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Japan’s Ghostly Summer

Summer in Japan is hot, hot, hot! There are so many things to dislike, such as travelling on crowded rush hour trains, fending off mosquito )attacks and enduring sleepless sweaty nights. It’s so exhausting! But summer isn’t all bad! In fact, it is the most exciting season in Japan! There are lots of wonderful activities to enjoy like fireworks displays, traditional festivals, trips to the beach, music festivals, relaxing in a beer garden, sampling delicious seasonal food or going for an evening stroll in a yukata.

There is one other activity which is my personal favourite – listening to ghost stories! Many foreign visitors are surprised to discover that ghosts are associated with summer in Japan. In the West, we traditionally enjoy ghost stories in October for Halloween or during the Christmas season. So why is the telling of ghost stories a summer tradition in Japan? It is said that the icy shiver of fear caused by a good ghost story helps us to cool down. It is not surprising that summer became associated with ghosts because it is the season of Obon, a time when the spirits of ancestors briefly return to this world.

There are many ways to enjoy the ghostly aspect of summer. You could watch a performance of the famous kabuki ghost play Tokaido Yotsuya Kaidan or the bunraku puppet play The Peony Lantern. Perhaps you would prefer to visit a haunted house or watch a classic Japanese horror movie. You might want to read Lafcadio Hearn’s Kwaidan or, if you are very brave, attend a Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai, the telling of one hundred ghost stories which is said to culminate with the manifestation of a real ghostly spirit!

You could also read my own Ghostly Tales of Japan, a collection of thirty original ghost stories. The stories are set in different periods of Japanese history from the Heian period to today. The book contains many different types of stories. Some are frightening tales of vengeful ghosts, some are funny stories of yōkai, and some are moving stories of lovers reunited after death. You can buy Ghostly Tales of Japan as a paperback book or an eBook at the following link:


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