Staging the Supernatural: Ghosts and the Theater in Japanese Prints

Two semi-transparent, spectral figures from Japanese prints, arranged side-by-side against a black background. The figure on the left stares at the viewer with wide eyes, an open mouth, and a large mane of hair that is standing on end. The figure on the right, his blue-and-white face scowling, wears elaborate armor and brandishes a weapon, while his right hand is outstretched.
  • Dates

    October 28, 2023–March 10, 2024

  • Location

    Arthur M. Sackler Gallery | Gallery 25

  • Collection Area

    Japanese Art

Throughout Japanese cultural history, the boundary between the real world and the world of supernatural beings has been remarkably porous. Certain sites, states of mind, or periods in the lunar cycle made humans particularly vulnerable to ghostly intervention. The Edo period (1603–1868) was a crucial stage in the development and solidification of ideas about the supernatural. Many of the beliefs that gained currency at this time are still held as conventional wisdom in Japan today.

Supernatural entities came to life especially during noh and kabuki theater performances. Explore—if you dare—the roles that ghosts and spirits play in the retelling of Japanese legends and real events. Staging the Supernatural brings together a collection of vibrant, colorful woodblock prints and illustrated books depicting the specters that haunt these two theatrical traditions.


Generous support for this exhibition and the museum’s Japanese art program is provided by
Mitsubishi Corporation

Keep Exploring

Scroll Back To Top