Profs and Pints Northern Virginia presents: “Japanese Ghosts and Goblins,” a spooky evening of spirit introduction, with Michele M. Mason, associate professor of Japanese cultural studies at the University of Maryland, College Park.
Japan has an impressive pantheon of frightful ghosts, goblins, shapeshifters, and tricksters. These strange and scary creatures trace back many centuries, hail from all parts of the country, and pop up at the center of cautionary tales, moral injunctions, and entertainment. And now, thanks to Profs and Pints, you have a chance to get to know them.
Be on hand at Crooked Run Fermentation in Sterling as Dr. Michele Mason, a scholar of Japanese culture, discusses such frightening figures of the imagination in an image-rich talk drawing from literature, art, manga, and film.
She’ll discuss how the all-encompassing term yōkai contains a multitude of creepy and crazy creatures that have scared children and adults alike. Among them are innumerable bizarre animals, bewitching spirits, and peculiar priests.
Some are downright adorable, but don’t let looks deceive you. The racoon dog (tanuki) might be very cute, but its power to possess humans should give you pause.
Professor Mason will discuss the many versions of the vengeful spirits (onryō), and the kappa—a water creature who has a penchant for sucking the mythical ‘anus ball’ out of humans. (Yikes!)
You’ll learn how individual yōkai can function as a litmus test for the central social and cultural anxieties and assumptions of different historical eras, and thus offer valuable historical and social insights into Japan over time. You’ll see various renderings of yōkai —from 17th century hand scrolls and wood-block prints to modern day manga and horror films—that illustrate how Japan’s many fascinating and provocative ghosts have a lasting hold on our imagination even today.
You might end up wondering if you sense yōkai around you in the autumn breeze. (Advance tickets: $13.50 plus sales tax and processing fees. Doors: $17, or $15 with a student ID. Listed time is for doors. Talk starts 30 minutes later.)
Image: A yūrei, or “faint spirit,” from a Japanese handscroll depicting supernatural creatures. (Brigham Young University / Wikimedia Commons.)