth-century Japan. He died in 1809, in Kyoto -- at that time the capital of the nation. Dissolving the family business, which he inherited, he became a physician and practised this profession until a young girl in his care died and he decided to give up medicine. He studied and wrote haiku and waka poetry, and he took part in the revival of Japanese scholarship and literature in the late eighteenth century. Although he was closely familiar with Chinese classics, as well as vernacular prose, he remained critical of all manner of pedantry. His preface to the tales dates from 1768, but the book was not published until 1776, jointly in Kyoto and Osaka, and he probably completed his final version around this time.
A meeting of the famous medieval poet, Saigyō, and the ghost of a former emperor who in a remote time predicted an age of war and turmoil begins the collection. A prophecy in the ninth tale that the leadership of the Tokugawa shogun will bring peace to the realm marks the end. All of the tales reflect real and imaginary events ranging from the seventh to the seventeenth century. Connections between the stories may not be obvious on first reading, but upon closer perusal a total form emerges, indistinctly as a mystic scene in a Chinese landscape and as hauntingly as the supernatural itself.
U means 'rain.' Getsu means 'moon.' Monogatari suggests an elegant kind of fiction, such as that in ancient Japanese court romances. In the twelfth century during a time of war and turmoil the poet Saigyō ( 1118-90), who was also a Buddhist priest, travelled about the countryside praying and composing verse.