Why summer is spooky season in Japan



(CNN) — Excessive temperatures throughout the Tokyo Olympics have been making headlines all over the world.

In truth, the occasion could go down as one of many hottest and most humid within the historical past of the Video games.

Final week, present world No. 2 tennis participant Daniil Medvedev mentioned the warmth and humidity had been “among the worst” situations he had performed in, even asking who can be accountable if he died.

Elsewhere, athletes have been seen donning ice vests, moist towels and downing water after competing.

However the temperatures and excessive humidity presently cooking the capital usually are not uncommon. Japanese summers are notoriously sticky and sweaty, and for a lot of Japanese individuals, spooky.

Pals flock to haunted homes, head to the films for horror flicks or go to graveyards after darkish, all in an try and scare themselves into actually getting the chills — in impact forgetting all in regards to the sweltering warmth.

Because the mercury rises, so do the useless

Because the temperatures soar in Japan it is believed that the boundaries between the world of the dwelling and the useless are at their thinnest and yurei (spirits) are in a position to cross over.

Summer season is marked by the competition of O-bon, which often takes place in mid-August.

“O-bon is the Buddhist competition of the useless, by which the spirits of deceased members of the family and ancestors are honored,” explains Yoshiko Okuyama, a professor of Japanese Research on the College of Hawai’i, Hilo.

A family pays respects in front of jizo statues at a Buddhist temple in Japan's Saitama prefecture during the O-bon festival.

A household pays respects in entrance of jizo statues at a Buddhist temple in Japan’s Saitama prefecture throughout the O-bon competition.

Behrouz Mehri/AFP/Getty Photos

In accordance with Okuyama, the competition relies on a Buddhist story by which one of many Buddha’s disciples, Mokuren, learns that his deceased mom has ended up in hell. He then performs a ceremony to avoid wasting her soul.

“This Buddhist fantasy finally developed into the custom of urabone (O-bon) as a time to carry a memorial service for the spirits of deceased members of the family,” she says.

“It’s mentioned that the spirits return from the anoyo (the religious world) to the konoyo (the world of the dwelling) with a purpose to attend the competition with the dwelling.”

Throughout O-bon, households reunite to pay respects at ancestral graves, mild bonfires, clear the graves, dance the bon-odori, eat and drink.

It is believed that if a spirit is cared for by the household, then they’re able to cross peacefully into the subsequent world; in return the useless present safety for his or her dwelling family.

However, if the deceased usually are not cared for, or they died in a violent method, the spirit could come again bearing grudges.

“Even the spirits of people that died but can not relaxation in peace are thought to go to us!” Okuyama says.

“Naturally, there is no such thing as a higher time than summer season to speak about supernatural phenomena.”

Scary tales

Summer season could also be a religious season however there’s another excuse that it is a spooky time in Japan. Chilling ghost tales are sometimes instructed in the summertime months, a convention that emerged effectively earlier than the times of air con to assist cool off.

“Psychologically, being spooked could assist us quickly overlook the lethal warmth of Japan’s summer season,” Okuyama says.

In accordance with Origuchi Shinobu (1887-1953), a scholar of Japanese folklore research, Kabuki theaters started to carry out ghost tales in the summertime — known as suzumi shibai (cooling-off performs) — throughout the Edo interval (1603-1868).

“Origuchi discovered that scary ghost tales had been historically carried out in rural communities and that kabuki adopted that customized,” Okuyama explains.

Dancers disguised as imaginary monsters take part in the Ikeda Awa Odori Festival in the city of Miyoshi on Japan's Shikoku island.

Dancers disguised as imaginary monsters participate within the Ikeda Awa Odori Competition within the metropolis of Miyoshi on Japan’s Shikoku island.

Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Photos

One of the well-known examples of those bone-chilling performs is “Yotsuya Kaidan.” Written by playwright Tsuruya Namboku IV in 1825 and tailored for quite a few movies, the plot is centered round a person named Iemon who murders his spouse, Oiwa. Disfigured by poison, she returns as an onryō, or vengeful ghost, to actual revenge.

Her look — wearing a white burial kimono and with lengthy, straggly black hair protecting a pallid face — has change into the archetype for Japanese horror all through the ages, “The Ring’s” Sadako being one well-known instance.

“Modern media shops corresponding to movies comply with the custom of suzumi shibai by releasing new ghost tales right now of yr,” Okuyama provides.

Today, the balmy Japanese summer season is intrinsically linked with ghostly goings-on. Horror films are screened in cinemas, scary exhibits are scheduled on TV about spooky phenomena — together with an allegedly haunted cellphone sales space in a Tokyo park
— and haunted homes are crammed with chill seekers.

Testing your liver

Certainly for some, there is no higher method to spend a sweltering summer season day than by hitting up an obake yashiki, or haunted home.

The warmer it’s, the extra common they’re. Throughout a scorching 2010 heatwave, it was reported that Japan’s haunted homes and ghostly theme-parks noticed a surge in clients.

The nation’s ghost homes have had a very long time to evolve — the primary iteration, “Omori’s Haunted Teahouse,” opened to guests in 1830. A step above easy ghost homes with trundling trains and bedsheet ghosts, obake yashiki are often gory, freakishly reasonable and never for the faint-hearted.

The 900-meter-long hospital-themed maze at “Tremendous Scary Labyrinth of Worry” at Fuji-Q Highland, for example, options rooms like a “decayed morgue” scattered with physique components and blood.
Takeshi Saito, alias Saito Zombie, is a self-admitted “horror planner” whose job is to make guests scream with fright on the Daiba Ghost College in Odaiba, Tokyo. This haunted home has a frighteningly up to date backstory: a abandoned highschool the place a scholar has dedicated suicide. You discover by flashlight.

“In Japan, there’s this outdated sort of recreation to endure being scared known as kimodameshi,” says Saito, who’s been working in haunted homes for 16 years.

Kimodameshi (actually “testing the liver”) is all about braveness. It is a surprisingly seasonal pastime, usually going down on faculty journeys or whereas tenting.

“The customized of kimodameshi is a summer season occasion performed in a gaggle as a contest to see who’s the bravest of all,” says Okuyama.

“It sometimes takes place in a graveyard at night time (however any spooky place, corresponding to a darkish forest, will do), the place spirits of the deceased are believed to be most definitely seen.”

In 2020, an event-planning team created a socially distanced drive-in haunted house in Tokyo

In 2020, an event-planning group created a socially distanced drive-in haunted home in Tokyo

Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Photos

It is much like {the summertime} custom of telling ghost tales, Okuyama explains, a customized that appears to be related to O-bon and the non permanent connection of the world of the dwelling and the afterlife.

“The customized of O-bon could have led to the trendy haunted home tradition,” Saito says.

There are additionally similarities with hyakumonogatari (“100 Tales”), a parlor recreation thought to have begun with samurai testing their liver by telling spooky tales, extinguishing a candle after each.

In accordance with Saito, it is also a stress reliever: screaming in a haunted home is nearly as good as taking a deep breath. “When you’re scared, shout loud,” he says.

New concern

This picture taken on June 15, 2020 shows a drive-in haunted house actress posing for a photo in a Tokyo garage.

This image taken on June 15, 2020 exhibits a drive-in haunted home actress posing for a photograph in a Tokyo storage.

Philip Fong/AFP/Getty Photos

This summer season sees a newcomer to the world of fear-inducing leisure: Mugan (actually “No-face”), a cell horror expertise presently positioned on the backside of Tokyo Tower.

“From a enterprise perspective, summertime is necessary by way of marketability,” says Fumiaki Mae, a part of the group that developed Mugan. “In Japan the summer season horror expertise has taken root and is now ubiquitous.”

Just like the Tokyo drive-in haunted home that made headlines in 2020, the idea for Mugan got here from the problem of making a horror home when leisure venues corresponding to theme parks had been closed resulting from coronavirus restrictions and folks had been inspired to observe social distancing.

“We realized that we might present a horrifying expertise within the small area at the back of a truck,” Mae explains.

First, guests watch a gory brief movie by director Hiroshi Shinagawa, by which a girl turns into disfigured (very similar to Oiwa). With this multimedia side, and full with a cutting-edge sound-system and actors in horrifically reasonable make-up, it is a very fashionable tackle the extra conventional obake yashiki.

Now that the world’s witnessed simply how scorching Tokyo can get in the summertime, because of the photographs of sweltering athletes on screens, it is not laborious to grasp why the Japanese inhabitants resorts to all types of measures to maintain cool — or at the very least overlook in regards to the warmth for a couple of moments.


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