Saturday, March 12, 2011

Yokai at Epcot


The fantastic life-size Tengu statue shown above was a welcome surprise for me to be found in the gallery at the rear of the Japanese pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase. It was part of an exhibit on yokai as they are depicted traditionally in Japanese art and how they have been transformed into modern, often superheroic, characters in manga and anime.

My thoughts on yokai have been made clear here. These collective Japanese creatures which include ghosts, goblins, demons, spirits, and so on are some of my favorite folkloric creatures. I've used them many times in my own work. So the collision of these inspirational creatures with one of the Disney theme parks, which have also been a big source of inspiration for me was a nice discovery for me.

Bakeneko are cats transformed under certain conditions into feline creatures in humanoid form, or monstrous cats capable of reaching into homes as if pawing into a mouse hole to extract a rodent. There are also some disturbing "Little Red Riding Hood" type tales involving these feared creatures.

Inugami are dog spirits created for human use, most often through cruel means, and with vicious uses like attack dogs. These supernatural creatures, like their mortal equivalents are hard to control and will often turn on their "masters."

Saru - the monkey is often depicted as a guardian of sacred shrines and temples.

The Kappa is a cucumber loving water imp with deadly flatulence. It has a bowl like depression on the top of its head which contains the water which gives it its powers. Tricking the kapp into bowing and spilling its water can immobilize it.

The Oni are essentially ogres, or demons with a variety of forms but are most often depicted with horns.

Tsuru - the Japanese Crane is a symbol of prosperity, happiness and world peace.

Kitsune - the fox is seen as a magical creature able to change its form, often into that of a human. There are numerous stories of foxes becoming women and marrying human men. Kitsune are also said to grow an extra tail for every century that they live. 

Tsuki no Usagi, the Moon Rabbit, can be seen pounding out rice cakes on the full moon, in much the same way as people in the west say they see a man in the moon formed out of the color shades and formations seen on the surface of the moon from earth.

Tanuki, the racoon dog, is something of a combination satyr and Bacchus, a mischievous creature always looking for women and wine. Tanuki can change their form, and their most famous feature, which not surprisingly was absent in the imagery in the exhibit, are their enormous testicles, which give the sound Pom Poko

Tengu are bird goblins, humanoid with avian features and will often kidnap people and leave them disoriented and lost in the woods.

If you get a chance to visit this small exhibit, I recommend it. 


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I am glad you were able to document this exhibit!

But no mention of the Tanuki suit? ;)