I just got my hands on a copy of the just-released Yokai Museum: The Art of Supernatural Beings from the Yumoto Koichi Collection and can confirm that it is a visual treasure trove for yokai lovers. But even better, it's totally bilingual, featuring an English translation right alongside the Japanese text. This makes it perfect both for Japanese language students and monolingual yokai fans alike.
Professor Yumoto was the curatorial director of the Kawasaki City Museum for many years, and his personal collection of yokai-related art is some 3,000 pieces strong. I had the pleasure of speaking alongside him at the Japan Media Arts Festival in Hong Kong last year, and what struck me most about his presentation was his inclusiveness of the modern alongside the classical, such as 1960's menko cards as well as the usual woodblock prints and scrolls.
That's exactly what makes Yokai Museum so great. There is plenty of attention lavished on ancient scrolls, centiures-old paintings, 18th century books, and 19th century prints. There's even a series of extraordinarily rare Edo-vintage kimono and festival coats festooned with yokai motifs, the likes of which I've never seen cataloged anywhere else before. But there's also a large section devoted to more recent Showa-vintage kami-shibai, games, and trinkets that bridge the "era of folklore" and the era of modern character merchandise.
If there's any one complaint, it's that I wish it were even longer, with even more textual analysis. But let's not get greedy. At 288 full color pages, there's plenty to enjoy here. Large format, full-color yokai art books are a precious commodity to begin with, but those in English even more precious still. Bottom line: if you're a fan of yokai, or even simply of Japanese visual design, Yokai Museum gets two big claws up.
It's available in Japan now, but won't be hitting American shelves until October.