Demons, monsters and ghosts. Anyone who has even a minimum of familiarity with Japanese folklore knows that there are so many beings – or not beings – strange across the country. The Yokai, creatures all different from each other in appearance and character. Mainly they are linked to Shintoism, the traditional Japanese animist religion, so they live everywhere, in the mountains, in the city, at the sea, in your home and intervene directly in our lives.
The Miyoshi Mononoke Museum, or formally the Yumoto Koichi Memorial Japan Yokai Museum is a museum recently opened (April 2019) in the city of Miyoshi in Hiroshima Prefecture and totally dedicated to these supernatural creatures.
The city is known as the setting for “Ino Mononoke Roku,” a famous folktale from the Edo Period (1603-1868) which tells of a 16-year-old boy’s 30 days of confronting yokai monsters.
On display, more than 160 objects from the vast collection of Koichi Yumoto, a 68-year-old ethnologist and yokai researcher in Tokyo who, during several trips and studies, collected about 5 thousand pieces, all focused on this genre. On display we will find historical artifacts, which includes a scroll painting of the famous folktale, crafts and paintings. Visitors can also learn the histories of monsters through an interactive digital picture book of yokai, and take photos with the monsters using a special camera set up at the site. And maybe we’ll find out that not all demons are so bad!
The densely populated and colorful world of the yōkai 「妖怪」 (from yō “witchcraft” and kai “mysterious apparition”) is characterized by magical and scary creatures.
They are terrifying beings, endowed with supernatural powers and usually with an animalistic and disturbing aspect: they live in parallel with men, however, not all yōkai are necessarily carriers of misfortune. In some cases, in fact, they are benevolent entities that bring good luck to those who come across them.
They are all extremely different entities in appearance, malignancy and origin: some may have human features, other animal features or even objects of common use, or they may appear as spectral phenomena. Yōkai can also be cataloged according to the place where they generally appear, some are mountain yōkai, others are trees, snow or sea.
Among the yōkai there are the shapeshifters, called bakemono 「化 け 物」 or obake 「お 化 け」: they are beings that have the ability to change their state, their nature, mostly of animal origin. Foxes, tanuki, cats and snakes when they become very old, they are thought to acquire magical powers, changing form and deceiving men.
Another category of magical and mysterious creatures is represented by the yūrei 「幽 霊」 that is to say the ghosts, souls that still wander in our world due to untied ties and situations remained in suspense. These beliefs, still deeply felt in Japanese culture, are closely linked to the idea of animism that permeates the native Japanese religion (Shintō), for which it was believed that spirits resided in all things of nature: some of them had a peaceful temperament, and could bring good luck and a good harvest, while others were violent and evil, bringing bad luck and causing natural disasters and diseases. All of this necessitated the practice of rituals to calm the spirits, and transform them into benevolent beings.
Images from Web.