A Visit to the Yokai Museum

This weekend I went to Nagoya to see the Yokai Mummy Exhibit at Parco Gallery. If you can get to Nagoya before this ends, I strongly recommend you go see it! It was pretty fantastic.

This exhibit is a preview event for a brand new yokai museum set to open next year in Miyoshi City, Hiroshima. The museum is going to be the new home of Yumoto Koichi’s yokai collection. Yumoto holds the largest collection of yokai in the world, and is a prolific yokai researcher with a few books published detailing the contents of his massive collection. Having a museum built for them is a pretty incredible thing, and this preview showcased some of the highlights of his collection; the mummies!

And unlike lots of art galleries, photos were allowed, so I am happy to share some of what I saw with you! You’ll have to forgive the poor quality of the photos. It was difficult to take shots without my own shadow getting in the way, so most of my pictures were taken at sharp angles. There are some glares and lots of perspective distortion, so you’ll have to use your imagination a bit.

Part One: Paintings

Here I am peering at the first scroll: a hyakki yagyo emaki featuring tsukumogami cavorting in a night parade.

These are yokai you’ve probably seen countless times. They have been painted over and over in many different picture scrolls. Some have names, some don’t, but it’s fun to see the same characters appear over and over by different artists.

Next up is a picture scroll depicting a long story, with yokai interacting with humans among a lavish-looking samurai house.

Only parts of the scrolls were visible; they unfurl different sections of different days of the exhibit, so if you can go for multiple days you can catch even more of the stories!

Next up is a scroll with a number of famous yokai, including this old school nurikabe! I also liked this version of nurikabe more than Mizuki Shigeru’s version, which is what you mainly see nowadays.

This next character is heavily distorted because I took the photo at a sharp angle, but it’s a giant catfish! This was another scroll that had a number of large sea monsters on it.

I know I’ve seen this ghost before! This is a copy of another painting.

An inugami and a rokurokubi, also copies from an earlier scroll.

The next one is a bizarre scroll worth mentioning. This scroll depicts a group of wisemen from China who developed a method of defeating yokai… by farting on them! Fart scrolls are surprisingly common among yokai paintings, and there are lots of images of people farting on kappa or other yokai to drive them off. I’m not sure how this particular scroll falls into the timeline of things, but the silliness of it is charming.

This is an Edo period book about a young man who goes kitsune hunting off in the mountains, and runs into yokai after yokai. How I would have loved to turn the pages and see the other parts of this book!

This scroll depicts a house full of yokai; you can see faces on the walls, and ghostly heads floating about.

These next few images were from a relatively modern (Showa Period) scroll, and I absolutely love them! In particular, chikusho (the skull with a skeletal deer’s body) has definitely become one of my new favorite yokai. This scroll was also unfurled over many days, so I wish I could come back and see the others! (Fortunately Yumoto Koichi’s books do display more details of this and his other pieces.)

Part Two: Prints

First up are two of the most famous yokai images ever: Hokusai’s prints of Oiwa and the sarayashiki ghost (aka Okiku). You can find better scans online than my photos, but seeing them in person is something else!

This is a copy of Inou mononoke roku, which I’ve posted about on here and yokai.com in the past. It’s a collection of pictures from the life on Inou Heitarou, a young boy from Miyoshi, Hiroshima who had a series of very bad nights as yokai repeatedly visited him. How I would love to read this whole book!

Next up is a series of prints framed all together. If you look closely you can see all kinds of yokai hidden in the pictures. Even the walls have eyes!

This story features a big tsuchigumo!

Below is a yokai-themed board game (sugoroku).

Here is a set of yokai karuta.

This is a newspaper article, believe it or not. It tells the story of a shop owner who was attacked by the ghost of the man who owned the shop before him. It looks like it would have been very fun to be a newspaper illustrator back then!

Part Three: Clothing

There were a couple of neat articles of clothing at the exhibit. This is a kimono and obi featuring Ibaraki doji, a famous oni.

Below is a thick outer jacket with a nue on it. Nue were disaster beasts, associated with fire and lightning. So this jacket was actually worn by a fire brigade. It’s made of very thick and heavy cotton, like a judo uniform. The firefighters would soak it with water to protect themselves when running into the fire. Then they would turn it inside out when returning. It’s quite clever.

Part Four: Mummies!

This, of course, is the main event! The yokai mummies! In their day, these were toured around as sideshows, displayed in temples as curiosities, and even kept as charms.

First up we have a ningyo. The first page is a description of the creature and its story. Of all the man-made mummies, this one was by far the most realistic. Check out those teeth!

Next up is a creature that was billed as a “three headed dragon.” Three snake heads on an alligator. I guess it didn’t specify whose heads…

You’ve probably seen these images before. These famous kappa paintings are circulating around the internet. They diagram the kappa and suiko mummies presented below.

A kappa’s hand!! This reminds me of the old ghost story about the monkey’s paw.

This one here is a suiko.

Human for scale. I definitely picture suiko as much bigger in my mind! Isn’t that what people always say at sideshows?

Next up are a couple of raiju mummies. This illustration accompanied them:

There was also a karasu tengu mummy! This document describes it.

And now, the grand finale: the kudan! There were a number of posters advertising it from ages long past. I especially liked this one:

Human for scale. I’ve seen this guy on so many websites and in so many books. While there are other kudan mummies out there, this one is probably the most famous. He has a very serene look on his face. It’s not hard to see why people thought these were special or magical beasts.

Seeing these mummies really makes me long for a time I’ve never experienced. I’d love to visit that age of wonders, when science and fantasy were still at odds with one another, and sideshows like this traveled around the world. Although I suppose it’s not so different today. Instead of being scammed out of my money to see a “real mermaid,” I happily paid to see a fake one.

Anyway, it was an awesome exhibit. I am eagerly looking forward to the opening of Yumoto’s Yokai Museum in Miyoshi!

Spring Update

This update is overdue! I thought it was only a short time since my last update, but suddenly its mid-April and I haven’t posted in a month and a half! Where does the time go? Here are a few updates on what’s been going on:

The Book of the Hakutaku

I’ve been kept busy mainly by work on the book. The text was finished in March and it was sent off to my editor, yokai expert and manga translator Zack Davisson. In the meantime, I am working on the final illustrations for the book, such as the chapter headers, and other details like that. You can follow the progress on the Kickstarter page.

Your last chance to become a backer through BackerKit is also quickly approaching! The BackerKit pre-order store will close at the end of April! So if you want hardcover collector’s editions, slipcases, bookmarks, or yokai clothing, you only have a short time left to order them! After the BackerKit pledge manager is closed, you will only be able to buy paperback and Kindle versions of the book.

Patreon & Yokai.com

Of course, I am always busy working on my Patreon project, bringing more and more yokai to yokai.com! February and March saw the creation of a bunch of new paintings, and very recently I put up an entirely new site template on yokai.com, one of my campaign goals for the Patreon project! The new template is streamlined for various devices, and is smartphone friendly, which has been something I’ve wanted for a long time. Many people have asked for an app for yokai.com, but a smartphone-friendly version has always seemed like a better solution for viewing the website on your phone or tablet, as it saves the time and effort (and money) involved in maintaining a series of apps in addition to the website.

Here are the new yokai posted since the last update:

If you’d like to get regular updates, monthly postcards with hand drawn yokai doodles, help choose the yokai I paint, or even original yokai paintings every quarter, please consider supporting yokai.com on my Patreon page! I don’t run ads on the site, and it is entirely supported by backers who pledge as little as $1 per month to keep it running. If you enjoy yokai and want to keep reading more, I do need your help to keep making them!

Other Yokai Updates

Now that winter is over, the time for outdoor events has begun. I visited the Mononoke Ichi down in Kyoto a couple of weeks ago. Mononoke Ichi is like a miniature Comic Con for yokai lovers which takes place a few times a year. It is located in “Yokai Street,” an area of Kyoto which used to be the northern border of the old city (remember how yokai live in the border lands?”). The shops and residents of that area have banded together to make the area yokai-themed in an effort to increase local PR, and they have really done a good job. They run a number of events, including Mononoke Ichi, but also Kyoto’s very famous “Yokai Train” which runs during the summer.

This was my first visit to Mononoke Ichi, but it definitely won’t be my last! I had a blast, and I hope to go next time as a booth presenter instead of a customer. Here are a couple of photos of me with yokai cosplayers at the event, and if you’re involved in my Patreon project you can even watch a walkthrough video I took while I was there!