These two stories by Ryunosuke Akutagawa are really philosophical.
鼻 is about an old monk with a very long nose. He worries about his nose all the time but doesn’t want others to know about his worries, so he pretends not to care. The story ends up to be funny and satirical, as the old monk manages to shorten his nose but then decides that he wants the long nose back. Every one of us in real life is similar to the old monk, because we all care too much about other people’s opinions sometimes. If we let go such burden, our life will be much more easier.
蜘蛛の糸 is about a sinner who has done only one good thing when he was alive: he once chose not to step on a spider. The sinner is then given a chance to leave the hell by climbing up the thread of a spider’s web. When he almost gets to heaven, he saw other sinners climbing up as well and got very angry. As a result, the thread breaks and he sends himself back to hell again. The sinner is selfish, he hates to see other people leaving the hell even though that doesn’t affect his own chance to get out. Such selfishness is not uncommon in daily life, and this story should serve to give us some warnings.
The language is not hard and the stories are very intriguing. I would recommend this book to first and second year Japanese students.