Oh good, a book full of terrifying depictions of hell in Japanese culture
A new art book from PIE International collects numerous depictions of hell that iconic Japanese artists have rendered over the centuries. These amazing illustrations range from the nightmarish and grotesque to the absurd and ridiculous.
If you’ve ever wanted a book with pictures of devils turning sinners into noodles, or people being torn apart at the crotch than this will be your perfect Christmas gift.
The concept of hell in Japan is certainly one of the most interesting and colourful of any culture. The surreal volcanic landscape of the island, combined with numerous local religions and traditions, and influences from foreign beliefs, have made the Japanese mythos something extremely rich and varied.
For the two main religions in the land of the rising sun, the definitions of hell are quite contrasting.
Yomi-no-Kuni is the underworld for the native Shinto religion. Yomi, as it’s often called, is a place where everyone goes after death, regardless of their behaviour in life. This barren zone seems to have a geographical continuity with the real world and it’s a space where existence is carried on in a shadowy, gloomy and dreadful state. Tickets are one way – if you go there, you never come back.
For Buddhism, Japan’s second major religion, hell is a much more lively affair, a place full of torture, fire and pain. Now that’s more like it isn’t it? Jigoku is where people go when they’re unworthy of heaven, a ghoulish space where sinful people are condemned to be tortured for their wrongdoings.
Unlike other religions such as Christianity or Islam, visitors are given three chances to escape, depending on their personal karma and how their living relatives behave in the real world. Jeez, if you were a member of my family you’d be in trouble.
Hell In Japanese Art is a single-volume collection that showcases numerous depictions of hell from Japanese artists between the 12th and the 19th century. The book focuses primarily on works designated as Japanese National Treasures or Important Cultural Properties and features renowned artists as Nichosai, Kazunobu Kano, Yoshitoshi Tsukioka and Kyosai Kawanabe. Essays and descriptions are included in bilingual text.
This impressive book will be released in October and is currently available for pre-order on Amazon for $87.