Lifestyle

Tokyo exhibition examines the blurred lines between the real world and the spirit world

by Melynie Yoneda

Staff Writer

Ghostly spirits and summer go hand in hand in Japan, and there are few things more frightening than the annual August exhibition of hanging scrolls at Zenshoan Temple in Tokyo’s Yanaka district.

This year, however, the scrolls will be displayed together at a different location for the first time, forming the basis of a bone-chilling exhibition titled “Urameshiya: Art of the Ghost” at The University Art Museum in Ueno.

Located a short walk from Yanaka’s cemetery, Zenshoan Temple was built at the beginning of the Meiji Period (1868-1912) in honor of those who lost their lives during the Meiji Revolution.

A number of renowned historical figures are buried in the temple compound, including Sanyutei Encho (1839-1900). Encho, a renowned rakugo storyteller best known for his ghost stories, is believed to have collected around 100 creepy scrolls by Edo Period (1603-1868) painters such as Okyo Maruyama, Rosetsu Nagasawa and Shohaku Soga during his lifetime. Around 50 are now held by private collectors at the temple.

The exhibition offers an opportunity to see some of the country’s best spooky images in one place, with each piece highlighting deep-seated emotions of urami, or grudge.

The scrolls will be displayed alongside ukiyo-e woodblock prints by Kuniyoshi Utagawa and Hokusai Katsushika, as well as hair-raising works by modern artists such as Kyosai Kawanabe, Yoshitoshi Tsukioka and Shoen Uemura.

While some of the artworks on display are sure to send a chill down visitors’ spines, others capture an ethereal sense of beauty. Eiho Hiresaki’s “A Ghost Before a Mosquito Net,” for example, depicts a seductive-looking woman lit only by a solitary light. In this sense, “Urameshiya: Art of the Ghost” examines the blurred lines between the real world and the spirit world and, after seeing the show, you may not be sure which is which.

The “Urameshiya: Art of the Ghost”: July 22-Sept. 13 at The University Art Museum, Tokyo University of the Arts; 12-8 Ueno Koen, Taito-ku, Tokyo; open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., closed Mon.; admission ¥1,100; www.tokyo-np.co.jp/event/urameshiya/english-ex.html

We have 10 pairs of tickets to the exhibition to give away. To enter, please send your name, address, postal code, phone number, name of giveaway and a comment on the publication to The Japan Times On Sunday Giveaways, 4-5-4 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-0023, fax the same information to 03-3453-5265 or complete our online submission form at jtimes.jp/onsunday by July 26.

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