Yōkai, yūrei, Lucky Gods and more – Supernatural powers in Japan
Language of the lecture: German
There are many supernatural beings in Japanese folklore. Some are creepy and scary, others are more comical. They can resemble animals, hide in objects or assume human form, and are up to mischief during their life on earth or only after death. As spirits of the deceased, the latter belong to the category of dead souls (yūrei), while other figures with uncanny powers and paranormal phenomena are classified as demons, mythical and spooky creatures (yōkai). They can be malicious, but they can also be helpful, auspicious, or protective. Initially passed on orally, they later found expression in literature, theater and art and reached their entertaining peak in the Edo period (1603-1868), when scaring became a parlor game, yōkai encyclopedias emerged and artists such as KATSUSHIKA Hokusai or KAWANABE Kyōsai likes to paint them. To this day we encounter them in popular culture and in everyday Japanese life.
Where do these supernatural beings come from? How are they portrayed, what do they stand for, which individual fears, emotions and driving forces, which social concerns do they express? What do they say about the respective time, what cultural-historical information, lessons and warnings do they convey? How do they differ in iconography and semantics from the supernatural in Western culture, and what do they have in common? The series of lectures, which started in July 2022 and consists of face-to-face events and short 30-minute online lectures, will address these and other questions and will end on June 13, 2023 with a face-to-face lecture. – “Yōkai are a mirror of human existence,” says yōkai researcher Prof. KOMATSU Kazuhiko. Let’s take a look in this mirror!
Illustration: KAWANABE Kyōsai, The Night Parade of 100 Demons (Hyakki yakō) [Ausschnitt] (1889, posthum published in 1890)