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Lærke L. Jensen, MA, University of Aarhus

Japanese folklore: Yōkai in popular media

I am a master student at Aarhus University of Asian-studies - specializing in Japan. In my master thesis I will be writing about the present supernatural creature-boom, or yōkai-boom, in Japanese popular culture. These supernatural creatures have permeated Japanese society not only at this moment, but throughout Japanese history at large. Currently, many Japanese anime and manga narratives draw on Japanese folklore, reimagining tales for the modern audience, and contain references to or examples of these supernatural creatures, in Japanese yōkai. As yōkai covers a great variety of creatures they have become a rich source of material for contemporary narratives, and even become known overseas.

To explore this development, my thesis will dive into the historical, sociological and cultural history that has taken yōkai all the way to modern society. In order to understand what makes yōkai so fascinating to a 20th and 21st century audience, my paper will look into how yōkai are used in the narrative of GeGeGe no Kitarō, Spooky Kitarō, which is ultimately one of the most well-known series in Japan, which first ran in the 1960’s and now has six seasons, which draws on an extensive source of yōkai.