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Wobbly Aesthetics, Performance, and Message: Comparing Japanese Kyara with their Anthropomorphic Forebears

Debra J. Occhi
Asian Ethnology
Vol. 71, No. 1 (2012), pp. 109-132
Published by: Nanzan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41551385
Page Count: 24
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Abstract

This article compares contemporary Japanese entities known as kyara (" characters") with historical anthropomorphized imagery considered to be spiritual or religious. Yuru kyara ("loose" or "wobbly" characters) are a subcategory of kyara that represent places, events, or commodities, and occupy a relatively marginalized position within the larger body of kyara material culture. They are ubiquitous in contemporary Japan, and are sometimes enacted by humans in costume, as shown in a case study of a public event analyzed within. They are closely tied to localities and may be compared to historical deities and demons, situated as they are within the context of popular representations of the numinous created to inspire belief and spur action. However, the imperatives communicated by yuru kyara are not typically religious per se, but civic and commercial. Religious charms and souvenirs also increasingly incorporate the kyara aesthetic.

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