We've discussed yōkai — or supernatural monsters from Japanese mythology — on io9 before, namely the disgusting, turtle-like kappa. But the yōkai artwork of Toriyama Sekien (1712-1788) will introduce you to some even weirder monsters from Japanese folklore, such as the mokumokuren (a blinding eyeball demon that dwells in paper walls), the oboroguruma (an oxcart with a human face that haunts Kyoto), and the me-kurabe (an angry pile of skulls).

As the yōkai website The Obakemono Project explains of Sekien and his monsters:

Sekien, whose real name was Sano Toyofusa 佐野豊房, was an artist of the Kanō school who had studied under Gyokuen (Kanō Toshinobu). He was born to a family of wealthy Buddhist priests, and became an artist late in his life, seemingly as a post-retirement hobby rather than a profession. Not much of his artwork remains aside from his yōkai drawings […]

The Gazu Hyakki Yakō series itself consists of four books of three volumes each, containing altogether about two hundred illustrations. Unlike previous hyakki yakō monster collections and processions, which all took the form of illustrated scrolls, Sekien's works were published in book format, similar to the natural history manuals that were popular at the time. Despite this similarity to materials intended for reference and education, and the fact that many of his monsters were in fact based on Japanese folklore or taken from old texts, more than 80 of them were invented by Sekien himself and others were lifted from older monster scrolls produced by Kanō school artists. Many of Sekien's invented yōkai poke fun at depraved monks and the shogunate-approved Yoshiwara red-light district, making his work less a serious natural history tome and more a grotesquely light-hearted parody.

You can see extensive galleries of Sekien's monsters on Wikipedia (1, 2, 3, 4).


[Via Eff Yeah Asian History]