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Water sprites, mountain goblins, shape-shifting animals, and the monsters known as yôkai have long haunted the Japanese cultural landscape. This history of the strange and mysterious in Japan seeks out these creatures in folklore, encyclopedias, literature, art, science, games, manga, magazines, and movies, exploring their meanings in the Japanese cultural imagination and Water sprites, mountain goblins, shape-shifting animals, and the monsters known as yôkai have long haunted the Japanese cultural landscape. This history of the strange and mysterious in Japan seeks out these creatures in folklore, encyclopedias, literature, art, science, games, manga, magazines, and movies, exploring their meanings in the Japanese cultural imagination and offering an abundance of valuable and, until now, understudied material. Michael Dylan Foster tracks yôkai over three centuries, from their appearance in seventeenth-century natural histories to their starring role in twentieth-century popular media. Focusing on the intertwining of belief and commodification, fear and pleasure, horror and humor, he illuminates different conceptions of the "natural" and the "ordinary" and sheds light on broader social and historical paradigms—and ultimately on the construction of Japan as a nation.


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Water sprites, mountain goblins, shape-shifting animals, and the monsters known as yôkai have long haunted the Japanese cultural landscape. This history of the strange and mysterious in Japan seeks out these creatures in folklore, encyclopedias, literature, art, science, games, manga, magazines, and movies, exploring their meanings in the Japanese cultural imagination and Water sprites, mountain goblins, shape-shifting animals, and the monsters known as yôkai have long haunted the Japanese cultural landscape. This history of the strange and mysterious in Japan seeks out these creatures in folklore, encyclopedias, literature, art, science, games, manga, magazines, and movies, exploring their meanings in the Japanese cultural imagination and offering an abundance of valuable and, until now, understudied material. Michael Dylan Foster tracks yôkai over three centuries, from their appearance in seventeenth-century natural histories to their starring role in twentieth-century popular media. Focusing on the intertwining of belief and commodification, fear and pleasure, horror and humor, he illuminates different conceptions of the "natural" and the "ordinary" and sheds light on broader social and historical paradigms—and ultimately on the construction of Japan as a nation.

30 review for Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yokai

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ihor Kolesnyk

    Неймовірно круте дослідження японської демонології, йокай, монстрів і звичаїв, які пов'язані із ними. Якби мої студенти могли легко читати англійською і досліджували саме цю тему, то для них - фундаментальне джерело усіх наступних класичних джерел. Мало ілюстрацій - власне заради них випадково скачав цю монографію, але.. зміст вимальований дуже і дуже на високому рівні. Рекомендую усім фанатам японської культури і дослідникам також. Неймовірно круте дослідження японської демонології, йокай, монстрів і звичаїв, які пов'язані із ними. Якби мої студенти могли легко читати англійською і досліджували саме цю тему, то для них - фундаментальне джерело усіх наступних класичних джерел. Мало ілюстрацій - власне заради них випадково скачав цю монографію, але.. зміст вимальований дуже і дуже на високому рівні. Рекомендую усім фанатам японської культури і дослідникам також.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Abe

    I understand Pokemon (and other products of Japanese cultural heritage yada yada) a whole lot better now.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alex Lawless

    I'm very in the middle about this book; it wasn't fantastic but it also wasn't bad. It's an academic read so it can be quite dry in parts. Overall, I thought the information was presented quite nicely and it kept my interest enough to finish the book, even though it took me quite a while. I was a little disappointed as I thought it would be more about specific monsters in Japanese folklore. Instead, it focused on the "mysterious" in Japan. I was also very disappointed that the author used Freud I'm very in the middle about this book; it wasn't fantastic but it also wasn't bad. It's an academic read so it can be quite dry in parts. Overall, I thought the information was presented quite nicely and it kept my interest enough to finish the book, even though it took me quite a while. I was a little disappointed as I thought it would be more about specific monsters in Japanese folklore. Instead, it focused on the "mysterious" in Japan. I was also very disappointed that the author used Freud quite heavily in his analysis. The pace seemed to pick up a little more once the author got closer to the contemporary. All in all ok, but I don't think I'll be reading this author any time soon.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dinda Hanifannisaa

    A good books for academics who want to study about Yokai.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    Though Japanese things have been a part of the American landscape for decades, its culture -- and especially its traditional culture -- has been largely misrepresented, reaching us through distorted filters such as samurai films, anime and manga, and horribly inaccurate novels such as James Clavell’s Shogun. There have, however, been a few encouraging trends aimed at dispelling these cultural myths, one of them being the increasing number of books being published in the English language about Ja Though Japanese things have been a part of the American landscape for decades, its culture -- and especially its traditional culture -- has been largely misrepresented, reaching us through distorted filters such as samurai films, anime and manga, and horribly inaccurate novels such as James Clavell’s Shogun. There have, however, been a few encouraging trends aimed at dispelling these cultural myths, one of them being the increasing number of books being published in the English language about Japan’s extremely rich storehouse of folklore and folkways. One of the most bizarre and fascinating aspects of this traditional folklore is yōkai, the horde of traditional monsters and ghosts that haunt tales and legends, woodblock prints, and old picture scrolls. These yōkai are the subject of Pandemonium and Parade, a new book by Indiana University professor Michael Dylan Foster. Unlike the mostly generic and amorphous Western concept of ‘monster’, the yōkai are many and varied, usually numbered at above two-hundred, each of which have been illustrated and described in terms of their habitat, behavior, and origin. Foster’s book traces the history of belief and unbelief in these spooks, from early depictions in story collections and picture scrolls from the twelfth century, through their inclusion in Edo period (1603-1868) encyclopedias, all the way to the present folklore studies movement and popularization in Japanese mass media. Foster does an admirable job at describing a few typical yōkai, enabling the uninitiated reader to get a general feel for these legendary creatures and what was so appealing to them for the Japanese of historical and present ages. He highlights how they play on cultural fears, anxieties, and taboos, illuminates how their depiction in various art forms as comical, grotesque, and bizarre transformed the fear they inspired into something that can be known and laughed at, and explores how their presence today provides a feeling of nostalgia and a living link to a longed-for past that is meaningful and relevant. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the subject is the role of yōkai in expressing the wonder and curiosity that humankind has felt worldwide through almost every period of its history. Yōkai are both weird, provoking us to ask ‘Why is that the way it is?’, and mysterious, evoking in us a sense of something transcendent and otherworldly. As monsters and ghosts, they remind us that we are not as knowledgeable or as strong as we think we are, and that there is much in the world that we do not presently -- and perhaps never can -- understand. Pandemonium and Parade addresses these themes thoroughly and insightfully, exploring not only the phenomenon of yōkai but also the various other ways in which the Japanese have experienced the mysterious and the weird. Foster also discusses how yōkai have woven their way in and out of belief, becoming at times mere cultural artifacts, or evidence of superstition to be eradicated in the face of progress. But far from evaporating in the harsh electric lights of modernity, the ghosts and apparitions of Japan have become symbols of a cultural heritage, used as corporate logos, symbols of local tourism, and emblems of rural revitalization. As mentioned above, Foster’s book is part of a burgeoning collection of materials on Japanese folklore published in the past few years, as well as into the near future. Others of note (to name a small few) are Stephen Addiss’ Japanese Ghosts and Demons, Gerald Figal’s Civilization and Monsters, Kunio Yanagita’s Legends of Tōno, and the website The Obakemono Project [obakemono.com]. These works illuminate not only cultural truths of a particular nation, but aspects of universal human experience. As contemporary folklorist Kazuhiko Komatsu has said, the study of folklore is “culture studies, a ‘human-ology’,” that seeks to study humans and human experience through the lens of tradition. Foster’s Pandemonium and Parade serves to clarify that lens for an American readership.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stu

    Pandemonium and Parade is an interesting blend of intellectual history and folklore scholarship. Foster uses major periods of Japanese history to frame his discussion, demonstrating how authors of different eras approached the yokai - supernatural creatures that, Foster maintains, are uniquely Japanese in character. The study focuses on a limited set of yokai writers spanning three centuries. The neo-Confucian Edo period, for example, is represented by the bestiaries of Toriyama Sekien, whose co Pandemonium and Parade is an interesting blend of intellectual history and folklore scholarship. Foster uses major periods of Japanese history to frame his discussion, demonstrating how authors of different eras approached the yokai - supernatural creatures that, Foster maintains, are uniquely Japanese in character. The study focuses on a limited set of yokai writers spanning three centuries. The neo-Confucian Edo period, for example, is represented by the bestiaries of Toriyama Sekien, whose collections of supernatural creatures parallel the encyclopedic zeitgeist of the time. Examining the early Meiji period and its mania for Western-style rationalization, Foster focuses on the work of Inoue Enryo, whose detailed studies seek to debunk and explain traditional supernaturalism, often through the prism of Freudian psychology. Moving into the twentieth century, Pandemonium and Parade shows how yokai were increasingly used by fiction writers as expressions of nostalgia; this sentiment is typified by a poignant anecdote about a tanuki (a shape-shifting raccoon dog with a traditional love for tunnels) who is run over by a train. By the end of the book, we see yokai being used more inventively, with manga artists like Mizuki Shigeru creating new characters, and the encyclopedic tradition experiencing a marked rebirth. Foster's study is not itself a compilation of yokai stories. Rather, it is a detailed examination of trends in Japanese thought and how they are reflected in yokai folklore and creative work, including nods to international sensations that have their roots in yokai tradition - such as Godzilla and the Pokémon mythos. Somewhat unexpectedly, Foster draws on nationalist theorists like Benedict Anderson to argue that the yokai are a self-consciously Japanese mode of expression and celebration of national character. Though the yokai do have their appeal abroad, Foster points out that most internationally successful adaptations of yokai motifs are extensively stylized, and that more traditional characterizations - even in modern works set in the present day - have very limited appeal outside of Japan. Pandemonium and Parade is an intellectually disciplined examination of change in one aspect of Japanese thought over time integrated with broader changes in society, and will be a rewarding read for those with an interest in intellectual history and folkloristics. The book still bears the structural hallmarks of a doctoral dissertation, however, lacking some of the rhetorical niceties that similar works use to guide readers through their topics. As such, though an excellent study, this book may not be as approachable as it could be.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sebastián

    A wealth of information for those interested in the history of yōkai. Unfortunately, this often reads like a PhD expanded into a book, with rambley tangents that, while often interesting in themselves, aren't that fun to read as a whole. Foster's at his best when the focus is clear, like in his in-depth critique of the Kuchi-sake-onna (slit-mouthed-woman) phenomena of the 70s. Like his subjects of analysis (the Japanese people), he categorises monsters and spirits into a comprehensible cultural A wealth of information for those interested in the history of yōkai. Unfortunately, this often reads like a PhD expanded into a book, with rambley tangents that, while often interesting in themselves, aren't that fun to read as a whole. Foster's at his best when the focus is clear, like in his in-depth critique of the Kuchi-sake-onna (slit-mouthed-woman) phenomena of the 70s. Like his subjects of analysis (the Japanese people), he categorises monsters and spirits into a comprehensible cultural history, and almost manages to move beyond this project into a less past-oriented terrain in the latter chapters... As it is, this is an interesting examination of folklore metamorphosing through the ages.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    This book was very long and dense, since I was very unfamiliar with the subject matter. I took notes and frequently retread sections, but I enjoyed it very much. I now have a list of creatures to research, books to find translations of and movies to watch so I could understand the subject matter more than just cursorily. This book was an amazing introduction into the Japanese world of supernatural beings and their history.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Skaragrimson

    An academic yet accessible study on the folklore, history and anthropology of yokai. Segues nicely into the modern influences of yokai and pop culture. If you want a detailed and well researched treatment of yokai then this is it. An excellent work however those with more of a passing interest may find it a bit heavy going at times.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Dominique Lamssies

    I was extremely glad to see that a book like this had finally been written. This book looks at the history of youkai in Japanese pop culture. Though it does require some knowledge of Japanese history, it does a very good job of educating the reader about the function of at least one aspect of the supernatural in Japanese culture.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David

    Good book on Japanese yokai (like fairies but better and harder to classify)- the best in english I've been able to find. Good book on Japanese yokai (like fairies but better and harder to classify)- the best in english I've been able to find.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Yanne Albert

    For anyone interested in the folklore studies of Japan - this is the MUST-READ book.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    When Michael Dylan Foster gets tenure I hope he revisits this subject...without the really awful academic writing.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

  15. 5 out of 5

    Hugh_Manatee

  16. 4 out of 5

    Justin

  17. 4 out of 5

    Noran Miss Pumkin

  18. 5 out of 5

    Iciclegrrrl

  19. 5 out of 5

    Camila Abarca

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maggie Mccoy

  21. 5 out of 5

    J.L. Flores

  22. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

  23. 5 out of 5

    Roni

    Do you like Yokai? Then you'll love this. Do you like Yokai? Then you'll love this.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Kaden St Onge

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

  26. 4 out of 5

    Ty Rowdon

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ari Augustine

  28. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

  30. 4 out of 5

    Abby

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