Telling scary ghost stories around a fire at camp, or at a sleep over, is something most people have experienced at some point in their lives. But ghost stories are told for slightly different reasons in Japan.
First off, ghost stories in Japan are usually told in the summer because when people are scared, they sweat. And when people sweat, their bodies cool down. This is also why spicy food is often consumed during the summer. And instead of being around a big fire, people will often light candles and encircle themselves with them as protection against any ghosts listening in. Traditionally, after every story is told, a candle is blown out until none are left burning, signaling the end of the ghost story marathon.
However, unlike many American ghost stories that tend to be singular events unconnected to one another or to religion, Japanese ghost stories are connected to their culture intimately. Japanese youkai are special creatures who often appear in ghost stories. These creatures often appear in many variants of Japanese religion and literature. Just as studying ancient Greek culture leads to study of Greek gods, so does studying Japan’s culture often lead to studying youkai.
So, ghost stories hold a biiiit more significance to the people of Japan than our ghost stories do to us. Plus they cool you down in the summer. Culture/religion lessons AND an natural coolant. Pretty sweet, and scary, deal!
Do you have a favorite Japanese ghost story? Post it in the comments below!