Yōkai Past and Present
 with Michael Dylan Foster and Zack Davisson 

Ghost of Okiku and Asayama Tetsuzan by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)

Ghost of Okiku and Asayama Tetsuzan by Utagawa Kunisada (1786-1864)

Thursday, March 25, 2021
5:00 PM - 6:00 PM (PST)

This webinar will be a lively conversation between two experts in yōkai, Michael Dylan Foster (Professor of Japanese, folklore and literature, UC Davis) and Zack Davisson (yōkai expert, author, translator of Mizuki Shigeru manga). Foster will examine the evolving roles of yōkai in Japanese history, folklore, literature and theater, focusing on some of the most important and well known examples of these supernatural creatures. Davisson will explore the influence of yōkai on modern-day manga, anime, video games and other aspects of modern Japanese culture. The conversation will be moderated by Meher McArthur, JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles Art and Cultural Director and curator of the exhibition NATURE/SUPERNATURE


Michael Dylan Foster

Michael Dylan Foster is Professor of Japanese and Chair of the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of California, Davis. He has written extensively on Japanese folklore, literature and media. His publications on yōkai and the supernatural include The Book of Yōkai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore (UC Press, 2015) and Pandemonium and Parade: Japanese Monsters and the Culture of Yōkai (UC Press, 2009). He previously taught at Indiana University, Bloomington, and the University of California, Riverside.

In addition to his work on yōkai, Foster has published on the broader relationships between folklore and contemporary media, a theme discussed in his co-edited volume The Folkloresque: Reframing Folklore in a Popular Culture World (Utah State University Press, 2016). He has also undertaken extensive fieldwork on tradition, tourism, and intangible cultural heritage, particularly in Kagoshima and Akita prefectures. He co-edited UNESCO on the Ground: Local Perspectives on Intangible Cultural Heritage (Indiana University Press, 2015) and most recently, a special triple issue of the Journal of Religion in Japan (2020) focusing on festival (matsuri). His current book project explores discourses of tourism and heritage as they relate to local ritual practices and festivals.


Zack Davisson

Zack Davisson is an award-winning translator, writer, lecturer, and scholar of manga and Japanese folklore. He is the author of  Kaibyo: The Supernatural Cats of Japan, Yurei: The Japanese Ghost, Amabie: Past and Present, and Yokai Stories. He is also the translator of the multiple Eisner award-winning Showa: A History of Japan, and globally known entertainment properties such as Devilman, Captain Harlock, and Space Battleship Yamato.

Davisson contributed to exhibitions at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the International Folk Art Museum, and Werldmuseum Rotterdamn, lectured on Japanese folklore and manga at Duke University, UCLA, the Japan Foundation, and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. He has been featured on NPR, the BBC, the New York Times, and has written for Smithsonian Magazine, Japanzine, Metropolis, Kansai Time-Out, and Weird Tales.


Meher McArthur

Meher McArthur joined JAPAN HOUSE Los Angeles in September 2020. She is an Asian art historian specializing in Japanese art and served recently as the Academic Curator at Scripps College in Claremont and Creative Director at the Storrier Stearns Japanese Garden in Pasadena. Previously, she was Curator of East Asian Art at Pacific Asia Museum (PAM, now USC PAM), also in Pasadena. She has also curated exhibitions for the traveling exhibition company International Arts & Artists (IA&A), including Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami (2012-2016) and Washi Transformed: New Expressions in Japanese Paper (from 2021). 

Her publications include Gods and Goblins: Japanese Folk Paintings from Otsu (PAM, 1999), Reading Buddhist Art (Thames & Hudson, 2002), The Arts of Asia (Thames & Hudson, 2005), Folding Paper: The Infinite Possibilities of Origami (IA&A, 2012), New Expressions in Origami Art (Tuttle, 2017), and An ABC of What Art Can Be (The Getty Museum, 2010). She also writes regular articles about Asian art for art publications and websites.  

She lives in Pasadena and has a 15-year old son who is teaching her all about anime.