Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Ghosts of Japan

Japan has a special affinity with ghosts. You can't swim in lakes because that's where the ghosts will be, waiting to pull you under. Dark cellars are obviously out as well. And if you see a Japanese ghost you'll know instantly as they'll have no feet, trailing arms and long, extended necks. Interestingly though I've only ever seen images of girls or women depicted as ghosts, never men except for the odd Samurai warrior in a Noh play.

The word yurei would colloquially be translated as "ghost" however it's closer to meaning a broken spirit or faint spirit, strongly associated with the ties of unfinished earthly business. And it has to be said that Japan is superb at creating myths, movies and stories as to their powers of malevolence. If you'd like to have the living daylights scared out of you just watch The Ring or The Grudge.

Japan is also beginning to experience the Wild West effect of ghost towns as the population ages and villages begin to merge as they can no longer support full communal services. Schools close and hospitals are relocated as communities die a slow and protracted death. Indeed one municipality voted itself out of existence recently to provide landfill space for tsunami debris. And in the case of Hashima or Ghost Island its death became the inspiration for an excellent James Bond movie (though nothing was actually filmed there).   

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