Yokai: Ghost and Demons of Japan

Appropriate for grades:
Subject areas: History and Social Studies Visual and Performing Arts

Vivid in Japanese art and imagination are creatures that are at once ghastly and amusing. Yōkai is a catchall word for ghosts, demons, monsters, shapeshifters, tricksters, and other kinds of supernatural beings and mysterious phenomena. Yōkai interact with the human world and spark common notions of frightful things.

Although ideas of such beings have existed all over the world since ancient times, yōkai have held a special place in Japanese popular culture for about four hundred years! Visual arts, theatrical performance, storytelling, print technology, and games are some of the ways that yōkai folklore and images spread and persisted in Japan.

Teaching / Learning Goals:

Teachers and students will …


  • To understand how yōkai have played an important role in Japanese art and popular culture for hundreds of years (historical and cultural understanding).
  • To learn about visual interpretations of yōkai in print technology, illustrated books, toys, and games (perceiving, analyzing and responding).
  • To create art projects inspired by the world of yōkai (creating and performing).


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