Yōkai — supernatural demons, spirits and monsters of Japanese folklore — were originally depicted as menaces to be feared by humans. During the Edo Period (1603-1868), however, poet and ukiyo-e artist Toriyama Sekien (1712-1788) began to show them in a more humorous light. In the Meiji Era, (1868-1912), as Japan experienced the horrors of the Sino-Japanese war and the Russo-Japanese war, national fear shifted toward a fear of humankind.
Focusing on depictions of yōkai and their relationships with humans, this exhibition of 100 works, includes those by Sekien and Utagawa Kuniyoshi (1798-1861), and explores how fantasy came to be less frightening than reality. (Yukari Tanaka)