- 現代民俗学研究 = Journal of Living Folklore (ISSN:18839134)
- no.6, pp.113-128, 2014-03
This article critically examines the ontological commitment on which modern folkloristic studies of yokai (a category of mysterious creatures in Japanese tradition) have been established. Academic yokai scholars have assumed that yokai are supernatural beings and that yokai do not exist in mundane form. However, the adequacy of these assumptions when studying the world of people who does not share the same ontological framework as modern scholars has hitherto been of little concern in yokai studies. Through critically examining the discourses and theories that have dominated yokai studies, this article suggests that researchers have failed to understand the perspective of folk who recognize and co-inhabited with yokai.Why have yokai studies assumed this ontological commitment? There is a historical process continuing from the late Edo period on in which intellectuals and urbanites increasingly assumed what is now called yokai to be supernatural and unreal. At the turn of nineteenth century, some scholars who sought to affirm the reality of yokai began to juxtapose the supernatural realm against the backdrop of the rise of modern scientific empiricism in Japan. Furthermore, the presumed supernatural essence of yokai was a perspective that had also slowly been adopted by disbelieving researchers. This article conceives this process as an epistemological rupture by which researchers can only understand different worlds or ontologies through the ontological framework generated after the rupture. This article proposes a "plural ontology" model that makes it possible for researchers to understand the diverse worlds in which people recognize yokai.