Yokainoshima, spirits of Japan

7th of July 2018 - 25th of August 2019


The exhibition

In Japan, divinities and supernatural beings are omnipresent. Throughout the year, during masked rituals, costumes are worn to ask them for protection, riches and happiness. The exhibition creates links between the contemporary photographs of Charles Fréger, which depict a large number of ritual masked figures, and the museum's Japanese collections.

Allow yourself to be guided through this island of spirits and monsters, from the foundations of Japanese spirituality to modern-day practices, such as manga, cosplay and video games.

This exhibition is part of Franco-Japanese commemorations and the associated programme 'Japonismes 2018'



Charles Fréger - Photographic portraits and uniforms

Since the beginning of the 2000s, Charles Fréger has worked throughout the world on series of portraits within groups engaged in an experience of collective belonging, including schoolchildren, sportspeople, legionnaires, majorettes, and Breton Celtic circles.

In 2013, just after the completion of his European tour of masked winter celebrations (Wilder Mann), Charles Fréger set off on a photographic expedition to explore Japan's ritual masked figures. This is the subject of Yokainoshima: through an inventory of these masked figures, to portray the Japanese countryside, the traditions that mark the lives of its inhabitants, and the land they walk and work on.
The title 'Yokainoshima' was invented by the artist. It could be translated as 'the island of spirits and monsters', in reference to the supernatural beings that live around us and cause mysterious phenomena.


The Musée des Confluences' Japanese collection

The Japanese collection at the Musée des Confluences is the fruit of four collections that were formed over the course of the nineteenth century: that of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, the Musée Guimet de Lyon, the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques – Guimet in Paris and the Œuvres Pontificales Missionnaires in Lyon.

In 1876, Émile Guimet (who was born in Lyon in 1836 and died in Fleurieu-sur-Saône in 1918) undertook a three-month journey in Japan, as part of a scientific mission on the study of religions, which was funded by the Ministry of Public Instruction. He brought back a significant collection of Buddhist art, including three hundred paintings, six hundred sculptures and a thousand books from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The objects brought back by Émile Guimet are considered to be the true origin of the Musée des Confluence's Japanese collection.

Among these collections displayed, you can discover exhibits such as a set of Samurai armour, lacquerware, ceramics, noh masks and portraits of monks. Observe and listen, as each object has a story to tell...


The exhibition trail

Welcomed by the powerful sound of the taiko drum, you enter a dream world, inspired by Japanese theatre. In the centre of the room, a glowing temple overlooks the exhibition. Japanese tales set to music resonate all around. Nearly 80 brilliantly coloured photographs taken by Charles Fréger are featured along the walls, and more than 200 collection objects are displayed. Welcome to the exhibition Yokainoshima, spirits of Japan



In order to seek healing, prosperity or protection from negative forces, Japanese people call on the many divinities and spirits that are part of their traditions on a daily basis. They invoke them with offerings (such as ex-votos, amulets and prayer sticks) and during rituals, performed at home or at temples and sanctuaries.


The demons

Seen as mysterious and harmful forces, these demonic figures are feared as it is believed they can cause various torments, such as a violent death, war or sickness.  During the night of Setsubun on the 3rd of February, oni demons, resembling ogres with horns and fangs, are said to descend among humans to devour them and make them sick. To chase them away, Japanese people throw beans and perform rites of exorcism.



During many traditional ceremonies and shows, divinities invoked are incarnated in human beings or objects. Masks and costumes are essential for the proper performance of these possession rites. They enable performers to transform themselves into the incarnated spirit (divinity or demon), miming its gestures according to codes that are firmly established in the community.

Namahage Oga prefecture d'Akita_Japon_Charles Fréger 2013.jpg

The namahage

The festival of Namahage is held every 31st of December in 80 villages on the Oga Peninsula. The Namahage are "guest gods" of the New Year. They come down from the mountains to visit houses, lecture children and berate people for laziness. They leave only once they have been satisfied by their hosts. Their arrival brings good luck for the coming year.



The performance of the actor in the art of noh differs from the incarnation of divinities during traditional festivals and masked rituals. While the practice of noh is derived from these spiritual events, the performance of actors goes beyond imitating the gestures of a spirit as established by a community: they tell a story in a personal and creative way. This theatrical form is thought to calm the dead and entertain the divinities.


The art of noh

A noh theatre performance lasts from five to six hours and includes five plays, interspersed with another comic form of theatre: kyôgen. .


Practical information



Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday from 11 am to 7 pm
Thursday from 11 am to 10 pm
Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 10 am to 7 pm

Closing hours
Monday and the 1st of January, 1st of May and 25th of December
Ticket offices close at 6.15 pm | 9.15 pm on Thursday


Permanent and temporary exhibitions: single ticket, valid for a day

  • Adult (full price) – €9
  • Adult (discounted price) – €6
  • Adult (from 5 pm onwards) – €6
  • Young working people 18-25 years – €5
  • Children aged under 18 – Free
  • Students aged under 26 – Free

Tel. +33 (04)4 28 38 12 12
E-mail : contact@museedesconfluences.fr


Musée des Confluences
86 quai Perrache, Lyon 2e district

  • Main entrance (Crystal): individual visitors and groups for unguided visits
  • Group entrance (to the right of the main staircase): groups with a tour guide, visitors with reduced-mobility, access for families with pushchairs
  • Auditorium entrance (Rhône-side): direct access during shows, conferences and events. The building’s doors open one hour before the event. The room opens 20 minutes before the event.

Stop « musée des Confluences »
Tramway— Line T1
Bus— C7, C10, 15, 63
Car— Musée des Confluences car park
Remember to validate your car park ticket at the museum!
Tony Garnier car park
Share a ride! Go to the car sharing website www.covoiturage-grandlyon.com
Vélov' bike rental— Station on the square in front of the museum