Parasouls: Young V&A exhibition sees lost umbrellas transformed into Japanese spirits

The yōkai umbrellas are suspended in the air. Photograph: David Parry / PA Media

An East London museum is dripping with colour after launching a free exhibition that turns unwanted umbrellas into spirits from Japanese folklore.

Lost and Found Yōkai at Bethnal Green’s Young V&A puts a unique spin on the humble brolly, adding a splash of colour and life to the many donated by Transport for London’s lost property team.

Visitors will be taken on a journey through Kasa-obake Alley, lined with bumbershoots that have been decorated to look like yōkai, supernatural entities that feature heavily in Japanese culture.

These playful creatures are a type of tsukumogami, everyday objects that receive a spirit and find new life as yōkai on their 100th birthday.

The alley itself is named after a yōkai known as the kasa-obake, or umbrella monster.

A host of contemporary artists and designers were invited by the museum to get involved, with each given an umbrella to transform.

Artist John Booth and his friend Andrew Kenny work on an idea inspired by Kenny’s son. Photograph: Sandra Ebert / Young V&A

Young V&A curator William Newton said: “At Young V&A, we’re all about imagination, having fun and making things.

“It has been inspiring to see these artists give life to lost things – to bring out the umbrellas’ inner yōkai – and transform them into a fabulous parade.

“Umbrellas are the most commonly misplaced item on London’s transport networks, and it’s great that we can give them a new use and bring a bit of Japan to the museum’s Town Square for our visitors to enjoy.”

The yōkai brollies are suspended in the air to create a parade of floating spirits who lead visitors towards the entrance of the museum’s main exhibition, Japan: Myths to Manga.

Lydia Kasumi Shirreff at work in her studio. Photograph: Sandra Ebert / Young V&A

Set designer and paper artist Lydia Kasumi Shirreff’s yōkai embodies a colourful bird in the style of a Japanese woodblock print, with patterned feathers floating in the air. It was inspired by her young son’s idea of creating a ‘rainbow bird’.

Artist John Booth collaborated with friend Andrew Kenny to craft a yōkai inspired by Kenny’s two-year old son’s love of monsters.

Embroiderer Nicole Chui’s creation, Bae-Bae, is inspired by the tiger mascot of Baesianz FC, a football club that Chui founded in 2022 for women, trans and non-binary people of Asian heritage. The design features the colours of the team’s football kit – purple, green and black – and contains nods to the beautiful game such as astroturf and studs.

The exhibition is accompanied by a new work by sound artist Yuri Suzuki, who brings the rustles and echoes of supernatural Japan to life through colourful, horn-shaped sculptures.

Justine Simons OBE, London’s deputy mayor for culture, said: “This ambitious installation shows how creative inspiration can come from anywhere – even lost umbrellas!

“Young V&A continues to inspire young Londoners and visitors alike, and this will be a great first major installation, helping us build a better London for everyone.”

The museum celebrates its first birthday in July, having relaunched last year following a huge overhaul.

Lost and Found Yōkai runs until 8 September.

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