Yokai: Ghosts, Demons & Monsters of Japan

Vivid in Japanese art and imagination are creatures that are at once ghastly and humorous. The Japanese word yokai generally refers to a range of supernatural beings such as ghosts, demons, monsters, shapeshifters, tricksters and other strange kinds of creatures. While their status is commonly described as supernatural, they exist or appear in the natural, human world. Today, yokai are wildly popular in Japan. They are prevalent across contemporary entertainment genres such as manga (“comics”) and anime (“animation”) series, horror movies, and video games, and they also manifest as the subject of related material culture objects like game cards, character t-shirts, cuddly plushies, and collectable gashapon capsule toys. This diverse array of yokai imagery and materiality is deeply rooted in the past. Yokai images and their stories are enduring, and there is no question that what we see in hot commodities today is closely aligned with traditional Japanese folklore. Yokai: Ghosts & Demons of Japan explores yokai and their popularity in Japan through multiple perspectives of yokai: what they are, their associated tales, how people engaged with or interpreted yokai in different contexts, and why they remain so popular in Japan. The contributors to this book are among eminent scholars, creators, and promoters of various aspects of yokai culture. The interdisciplinary nature of this book’s presentation vibrantly illustrates yokai from different angles, allowing for a broad view of their cultural scope in Japan. In addition, the contributors delve into popular culture themes, connecting traditional folklore, folk art, and imagery to trends in Japan as well as in the United States.