The Magic Lantern in Japan

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The Magic Lantern Society includes several members from Japan. They collect Western slides about Japan, but are also students of traditional Japanese lantern shows, which were quite different from Western shows. See:

The magic lantern is said to have been introduced to Japan in the 18th century by the Dutch, who had a trading port off Nagasaki called Dejima. It became quite a popular form of village entertainment in the 19th century, with particular emphasis on phantasmagoria, using multiple movable lanterns in a rear projection format, and shadow puppets to display ghouls, goblins and scary scenes. The lanterns were made of wood, and hand held. The slides were made with rice paper; a number had complicated moving effects.

An excellent multipage site in English and Japanese covering the history of the magic lantern in Japan, as well as Minwa-za, a current troupe is at: Welcome to Utsushi.

With the advent of cinema the art all but died out in Japan, but has been revived by some groups in Japan, in particularly Minwa-za. (This site in Japanese only, but it has lots of great images of their art) For an article in English and several photos of a 2011 Chicago performance and workshop given by Minwa-za, visit You can see a YouTube video of the Chicago workshop and matinee on here:, and the 44-minute Chicago evening performance here: For a lovely behind-the-scenes look at modern ustushi-e artist Takashi Kawashima visit:

Image credits
– above left;
Above right:



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