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Japanese Plus Special: Friend or Foe? Understanding Japanese Thought and Culture through Yōkai

What exactly are yokai, the monsters and ghouls of Japanese folklore? How were they thought of, and what purpose did the stories about them serve? And what might they look like if transplanted into a different cultural context, such as the modern-day UK?  These were just some of the questions answered by this month’s Japanese Plus course for advanced Japanese learners, “Friend or Foe? Understanding Japanese Thought and Culture through Yokai”, which ran from the 4th to the 12th of November.

The course, attended by 39 participants in total over the course of two weeks, was led by the Japan Foundation’s Assistant Japanese Language Advisor, Mio Tsunematsu. In the first week, the etymology and history of Japanese yokai were elucidated, with numerous examples examined from both traditional folklore and modern sources such as anime and manga. Week 2 focused on the purpose served by yokai legends, as explanations for natural phenomena or vehicles for moral instruction. Participants were then invited to create and illustrate their own yokai, adapted to reflect life in modern Britain, with imaginative and often amusing results.

All participants responded very positively to the course, particularly to Tsunematsu-sensei’s teaching and the opportunity to come up with their own yokai. Darcy Perkins, a Japanese Plus veteran, commented,  I like the courses because I get to maintain my Japanese, learn new Japanese and also learn something new about traditional or modern Japan.”

We’d like to thank all participants for taking part in Japanese Plus, and we hope to see more people take part in our next course!

To learn more about Japanese Plus, please click here.