Sometimes, I can quickly identify the time of year in a scene based on the activities my favorite anime characters are doing. For instance, when they gather to share horror stories at night, I can tell it’s the summer season.
That’s because, in Japan, spooks are due a few months earlier compared to some countries, where the scary season comes with Halloween.
But don’t be afraid, my fellow otaku.
Hold on to my hand, and I’ll tell you why summer is associated with the afterlife in Japan!
People from different religions believe the barrier between our world and the other side becomes thinner during a certain period each year. And during this time, spirits pass through it to walk among the living and visit their families for a few days.
In the US, that period would be the end of October when we celebrate Halloween. However, in Japan, life and death connect in mid-August.
The problem is that not all spirits have someone waiting for them on our side. Some are lost souls or vengeful spirits, where the scary encounters and stories originate.
So it’s common to see TV shows or movie releases, attractions, and other events during summer to test your courage and send chills down your spine. They can easily make you forget about the hot and humid weather.
Obon Matsuri is a Buddhist festival where families get together to pray and perform rituals to welcome loved ones coming from the afterlife and guide them back safely.
Although not a public holiday, Obon (or simply “Bon”) is as important as the New Year period for its spiritual meaning. Many Japanese take time off to visit their relatives, so traveling can be challenging around this time, mainly due to traffic jams or booked-up trains and hotels.
The Obon period also involves the iconic Bon Odori Festivals. These are joyful events across Japan — and some neighboring countries — to welcome the spirits with traditional dances from July to September.
In a country surrounded by the ocean, swimming in the sea is the easiest way to keep cool.
Not during Obon if you wish to live a long life! Getting into the sea is a no-go, among other discouraged actions.
It’s said that spirits come to the living world through the sea and their families’ light lanterns to guide them to their houses and back to the ocean. However, resentful spirits without anyone to guide them get stuck and harm whoever they can find.
The solution to endure the high temperatures is to do something that will give you the chills — which is where sharing creepy stories late at night comes into play. A tradition that began in the Edo Period (1603-1867) to test the courage of samurais.
It consisted of bringing together a hundred warriors at night, each with a candle. Then they tell a scary story and blow out their candles one by one until complete darkness. That is if they were brave enough.
The ritual was so popular that other people started sharing scary stories as a pastime, and the practice of telling ghost stories on summer nights survived through the centuries.
Another creepy summer pastime is to visit scary or haunted places.
In Japan, the liver is an organ related to bravery, and Kimodameshi means “to test your liver.” These are activities that put people’s courage to the test.
Theme parks prepare frightening attractions, such as haunted houses and mazes, with entertaining stories. Some schools even organize trips for the kids.
And if those experiences aren’t scary enough to cool you off, you can try your luck with other things, such as visiting graveyards, forests, or abandoned tunnels.
If you’ve ever played Phasmophobia, you know that the temperature drops dramatically when certain kinds of spirits are around (e.g., a yuurei or an onryo)!
Engaging in scary activities to beat the hot Japanese days and nights is a curious and creative solution!
Would you have the courage to do any of these things?
Do you have any ghost stories to share? You can share them with the Otaku Community and challenge others to do the same. Who will have the scariest stories?
If you don’t have any stories to share or would like to discover some scary ones from Japan, stay tuned for anime recommendations that will give you plenty of ideas!
For more about Japan, see the Related posts below.
Images from IMDb