Ghost scroll at Zensho-an templeEvery August, Zenshoan temple in Tokyo opens the doors to its Yurei-ga Gallery, a private collection of Edo-period ghost scrolls. The 50 silk paintings, most of which date back 150 to 200 years, depict a variety of apparitions from the forlorn to the ghastly.

The scrolls were collected by Sanyu-tei Encho, a famous storyteller (rakugo artist) during the Edo era who studied at Zenshoan. Encho is said to have collected the scrolls as a source of inspiration for the ghostly tales he loved to tell in summer.

Telling ghost stories has long been a popular summer pastime in Japan, and many people believe that chilling tales have the power to take the edge off the dreadful heat. Stories of shadowy souls also make a nice, macabre complement to all the August rituals (bon festivals, memorial ceremonies, grave cleaning, etc.) performed to welcome the spirits of departed ancestors as they return en masse to the earthly world.

The ghost scrolls are on display from August 1 to 31, from 10 AM to 5 PM. Zenshoan temple is located a five-minute walk from Sendagi station (in Taito ward) on the Chiyoda subway line. The entrance fee is 300 yen.

If you can't make it to the temple, check out an online version of the gallery at the link below.

[Link: Yurei-ga Gallery]