Despite receiving much critical acclaim, this film received a rather cold reception from American audiences. Feedback from audiences suggested that they expected Japanese horror films to follow the model of Godzilla (1954) with fast-paced action, atomic monsters, and lots of special effects. They disliked the subtle spookiness, even-pacing, and creepy mood of this film which critics had praised.
This is the film adaptation of four stories from the book "Kwaidan: Stories and studies of strange things" by Lafcadio Hearn and is actually a collection of Japanese ghost stories, taken from various sources, some even stemming from China. Originally published in 1904, there are actually seventeen ghost stories in total, as well as insect studies including butterflies, mosquitoes and ants.
Although most of the vignettes acknowledge a passage of time, in some cases several years, the months of principle action in the film are, in order, September, December, March, and February (or New Year's Day of the Fourth Tenwa).
In order to achieve an appropriate separation between the four parts of the film, director Masaki Kobayashi shot the film on two separate sound stages. Because of the tight shooting schedule, he would oversee the set design of one vignette on one sound stage while he filmed another on the alternate location.