THE Sumida Hokusai Museum A special exhibition focusing on Oni, “Hokusai Presents a Riot of Demons”!

Greetings everyone! This is Riku Sato  from the iU Blog team.

This time, I visited the exhibition at the Sumida Hokusai Museum.Right now, a new special exhibition is being held with ogres as the main attraction! There are many exhibits of Hokusai’s Oni(Demons), and we were able to interview the curator and learn more about Oni! There are many books with drawings of Oni on them, a gap from the previous image of Oni, and the lighting-controlled atmosphere of the museum, making it a very attractive exhibition!

New Exhibition “Hokusai’s One Hundred Oni on View”

 The exhibition will be on display from June 21, 2022, to August 28, 2022, and features Hokusai’s Oni. Approximately 145 wood block print paintings and original drawing (ukiyo-e 浮世絵) by Hokusai and his students are featured in the first and second halves of the exhibition. A rare original painting by Hokusai is also on display. When you visit, feel free to ask the curators questions! This exhibition was the subject of our interview with its curators.

1 What method or approach did you devise in this exhibition to best showcase your works?

 In order to make the exhibition rooms more vivid, we displayed many books in this exhibition. As an example, we painted the U-shaped wall on the third-floor black and the wall with ukiyo-e prints red. We tried to create distinct images and concepts for each floor, such as the mystery of Oni on the third floor and the familiarity of the fourth floor. Additionally, on the third floor, there was a case with a Noh stage image to emphasize that the Dōjōji (道成寺) paintings were displayed in a cohesive area.

2 How can we enjoy Hokusai from a different perspective than the one in the permanent exhibition? 

The permanent exhibition room in our museum serves as an information corner for visitors about Hokusai’s life and job of painting, all of which are high-resolution reproductions.In contrast, special exhibition rooms showcase works that are related to  specific themes. Hokusai’s original works are displayed in the permanent exhibition room as well as in the special exhibition room, redefining the role of the permanent exhibition and the special exhibition room. Visitors to our exhibition this year will be able to rediscover a different Hokusai by viewing the original work of Hokusai and his students. We hope that it will give visitors a new understanding of the artist.

3 Could you tell me about some of the challenges you encountered when creating captions for this year’s exhibition?

In an effort to convey the history of Oni in an understandable manner, I attempted to provide a brief overview of it.Oni has long been a part of Japanese culture, and because of its many histories, it inevitably leads to long sentences.

 My caption for this exhibition was kept simple and easy to understand with a limited number of words to avoid reading fatigue for the viewer. 

4 Why did you choose Oni for this exhibition instead of other yōkai (妖怪)?

We didn’t want to introduce Oni as a type of yokai since it would diminish the appeal of Hokusai’s demon paintings. The theme of Oni allows visitors to appreciate each work in its most suitable setting, such as Dōjoji, A Demon Praying to Amida,Demon in Costume and rare Hokusai paintings. We Japanese are more familiar with oni than yokai, and they play an integral role in our daily lives. The theme of “Oni” was necessary because if we included yokai in the exhibition, the theme would become too broad.

5 What was the most challenging aspect of this project?

Since the majority of the materials related to Oni are in the original form, it was difficult to devise a way to keep viewers from getting bored with the exhibit. Also, since I specialize in ukiyo-e and Hokusai, I was not an expert on the history or folklore of Oni. Therefore, for this exhibition, I had to relearn my knowledge and convey the charm of Hokusai’s “Demons” with the correct knowledge, and it was also very difficult to convey the history, folklore, and customs .