Obake Family Day at Japan Society



Obake, Obake Family Day, Japan, NYC, Japan Society, BentOn, Halloween, ghosts, goblins, Japanese folklore, obon, festival, bakezori, mokumokuren, burabura, tsukumogami
Artwork ©Japan Society/Ben Warren

Obake Family Day: Specters of the Sacred Forest

Sunday, October 30 from 11:00 a.m. until 3:00 p.m.

Japan Society – 333 E. 47th Street (between First and Second Avenues)

Admission: In advance – $15/$12 Japan Society members ($10/$7 children ages 3 through 12)

Day of – $18/$15 Japan Society members ($13/$10 children ages 3 through 12)

Bakezori: possessed slippers hungry for your next misstep. Mokumokuren: shoji screens with countless peering, penetrating eyes. Burabura: a laughing lantern that brings frights as well as light into the night. Japan’s long history of tsukumogami – inanimate objects that come to life 100 years after they are created – teach a valuable lesson to children: Treat tools and household items with care and respect or they may come back to haunt you and your family later in life.

Oodles of tsukumogami are the stars of Japan Society’s Obake Family Day: Specters of the Sacred Forest, which invites children three years of age and up to take part in a spooky spectrum of activities this Halloween Eve, from a puppet-filled haunted house and a spirited forest to storytelling, performances, craft making and more.

The third annual event is a monster mix-and-mash up of Japanese harvest festival traditions and Japan’s legion of obake and yokai – ghosts, goblins and otherworldly creatures, of which tsukumogami are but one classification.

“We’ve once again imported fantastical creatures popular in Japan’s summer obon festival and from throughout Japanese mythology and folklore for this trick-or-treat time of the year in America,” says Jeffrey Miller, Director of Education and Family Programs at Japan Society. “This year we’ve also put special emphasis on Japan’s more traditional fall season customs, simultaneously introducing New York City youngsters to a new breed of beasts for Halloween, while immersing them in fascinating facets of authentic Japanese seasonal culture they’ve yet to discover.”

Deepening the connection to Japan’s autumn observations, this year Japan Society’s lobby and bamboo garden will be transformed into a chinju-no-mori, an important destination during harvest festivals. These small, sacred groves of trees surround Shinto shrines of towns and villages and serve as surrogates to the larger, harder-to-reach shrines deep in Japan’s forests and mountains.

Peppered with tsukumogami and other creatures (including the kodama, ancient spirits of the forest made famous in Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke), Japan Society’s chinju-no-mori features festival food vendors and snack suppliers, a Shinto shrine, iconic torii gates leading heavenward, and passageways to other events throughout the building.

Nestled behind the forest on the first floor will be a tsukumogami-themed haunted house with puppets and performers giving frights, delights, and even trivia and history of the season. In the lower level classroom spaces and the 2nd floor gallery area, activities include tsukumogami-themed storytelling, paper sumo and yo-yo balloon fishing, omamori good luck charm and mini kokeshi doll making, a taiko drumming demonstration and mini workshop, noh theater-inspired mask making and a treasure hunt through the noh-themed fall exhibition Simon Starling: At Twilight, and a costume contest with a chance to win a prize and more. Festival-themed Japanese food and snacks from BentOn will be available to purchase throughout the day.

For a complete schedule of activities and to purchase tickets, please visit Japan Society’s website.