on 13 May 2009
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.