ghosts, goblins and monsters 1700s to now


A beautiful and richly illustrated book published in association with an exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales 2 November 2019 – 8 March 2020


ISBN: 9781741741469 Category:

Melanie Eastburn


Japan supernatural presents wildly imaginative works by Japanese artists past and present – from historical master Katsushika Hokusai to contemporary superstar Takashi Murakami.

Japan supernatural takes you on a journey of discovery of the astonishing array of yokai culture and yurei (ghosts) -phenomenal beings from fiendish goblins through to mischievous shapeshifters – that have inhabited Japanese culture for centuries. Once serving the purpose of explaining the unexplainable, they have been kept alive through folklore and legend in stories and artworks. They continue to exist in contemporary Japanese culture both in everyday practices such as avoiding renting an apartment that is inhabited by ghosts to the fanciful imagery and characters in popular anime and the monumental creations of Takahashi Murakami. While over time these creatures and characters have moved from being believed in to a form of entertainment ranging from horror to the comical they have maintained an ongoing presence in Japanese art and society – in novels, films, anime, manga and games -.

Drawn from around the world as well as the Gallery’s own collection, works date from the 1700s to 2019 and include fantastically detailed ukiyo-e woodblock prints, miniature netsuke (toggles), metres-long scrolls and large-scale contemporary photographs, paintings and installations. Some of the greatest Japanese artists of the past including Katsushika Hokusai, Utagawa Kuniyoshi, Tsukioka Yoshitoshi and Kawanabe Kyosai, alongside contemporary artists Chiho Aoshima, Miwa Yanagi and Takahashi Murakami who update the tradition for our times.

Additional information

Weight 988 g
Dimensions 18.9 x 24.3 cm
Publisher name Art Gallery of New South Wales
Publication date 25 November 2019
Number of pages
Format Paperback / softback
Contributors Foreword by Michael Brand, Preface by Mami Kataoka
Dimensions 18.9 x 24.3 cm
Weight 988 g

Melanie Eastburn (exhibition curator and book editor) is senior curator of Asian art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Melanie has worked in the field of Asian art for over 20 years and has a dedicated research interest in Japanese art. Her exhibitions include Glorious: earthly pleasures and heavenly realms (2017-19) and Time, light, Japan: Japanese art 1990s to now (2016-17) at the AGNSW; Divine worlds: Indian painting (2012) and Black robe white mist: art of the Japanese Buddhist nun Rengetsu (2007) at the National Gallery of Australia, and Fruits: Tokyo street style (2002) at the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.

Mami Kataoka is chief curator, Mori Art Museum in Tokyo and was artistic director of the 21st Sydney Biennale in 2016. She is a key figure in documenting and analysing trends within contemporary Japanese art, considering relevant social historical and generational themes. In 2012 she guest-curated Phantoms of Asia: contemporary awakens the past at the Asian Art Museum San Francisco and curated Parade: Invisibles in Japanese media art: from 'Night parade of one hundred demons to IS parade' for the Japan Media Arts Festival in Hong Kong.

(Dr) Michael Dylan Foster is professor of Japanese and Department Chair East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Davis. In addition to his academic career, focused on Japanese literature and culture, he has published several short stories, articles and novels. Much of his work on Japanese folklore has centered on tales of the supernatural-the strange and the weird. That is the subject of his first book, Pandemonium and parade: Japanese monsters and the culture of yƓkai, which received the Chicago Folklore Prize in 2009.

Zack Davisson is an award-winning translator, writer and scholar of Japanese folklore and ghosts. He is the author of Yurei: the Japanese ghost and The ghost of Oyuki. He has contributed articles to Weird Tales Magazine, Japanzine and Metropolis Magazine and the comic book Wayward from Image comics. He was also a researcher and on-screen talent for National Geographic's TV special Japan: lost souls of Okinawa and maintains the popular Japanese folklore website HYAKUMONOGATARI.COM. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington.

Professor Komatsu Kasuhiko is Japanese folklorist specialising in the study of yokai. He is director-general of the International Research Centre for Japanese Studies in Kyoto where he supervises the yokai database. He has published widely include An introduction to yokai culture with Matt Alt and Hiroko Yoda.

Lucie Folan is curator of Asian Art at the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra. Her publications include Stars of the Tokyo stage: Natori Shunsen's Kabuki actor prints (2012, NGA) and Black robe white mist: art of the Japanese Buddhist nun Rengetsu (2009, with Melanie Eastburn).

Chiaki Ajioka is a highly regarded curator and translator. Her exhibitions and associated publications include Modern boy, modern girl: modernity in Japanese art 1910-1935 (AGNSW 1998), HANGA: Japanese Creative Prints (AGNSW 2000), and Japan in Sydney: Professor Sadler & modernism 1920-30s (University Art Gallery, The University of Sydney 2011).

Justin Paton head of international art, Art Gallery of New South Wales. He has curated many exhibitions s such as De-building, Unguided tours and Nude: art for the Tate collection. A widely published writer and commentator on the visual arts, his publications include the award-winning How to look at a painting (2005).

Hiroko Yoda, born in Tokyo, Japan, has co-authored numerous books on the topics of Japanese pop culture, history, and folklore with her husband and collaborator, Matt Alt including Yokai Attack!: The Japanese Monster Survival Guide (Tuttle, 2012). She is also the local language editor for the Japanese edition of the popular travel website CNNGo Tokyo.