Ghosts, Goblins, and Gods: The Supernatural in Japanese Art

May 22, 2012 – September 16, 2012

The tenets of Shintō, Japan’s native religion are based on the belief that spirits inhabit the natural world, both animate and inanimate objects including rocks, mountains, trees, rivers and lakes. Some of these gods are regarded as guardian spirits while others are harmful tricksters, deceiving humans and coaxing them into foolish, reckless behavior. This exhibition comprises an array of paintings, colorful woodblock prints, sculptures, masks and other objects depicting a host of legendary ghosts, gods, and other-worldly beings. Among the mythical tricksters on view are tengu, half-man, half-bird forest creatures with long noses that are said to abduct children and the magical foxes and badgers that transform themselves into human form.

Featured also are representation of the Japanese gods of good fortune, wisdom, and long life, including Ebisu, the god of fishermen, Daikoku, the god of agriculture, Fukurokuju, the god of wisdom and long life, Hotei, the god of happiness, and his feminine equivalent, Okame, the plump-cheeked cheerful goddess of mirth. Lastly, the exhibit would not be complete without including some fuzzy goblins from the popular Pokemon series, which have contributed to making monsters a popular theme in Japanese culture today!

Related Films & Publications

In order to better understand and appreciate this exhibit, our curator recommends:

in ghostly japan
In Ghostly Japan
Author: Lafcadio Hearn
Softcover, 258 pages

yokai attack
Yokai Attack! The Japanese Monster Survival Guide
Author: Hiroko Yoda and Matt Alt, Illustrations by Tatsuya Morino

Ringu (1998)
Director: Hideo Nakata
Writers: Hiroshi Takahashi (screenplay), Koji Suzuki (book)
Stars: Nanako Matsushima, Miki Nakatani and Yuko Takeuchi

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