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Yokai Japanese Monsters

Yōkai. Monsters, Spirits, and Other Unease in Japanese Prints” offers the Italian public a glimpse into the fantastic world of traditional Japanese monsters through stunning works from the 18th and 19th centuries, including previously unpublished ancient prints, rare books, masks, and weapons and armor on loan from the Stibbert Museum in Florence.

The word yōkai is composed of two characters, 妖 (yō) and 怪 (kai): the first suggests charm, enchantment; the second means appearance, mystery. The creatures that fall into this category are practically innumerable. After all, Japan is the land of eight thousand deities, because every natural element – tree, rock, stream – but also every object born from human genius or labor can contain a spark of the divine.

Japanese culture, therefore, is imbued with a form of spirituality already predisposed to the proliferation of creatures that arise from the intersection of fantasy, religion, and daily life.

The entire exhibition path is constructed to give voice to the places, spaces, feelings, and sensations that yōkai embody, to reach the heart of creating an imaginary deeply rooted in Japanese culture and through it explore its most intimate folds, where sensations, unease, fears, and desires live, real and material.

The exhibition opens with an immersive room that allows the public to relive the experience of the traditional test of courage of the samurai in the Ritual of a Hundred Candles.

Inspired by this evocative tradition, visitors are led through a narrative pathway that presents various legends of Japanese tradition in different exhibition rooms, with a visitor-friendly yet strictly scientific approach.

The exhibition is completed with a selection of contemporary illustrations, posters, and billboards created for today’s anime, from Son Goku, the iconic protagonist of the animated series Dragon Ball, inspired by the Monkey King of the famous Chinese classic Journey to the West, to GeGeGe no Kitarō, Pom Poko, and the worldwide success Demon Slayer. The masterpieces of Miyazaki Hayao, Toriyama Akira, and other great authors show how the aesthetics of the grotesque and monstrous, which have permeated Japanese culture since its origins, are still undisputed protagonists in visual art today, thanks to the incredible vitality of their iconopoietic potential, which allows them to reincarnate in ever-new images and stories.


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