Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Something Obake This Way Comes

Can you spot the bakeneko? Via.

The wind softly howls outside your bedroom. You think it carries voices, but shake your head and mumble that it is only the sound of the wind ripping leaves from branches. You turn away from the window. An eerie light glows from behind your door accompanied by the soft sounds of padded feet. What it could be? The sound falls silent at the door, but something is there. Then you hear a soft, almost inaudible rapping–deafening to your ears. The rapping becomes insistent. You jump from the bed and slowly walk to the door. You grab the latch and fling it open. You look left and right. Nothing is there. You begin to think it was just your imagination, until you feel something brush up against your leg. An otherworldly cat look up at you and everything fades to black. You have just met a bakeneko.


This is only one of the many Japanese ghost stories, and the purrfect way to bring in the Halloween season and Japan Society's first-ever costume party OBAKE! An evening of Ghost, Spirits and Fun.

Obake are Japan's wide range of spirits and night creatures. In a fantastic article on Japanese ghosts, Mangajin Magazine notes obake are understood as transformations unlike their more tangible Western cousins. They are preternatural phenomena that alter and shift, where one meaning becomes unhinged and twisted into something undermining life's certainties. These can be everyday objects imbued with nefarious or nebulous sentience. Obake also encompass strange and grotesque beings: yokai ghouls and goblins, at times amusing, frightening or bizarre; yurei vengeance spirits; and oni ogres that terrorize the world when they're not guarding the gates of Buddhist hells.

Japan has tons ghosts and otherworldly creatures (discover more at Cosmologies' Japanese Spirit Realm  or the Obakemono Project.) We hope you conjure your best (or worst!) to share in the fun, terror, excitement and all the planned tricks and treats at Japan Society on October 29.

In addition to food, drink, music, a costume competition and complementary night tours of the current supernatural exhibit (granted, more spiritual than spooky, but there's plenty of demons and monsters), there's also a screening of the cult classic Japanese horror film Hausu, which purports a man-eating piano in addition to a bakeneko that has to be seen to be believed.


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