I think I somehow missed the point of the Yam gruel story. I found the Rashomon story rather cruel and unsympathetic. I think I'll reserve judgment until after we've discussed these in our Brain Pain group.
Something that I definitely did notice, is that quite a bit of the original seems to be lost in translation, which might be partly the fault of the translator, but almost definitely also due to the fact that English and Japanese are two languages that seem to be difficult to translate mutually.
From all accounts that I've heard, it seems that there are some words and expressions that are almost untranslatable from the English to the Japanese, and I daresay vice versa too.
In any case, I do know of cases where certain single words in Japanese have no equivalent in English, and have to be "explained" via entire paragraphs or sentences. That doesn't really lend itself to elegance in the translated work. :(