Japanese Ghosts & Demons

edited by Stephen Addiss. Braziller/Spencer Museum of Art, $35.00. What with native nuisances like the shape-changing fox and immigrants like Shóki the Demon Queller, who arrived around 1200 but has never given up his elegant Chinese boots, Japan has a rich supply of supernaturals, and artists have been portraying them for centuries. The essays, by various authors, in this handsomely illustrated survey of the Art of the Supernatural describe the varieties of ghosts and monsters, discuss their prevalence in the theater, and recount the legends in which they figure. The great popularity of spooks as subjects for artists and playwrights began in Japan in the eighteenth century and continued through the nineteenth, possibly because political criticism in spectral terms was something that the government could hardly censor without looking hopelessly silly. Whatever the underlying motive may have been, the art that resulted from it was and is delightful.
—Phoebe-Lou Adams