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Japanese Ghosts and Demons: Art of the Supernatural [Paperback]

Stephen Addiss
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

1 Oct 2005
A fascinating study of the supernatural world and its renditions in Japanese art. Includes the work of many of Japan's most brilliant artists, including Hiroshige, Hokusai, and Yoshitoshi.


Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: George Braziller Inc (1 Oct 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807611263
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807611265
  • Product Dimensions: 27.7 x 21.3 x 2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,616,532 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars VENGEFUL GHOSTS AND PARADING GOBLINS..... 13 May 2009
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I have always been attracted to the anything mysterious and eerie, be it ghost stories, folklore or fortean phenomenon, that is not to say I believe in every (or any) psychic with a ludicrous frosted bouffant that pops on the TV, or that I fall for every story involving the hugely unlikely bigfoot or nessie: there is a big difference between a strong interest and belief. But of all the cultures in the world, for me at least, Japan has one of the most interesting and unique systems of supernatural lore known to man, and nowhere is this better represented than in the hands of their phenomenal artists: so it's lucky that they are one of the main focuses of this rather nifty little tome. I have read this book over and over perhaps having a strong interest in art, I am a graphic designer by trade, makes this book doubly appealing to my sensibilities but there is no denying this is incredibly well written, informative and packed with gorgeous reproductions of many woodblock prints (Ukiyo-e) and numerous images of carvings, paintings and sculptures. However for those interested solely in Japanese supernatural lore don't dismiss this as being simply an arty bore-fest, for within its pages lies one of the most comprehensive explanations of many facets of Japanese mythology starting with Hyakki Yako (night parade of One Hundred Demons) before moving on to ghosts, gods, Oni (Japanese Demons) and right through to animal transformation and Tengu. Each chapter is filled with numerous colour and black and white period illustrations, and the symbolism of each is explained fully thus creating a fascinating insight into the mindset of the nation that produced such a colourful menagerie of goblins, ghost and other otherworldly horrors. If you can't tell already I loved every page of this book and fully recommend it to anyone and everyone, not just those with an interest in the subject matter.
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Amazon.com: 4.9 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous book AND excellent research 8 Jun 2006
By Colin P. Lindsey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a rich feast, both visually and intellectually 18 Jun 2003
By Merrily Baird - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books available on Japanese supernatural 19 Dec 2003
By Zack Davisson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"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
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent reference for irezumi 22 Mar 2003
By steven may - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The finest volume on the subject in English 26 Aug 2008
By Fairweatherassult - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Stephen Addiss is, quite frankly, my hero. Any book he puts out combines in-depth knowledge, thorough (but accessible) scholarship, and a kind of keen commentary that reveals the experience of one who has had hands-on exposure with his subject matter. For example, another work of his entitled _77 Dances_ is an exceedingly beautiful collection of Japanese calligraphy, with mind-blowing commentary on every page.

The volume under consideration here ranks among one of Addiss' best. As a coffee table type art book, the print quality is superb, the proportions generous, and the colour detailing exquisite. Addiss has provided a comprehensive selection here of artists and subject matter: from Buddhist iconography, to woodblocks from Edo period ghost stories [kaidan], to the eroto-grotesque masters of the Meiji period, such as Kysai.

Far from simply compiling the pictures, Addiss provides brilliant detail and historical information, never flying off into punditry. He is an absolute model of clarity combined with research, making his work totally enjoyable to the non-specialist. Asian Studies PhDs out there, take note: you can publish books without losing yourself in a morass of insider cant.

I notice this book a lot on the selves of tattoo artists: obviously, the quality must be good if those who practice that craft trust it for deriving their stencils. I'm not into that scene myself: I think of this volume as providing the kind of illustrative detail, and sensory impressions, that Lafcadio Hearn could not have mustered in his time.

The subject matter detail includes a range of sources: religious, folkloric, theatrical (literary), and so forth. Addiss never condescends when describing the superstitions and spiritual practices associated with the personages.

That this book is out of print is a shame. I would say that, even at twice the price, it is will worth getting a hold of if you have an interest in the subject. It is *vastly* superior to the usual scruffy insights that travellers pass off as 'mysterious Japan'.
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