Museum of International Folk Art

Yokai: Ghosts and Demons from Japan Opens Sunday, December 8 at MOIFA

November 15, 2019

Daniel Zillmann

(Santa Fe, New Mexico) – The Museum of International Folk Art (MOIFA) presents Yokai: Ghosts and Demons of Japan, opening December 8, 2019 and running until January 10, 2021. The Museum of International Folk Art will be one of the first museums to present a large-scale yokai-centered exhibition in the United States. Information on the public opening and associated programming included below.

Yokai are supernatural beings (like ghosts, demons, ogres, shapeshifters, and monsters) and strange, unexplainable phenomena. They gained popularity beyond religious contexts, beginning perhaps as early as the Muromachi period (1392-1573). These ghost and demon images have surfaced throughout Japanese history, and have even influenced modern entertainment and popular culture.

The Museum of International Folk Art’s exhibit features scroll paintings, woodblock prints, and kimonos as well as costumes, puppets, and masks used in classical theatrical performances. In addition, the exhibit will include demon festivals such as the Ushioni festival of Uwajima and the Namahage festival of Oga. Contemporary folk art includes works from master artists of Noh masks and Awa Ningnyo Jururi (puppets). While many of these items come from the existing permanent collection, the museum will collaborate with major institutions including the newly opened Yumoto Koichi Memorial Yokai Museum in Miyoshi City (Hiroshima Prefecture). The museum will also partner with artist Kono Junya of Kyoto-based  art collective, Hyakuyōbako (“Box of 100 Yokai”) to create an immersive obake yashiki, (a Japanese-style ghost house).

The Museum of International Folk Art brings yokai to the United States so that audiences might glean insight and an appreciation for Japanese art and literature, as well as its influence on contemporary Japanese popular culture. Through Yokai: Ghosts and Demons of Japan, museum guests may contemplate what pop-culture looked like centuries ago, and why contemporary entertainment carried these supernatural figures into current media. Perhaps, like the people of 16th century Japan, today’s society still seeks to explain the strange and unknown pieces of the human experience.

Yokai: Ghosts and Demons of Japan is organized by Felicia Katz-Harris, senior curator and curator of Asian folk art.

For more information, visit the original release.


Associated Programming:

Yokai: Ghosts and Demons of Japan Public Opening

Location: Museum of International Folk Art, 706 Camino Lejo, on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, NM 87505. (505) 476-1200.

Date: Sunday, December 8, 2019

Time: 1 - 4 p.m.

In addition to participatory gallery crafts, the exhibition will include an immersive obake yashiki (a Japanese “ghost house”), a popular form of entertainment in Japanese amusement parks. Joe Hayes, American author and storyteller of the folklore from the American Southwest, will tell New Mexican ghost stories from 1 to 2 p.m. along with Satori Murata who will be sharing Japanese ghost stories. From 2 to 4 p.m. artist Joel Nakamura will be leading a Yokai drawing workshop in the Atrium.

NM Resident Free Sundays

Date: Sunday, December 1, 2019 and ongoing

Time: 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

New Mexico residents admitted FREE the first Sunday of each month. (Youth 16 and under and Museum of New Mexico Foundation members are always free.)

Join us on Sunday, December 1 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. for "The Yokai Library." Acquaint yourself with all manner of monsters in anticipation of MOIFA’s Yokai: Ghosts and Demons of Japan exhibition.

Sensory Sensitivity Hours during NM Resident Free Sundays

Date: Sunday, January 5, 2020 and ongoing

Time: 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

MOIFA is committed to offering an interactive experience that is accessible to all. During Sensory Sensitivity Hours, MOIFA extends a special invitation to learners with special needs to explore the Ghost House with their families when the exhibit is altered to reduce extra stimuli. 


About the Museum of International Folk Art:

The Museum of International Folk Art is a division of the Department of Cultural Affairs, under the leadership of the Board of Regents for the Museum of New Mexico. Programs and exhibits are generously supported by the Museum of New Mexico Foundation, through the generous support of donors.

Founded in 1953 by Florence Dibell Bartlett, the Museum of International Folk Art’s mission is to shape a humane world by connecting people through creative expression and artistic traditions. The museum holds the world’s largest international folk art collection of more than 150,000 objects from six continents and over 150 nations, representing a broad range of global artists whose artistic expressions make Santa Fe an international crossroads of culture. For many visitors, fascination with folk art begins upon seeing the whimsical toys and traditional objects within the Girard Collection. For others, the international textiles, ceramics, carvings and other cultural treasures in the Neutrogena Collection provide the allure.  The museum’s historic and contemporary Latino and Hispano folk art collections, spanning the Spanish Colonial period to modern-day New Mexico, reflect how artists respond to their time and place in ways both delightful and sobering. In 2010, the museum opened the Mark Naylor and Dale Gunn Gallery of Conscience, where exhibitions encourage visitors to exchange ideas on complex issues of human rights and social justice.

706 Camino Lejo, on Museum Hill in Santa Fe, NM 87505. (505) 476-1200. Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, May through October; closed Mondays November through April, closed Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Events, news releases and images about activities at the Museum of International Folk Art and other divisions in the Department of Cultural Affairs can be accessed at

Related Photos

'White Hannya' Nōh Mask
Netsuke in the form of a Demon
“Actor Onoe Waichi II as a Tôfu Boy and a One-Legged Ghost, from the series Magic Lantern Slides in a Dance of Seven Changes.” Woodblock Print
Namahage festival costume

Back to Press Release List »