Obake Family Day: Specters of the Sacred Forest

October 30, 2016
past event image
Family past event

Sunday, October 30, 11–3 PM

On Halloween Eve, enter a mystical sacred forest filled with the frights and delights of Japan’s ghosts and mythical creatures. Experience the richness of Japan’s fall festivals and the thrills of  Halloween through an adventure of family-friendly fun and learning! Activities for the day include a tsukumogami (animate household tools) haunted house, samurai and taiko performances, a variety of arts and crafts, photo opportunities (wear your costume!) and more. All are welcome to attend!

ADVANCE TICKETS: Adults $15/$12 Japan Society members ; Kids (ages 3—12) $10/$7
DAY-OF TICKETS: Adults $18/$15 Japan Society members ; Kids (ages 3—12) $13/$10

Activities Include:


Tsukumogami Haunted House
11 AM—3 PM (limited to small groups throughout the day, free timed tickets required)

Nestled behind the sacred forest on Japan Society’s first floor is a fun, educational (and perhaps a bit scary) haunted house. Children twist and turn through a maze to discover the tsukumogami world of wonders—a pair of slurping old slippers, clanging used kettles and even a trio raucous ancient musical instruments, all objects that have been dormant in the house for a 100 years before springing to life to avenge their misuse. Scripted and directed by Izumi Ashizawa, with puppets co-created by Prague-based puppet smith Yumi Hayashi, the team behind Stony Brook University’s recent hit play Mysterious Lake. Recommended for children 4+, requires parental supervision.


Tsukumogami Storytelling
11 AM, noon, 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM

Once upon a time in the city of Edo, barber Magesuke’s tools started talking to him. Soon his barber shop and the talking tools became a big hit and were very popular with his customers. However, his greedy neighbor Warube is plotting an evil plan for their demise… Enjoy the telling of Magesuke and His Talking Tools along with other select tsukumogami stories.

 Ton-ton-ton Taiko: Sounds of the Fall Festival
Two Performances: 11:30 AM & 1 PM

Children experience a riveting rat-a-tat (or ton-ton-ton as they say in Japanese) taiko drum performance followed by a mini drumming workshop. Hosted by Hiro Kurashima and Friends, part of the Brooklyn-based group Taiko Masala. Recommended for children 3+, requires parental supervision. Seats for the workshop is limited.

 Samurai Legends Live + Sword Fighting Demonstration
Two Performances: 12:30 PM & 2 PM

Just in time for Halloween, legendary war general Ieyasu Tokugawa—one of the best known samurai in Japanese history—comes back to life in an educational and enjoyable talk followed by a sword fighting demonstration. Celebrating Nagoya City’s 400th anniversary, delegates from the city have gathered a group of performers acting as historical busho (handsome men) to resurrect the past. Brought to you by Nagoya Omotenashi Bushotai. Recommended for children 4+, requires parental supervision.

 Tsukumogami Paper Sumo!
11:30 AM—3:30 PM

Ready, set, sumo! Japan’s centuries-old national sport comes to life in this paper-based tsukumogami-themed table game where children decorate their own wrestler and then compete against an opponent in competitive sumo bouts. Recommended for children 3+, requires parental supervision.

 Crafting Omamori Protective Charms and Mini Kokeshi Dolls
11 AM-3 PM (throughout the event)

Plagued by pesky spirits? Need help to achieve dreams and goals? In this hands on craft-making workshop, children create their own omamori traditional lucky charms. Popular wishes in Japan include study success, healthy family, love, and safe driving, or children can wish for anything their hearts desire. Parents also can create mini kokeshi dolls to wish for their child’s growth, health and well-being. Recommended for children 4+, requires parental supervision.

 Sacred Forest Photo Booth and Costume Contest
11 AM-3 PM (throughout event)

Come dressed in your favorite costume and take a funny/cool/kawaii (cute) photo or selfie with tsukumogami and other creatures. Hosted by the New York City’s venerable local Japanese newspaper Yomitime, participants are encouraged to submit photos to their Family Day Costume Photo Contest. Participants will have a chance to win prizes and select photos will be published in the Yomitime in the near future. Appropriate for all ages, requires parental supervision.


At Twilight Treasure Hunt
11 AM—3 PM (throughout event)

At twilight, the spirits of the sacred forest come out to play! Inspired by Japan Society Gallery major fall exhibition Simon Starling: At Twilight (After W. B. Yeats’ Noh Reincarnation), children follow a cartoon dancing hawk to spot mischievous masked characters and mesmerizing modernist statues on this self-guided family adventure throughout Japan Society Gallery’s immersive installation. Recommended for children 5+, requires parental supervision.


Art Cart: Noh Mask Making
11 AM-3 PM (throughout event)

Porcelain skinned princesses, wrinkly wise old folks, demented demons and sky soaring spirits—children create their own masks inspired by centuries of Japanese noh theater tradition, as well as wild reimaginings from Turner Prize-winning artist Simon Starling, whose work features in the immersive installation At Twilight. Recommended for children 3+, requires parental supervision.


Family Tours—Masks: At Twilight
Two Tours: 11:30 AM & 1:30 PM

Parents and children discover the stories behind the masks and the transformation of characters in Simon Starling: At Twilight during these engaging tours for the whole family. Recommended for children 5+, requires parental supervision.



Kumon “Brain Training” Booth
11 AM—3 PM (throughout event)

Get your thinking caps on! Children are invited to try some “Brain Training” worksheets, patented math games for kids from Kumon, Japan’s famed learning center with facilities throughout NYC.



Yatai Japanese Street Vendors: Food and Games
11 AM-3 PM

Stop by the yatai street vendors to enjoy games and food! A yatai is a small, originally mobile food stall in Japan and the name literally means “shop stand.” Yatai is an indispensable elements for festival in Japan!


Tsukumogami are everyday objects that, after over a hundred years of use, become haunted, animate versions of their original selves.

Obake Family Day

Recommended for ages 3 and up with parental supervision (some activities are scary). Healthy Japanese light meals, snacks and festival-related refreshments available for purchase by BentOn.

Box Office Policy

Family Programs are generously supported by Nissan Foundation, Delta Air Lines, Kumon Centers of Manhattan and the Wendy Obernauer Foundation.


Student and Family Programs are supported by the New York Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.


  • Sunday, October 30, 2016
  • 11:00 am