Monster Island

Yokainoshima: Island of Monsters by Charles Fréger. Thames & Hudson, 2016. 9780500544594.

yokainoshimaEvery town in Japan, from neighborhoods in Tokyo to tiny fishing villages, has festivals throughout the year, and each of these has its own mythological creature or folkloric character that is said to visit only during the festival. These yokai are represented by people dressed in costumes that can be clearly homemade or huge and elaborate. Photographer Charles Fréger photographed people in these costumes on a single island. His book seems to capture a vast pantheon of monsters, one you could never hope to see in a lifetime of travel in Japan, in a single magical place. It’s really cool.

The folktales and legends that the yokai are drawn from are unfamiliar enough that the creatures seem even stranger. They reminded me of the people who dress up for the turnip-hurling festival in Spain or for the festival of Corpus Christi.  Would Seattle’s Seafair Pirates look this strange to an outsider?

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