25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
I almost hesitate to add a review since there are two other reviews here that do such a fine job. I actually attended the University of Kansas and was therefore able to visit the Spencer Museum of Art and see some of these works on display. I purchased my copy of this book at the museum and used it as part of my source material for a theses I wrote while matriculating at KU, so I am very familiar with this book.
This is a very, very impressive book with loads of gorgeously rendered and reproduced wood-block prints. If you like Japanese art you will wish to have this book simply to look at the pictures. My children actually like to get this book down and look at the pictures, half because it is truly amazing art and half because the art is focused on the creepy-crawly and supernatural. An element of Japanese culture and psychology is viscerally on display in these fine prints and it is easy to see that this form of art is the precursor to the Manga that is so popular today.
This book is much more than a simple visual display though. There is a wealth of information, meticulously researched, presented here on the creatures that make up the pantheon of the eerie and supernatural in medieval Japan. For serious students, or even those with a surfeit of Hobbits just wanting a better grounding in an alternate milieu of the supernatural, this is an excellent tome, well-written, easy-to-follow, and chock-full of information. Buy it for the pictures, buy it for the text, or buy it for both, you won't be disappointed.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on June 18, 2003
As the preface to "Japanese Ghosts and Demons" notes, this book is the fruit of interdisciplinary studies undertaken by the Spencer Museum of Art and the University of Kansas at Lawrence. And it is the results of just such an interdisciplinary approach that have lifted this book out of the realm of an ordinary exhibition catalogue and propelled it into the rarified ranks of an art history classic.
In historical terms, the focus of the book is the Edo period. This long (1615-1868) and peaceful period saw a concatenation of several important trends, including the perfection of the woodblock print, a democratization of art that--for the first time in Japan--served the masses, the rise of the kabuki theater, and a diffusion of popular literature and tales that often focused on the ghostly and the supernatural. The fusion of these trends was most clearly seen in the woodblock prints of Tsukioka Yoshitoshi, Utagawa Kunisada, and Ichiryusai Kuniyoshi, many of which are reproduced here. These three giants of the late woodblock period not only made a major contribution in documenting the theatrical and literary trends of the Edo period but also provided many of the visual models still employed in Japanese-style tattooing.
Apart from the rich feast of art presented in this book, "Japanese Ghosts and Demons" will nourish the souls of those interested more in the fields of anthropology and comparative religion. Even today, when Japan has emerged as one of the most technologically advanced nations on earth, fundamental cultural beliefs are still strongly informed by a sense of mutability. "Japanese Ghosts and Demons" makes an important contribution to explaining this phenomenon, in which the boundaries between the living and the dead, humankind and animals, the animate and the inanimate, and the sacred and profane are far more permeable than is believed to be the case in the modern West. Several thousand years ago, before the rise of the three great monotheistic religions, most of the world's societies believed in a universe more pregnant with magical possibilities, a type of universe that this book helps us better understand.
19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
"Japanese Ghost and Demons" is something I really wish I could have been a part in making. A college with a fine collection of supernatural-themed Japanese art, in a variety of mediums, decides to offer an interdisciplinary study class with each group producing papers on a folklore theme, with supporting artwork from the collection. Brilliant.
Each of the chapters is incredibly insightful, providing a complete education on the topic. Along with the traditional subjects such as the Oni, Ghosts and Tengu, there are many less-often covered subjects such as Sennin: The Immortals of Taoism and Shoki the Demon Queller. I was particularly pleased to learn about Shoki, as I was browsing a print shop in Kyoto and was able to recognize the Demon Queller himself in a few prints.
The plates are, of course, beautiful, and cover an incredible range of medium, from the familiar prints to the drawings, paintings and netsuke carvings. The reproduction quality is high, and the size of the book is "coffee table" size, allowing for nice sized images. The majority of the plates are in full color.
As someone who has read quite a few books on Japanese supernatural folklore, I recommend "Japanese Ghosts and Demons" as one of the best. It would be hard to be disappointed by this treasure.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on March 21, 2003
If you are looking for sources for traditional japanese art for tattooing purposes this is an excellent place to start. I was very suprised when I got this book and found it to be SO thorough and much nicer than I expected. If you're expecting a flimsy cheap paperback, this is not it. It is a quality book very thick and almost as sturdy as a hardbound, perfect for reference material for a tattooer!
on October 5, 2011
For those of us interested in the influence of Japanese arts and culture on the West, this book is an essential research tool. I was lucky to have been at a conference in Lawrence at the time the exhibition was on, saw it and bought the catalog. Many years later I have exhumed it from a dusty shelf and found it even more comprehensive that I did the first time. I recommend Siegfried Wichmann's definitive study on Japonisme as a companion volume.
on February 4, 2014
I was expecting more pictures, and some of the prints could have been enlarged to show more detail. Although the information about the Yokai is quite interesting this is by no means encyclopedic. A lot of this art is fairly hard to find, and it is quite a nice reference in English.
Overall, a good book with interesting art. I just wish it could have gone into more detail.