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Tokyo, Japan

Charles Fréger


The Fondation d’entreprise Hermès continues its partnership with photographer Charles Fréger, as the producer of his latest photographic series, Yokainoshima. Dozens of masked creatures endowed with symbolic attributes make up an endlessly inventive bestiary drawn from Japanese folk culture for this show at Le Forum, Tokyo.

Fondation d'Entreprise Hermès - Charles Fréger
© Charles Fréger

In Japan, strange creatures come down from the mountain at New Year, to deliver a message to the people below, and frighten their children: these are the Toshigami, also known as Namahage in Akita province, or Suneka in Iwate. Part of a thriving, perennial folklore tradition, the spirit beings appear in different guises from one region to another. French photographer Charles Fréger went to meet these proteiform creatures face to face, as the central focus of his series Yokainoshima.

The exhibition title is a neologism meaning ‘island of monsters’. The show features a host of photographs, in a variety of formats. This fascinating mosaic of portraits testifies to the extensive research carried out by Fréger over two years, with the help of the exhibition’s curator, Reiko Setsuda. Working with a Japanese assistant, Fréger journeyed the length of Japan, from north to south, photographing yokai, oni or Toshigami figures and others associated with rituals intended to ensure a fertile harvest, and to chase away evil spirits.

As a counterpoint to Fréger’s Wilder Mann series, devoted to ‘wild’ figures from European folk culture, Yokainoshima presents the subjects in staged poses and settings evoking the rugged landscapes of Japan. The setting for the yokai, by young architect Jumpei Matsushima, emphasises their colourful costumes still further.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book, co-published by Thames & Hudson and Seigensha in Japan. 

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Le Forum, Ginza, Chuo-ku, Tokyo,
Mon-Sat 11:00-20:00 (Last entry 19:30), Sun 11:00-19:00 (Last entry 18:30)
Free admission


Curator at Le Forum : Reiko Setsuda