Phenomenal beings: Introducing the ghosts of Japan

Phenomenal beings: spirits in Japanese art and culture

02 November 2019 - 02 November 2019 2.00pm - 4.00pm
Domain Theatre
One hundred demons on parade: an introduction to Japan supernatural
Melanie Eastburn, senior curator of Asian art, Art Gallery of NSW

From the pleasure quarters of Edo period Japan to the Reiwa era that began on 1 May 2019, the exhibition 'Japan supernatural' brings to life almost three centuries of exceptional art. While stories about strange creatures, events and experiences have long been shared, it was in the Edo period that the paranormal beings of Japan began to take their current forms. This lecture introduces this exciting exhibition and explores the dynamic evolution of shapeshifting tricksters, curious phenomena, sentient household objects and ghosts in Japanese art.

A brief history of yōkai: the evolution of Japan supernatural
Zack Davisson, writer and manga translator

As the earliest visitors to the country realised, one cannot separate Japan from its ghosts. Japan’s ghosts and monsters—called yūrei and yōkai—are part of the deep magic of the nation and culture, infused into every story, product, holiday and activity. They are constantly evolving, from the invisible, formless manifestations of evil energy called mononoke, to the eight million gods and monsters of the Edo period. Artists like Toriyama Sekien collected and correlated these yōkai into characters with names and stories. With each era old yōkai retired and new yōkai were born to meet the needs of an ever-evolving society. No matter how bright the lights of modernity shine, there is always something there, lurking in the dark.

This program is presented in partnership with the Japan Foundation