A Look Through Yokai History at the Yokai Parade by JFKL

Yokai Parade Supernatural Monsters from Japan is going on until Dec 3 at Malaysian Institute of Art City Campus Gallery.


Belief in the supernatural  is a norm in every culture. Especially in the olden days where electricity was scarce and darkness loomed the night. In Japanese culture, ghosts, demons, monsters, shapeshifters, tricksters, and other kinds of supernatural beings including other mysterious phenomena are called yokai.

According to Mr. Yumoto Koichi, the Director Emeritus of the Yumoto Koichi Memorial JAPAN YOKAI MUSEUM (Miyoshi Mononoke Museum), “Firstly, yokai can be described as a product of the imagination born from people’s fear, awe, and anxiety towards nature and unknown presences that writhe within the darkness.”

Shinnō and the Vanquishing of the Yokai on the Mythical Island of Demons Picture Scroll

The JAPAN YOKAI MUSEUM houses over 5,000 artworks and objects that represent yokai. So, it was apt when Mr. Yumoto was appointed by the Japan Foundation Kuala Lumpur (JFKL) as the curator for the Yokai Parade: Supernatural Monsters from the Japan Travelling Exhibition.

Travelling Exhibition

After the successful run at the Muzium & Gallery Tuanku Fauziah, the much-anticipated exhibition will be touring in Kuala Lumpur this month; collaborating with the Malaysian Institute of Art (MIA) for this round. “The exhibition was put together with the intention and interest to introduce yokai culture that extends to the present day through picture scrolls and Nishike-e (a multi-coloured Japanese woodblock print), as well as a diverse range of media including toys and film,” said Director of the JFKL, Mr. Tsukamoto Norihisa during his speech at the MIACC Gallery, MIA City Campus.

Attack on the Tsuchigumo | Utagawa Kuniyoshi | Edo period

Before arriving in Malaysia, the Yokai Parade has travelled to Korea and China which is part of the Travelling Exhibition programme organised by the Japan Foundation consisting of exhibitions that travelled around the world showcasing the beauty of Japan.

“This exhibition will be here at the MIACC Gallery until Dec 3 with exciting events happening every weekend before travelling to its final stop at the Sabah Art Gallery from Dec 2023 to Jan 2024,” Mr. Tsukamoto further stated.

The Foot Washing Mansion (Seven Wonders of Honjo) | Okada Kuniteru | 1886

­­Paradigm Shift

It is very interesting to see the relationship of the Japanese with the yokai due to shifting emotions towards them over the years. At first it was feared but “… the development of new technology brought about changes to people’s lives, yokai seems to have gradually become less of a subject of fear and has come to be viewed as a more charming and friendly presence,” expressed Yumoto.

Visitors would get the chance to view picture scrolls dated as early as the Edo Period up until the more recent animations and short films about yokai. The exhibition is divided into four chapters which consist of The Spectacular World of Yokai Picture Scrolls, The Richly Colorful World of Yokai, Yokai and Games and finally Yokai Passed Down to Present Day.

One Hundred Kinds of Ghost Stories – Yokai Sugoroku | Utagawa Yoshikazu | 1858

 “We hope you will enjoy exploring this essence of yokai culture that has been cultivated in Japan over a long period of time through this exhibition,” Mr. Tsukamoto chimed. There are also pocket activities over the weekends during the exhibition period. Last weekend it was the film screening for The House of the Lost on the Cape.

This weekend their Monster Series Paper Puppet Workshop has two timings, 11AM – 12PM and 2PM – 3PM at RM5/pax. While On the last weekend, Dec 2 and 3, there will be a RM10/pax Tote Bag Printing Workshop at 10AM – 12PM and 2PM – 4PM. More info about the exhibition can be found on the JFKL website.

Kitarō’s Squad and a Ghost House | Yamada Shinya (Toyowadō), 2016 |  ©MIZUKI Productions ©TOYOWADO

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