Summer Ghost Stories: Summer is the period for Japanese spooks and scares, with fantasy stories and festivals. This is why anime is so prevalent.
Many animals had at least an episode on the beach, so many actually have become a cliche. Along with watermelons and bathrobes, characters will also congregate and deliver fantastic stories. This is mainly seen in life-slice animation like Lucky Star.
But there is at least one summer episode of another series, as in the original Cardcaptor Sakura, dedicated to speaking and fear. Even Higurashi’s popular horror events are held throughout the summer. Let’s look at why they are doing this in summer and not in autumn with this custom so widespread in anime and manga.
The spooky season usually comes in October when the Halloween festivities are observed in Western nations. Tradition can be traced back to Celtic holidays such as Samhain. This date with the equinoxes and solstices would also be marked by other societies, but the one universal feature of the ancestors’ end was their cycle and spirits. Romans would celebrate the death of Feralia. Those were the days when something called the “veil between worlds” was thin, enabling the spirits of the deceased to visit their children until the curtain closed again.
But this time in Japan, generally around the middle of August, it would fall in summer and become known as Obon. Obon is a week consisting of many vacations that reflect a certain idea. August 13th is Mukaebi, flames are being burned to guide the ancestors to their homes. Family altars include fruit, flowers and sweets, and aubergines and cucumbers like horses so that the soul might use them to get back home. Families frequently take this day to prepare for the cleansing of family tombs.
The second and third days, Hoyo and Kuyo, are spent visiting temples or shrines or in your home to recite and pray to a Buddhist monk. A memorial service is organized, following which a vegetarian lunch is consumed and tales about the deceased are exchanged. The last day of the feast day is Okuribi, August 16. August 16th. It’s usually a day that many Japanese people wear yukata and go celebrating with their friends, created from thinner material than a regular kimono. Dances for the deceased with one of the most famous from Kyoto are performed.
Courage tests among young Japanese people, mainly children, are especially popular. All feature an episode in which participants participate in these tests, to show that they are not afraid of the fantasies that were claimed to haunt every place. This is like going ghost hunting and trying to terrify each other on the local graveyard with buddies.
The summer festival is explained in this way by the frightful stories. Why is the season so popular in horror movies, TV shows, and magazines? One reason for this might be because many Japanese residences have if any, no central cooling system. If there is an AC unit in a Japanese home, it is often utilized in one room – normally in the living room – and there are fans everywhere else. The idea behind frightful media is that a cold shiver will come up your back and refresh you, stabilize you from the summer heat, when you view or read it. We see an example in Lucky Star when Konata tells the group a frightening story while on the beach.
The notion emerged during the Edo period and grew popular among many Japanese people immediately, therefore the practice of summer spooks expanded rapidly across the entire country. In the summer many of the popular stories have a kind of vindictive spirit, mainly women. The original ritual included 100 stories – one of 100 candles would be snuffed out for every story heard and the group would be slowly immersed in complete darkness.
One of Okiku’s popular stories. Okiku was a samurai servant and incredibly lovely. One of her jobs was the cleaning and upkeep of a set of ten priceless plates. The samurai developed to lust for Okiku and repeatedly offered her but rejected it. Some narrative variants state that it’s because he had a wife before. The samurai or his wife, angry, hid one of the plates and accused Okiku of taking it.
The samurai threatened her with life for theft, but if she became his mistress, she would spare her. She refused again, so he murdered her and beside the house hid her body in a well. After daily visits, the samurai went wild, since the angry spirit of Okiku rose from the well, counting “One plate, two plates…Three…” before she let out the awful shout when she had nine.
Whether it is celebrating the return of loved ones, telling fantastic stories in a darkening room, or snow-coning while watching the dancers, Japan celebrates all things creepy and frightening. Whether it is celebrated. Thus, while many Halloween enthusiasts and horrors normally have to wait for October, before they get into the eerie atmosphere, Japan begins early and is full of obstacles, festivals, and stories for an entire season. Why wait until October when a horror series like Higurashi may start your head?