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Kai: Ghosts and the Supernatural in Buddhist Japan – James Zito

Kai: Ghosts and the Supernatural in Buddhist Japan

Filmmaker: James Zito
Status: In Production

Stories of ghosts and the supernatural form an important part of Japanese culture. The body of literature and art which references these subjects is a huge one with a history going back at least a thousand years. Yet for the most part this important body of material is still relatively unknown and unappreciated outside of Japan.

A great legacy of fascinating Japanese ghost stories and bizarre supernatural tales exists and It is these tales and the works of art that portray them that the program will examine in depth. The film looks closely at some of the most revered and popular tales as well as some more modern manifestations emanating from these classic themes. From oral storytelling to refined literary fiction, from scrolls and woodblock prints to Noh drama, Kabuki theatre and Japanese popular culture of the present including film, graphic novels (Manga), animation (ANIME), ghosts and the supernatural remain powerful and important subjects.

The film attempts to shed light on religious, and historic origins of popular ghost and yokai stories and how they have been used as vectors of meaning throughout Japanese history. Archetypes of the Japanese supernatural found in its literature and art can shed light on belief systems. Including the destination of the soul after death, the power of Buddhist practices and liturgies to offer protection from evil forces, the workings of cause and effect also known as karma etc. The tales often offer cautionary messages and can express important elements of Japanese belief systems regarding death and the proper performance of rituals designed to effect a positive transition of the soul through death and what lies beyond.