July and August (primarily August) are the most significant months of the year second only to New Years. This is the time when many Japanese return to their ancestral hometowns for family reunion, summer festivals, and the ceremony of Obon. During this ceremony it is believed that the spirits of their ancestors return from the spirit world, many Japanese families offer food to them at household alters and cemeteries. Through out most of Japan many participate in traditional dances call Bon Odori. Originally this custom was done as a way to welcome the return of ancestor spirits but this meaning has change over time and is understood as just a Japanese summer dance. The following is a video of this year’s Bon Odori at Roppongi hills.
Tōrō nagashi is another ceremony related to Obon in which paper lanterns are placed in rivers to guide there ancestors back to the spirit world. I took the following pictures of this custom in Asakusa at the Sumida river.
This practice is deeply rooted in Buddhism though for many it is just a cultural Japanese thing. Apart from the deeply rooted spiritual significance of Obon week you could say that it is kind of like Thanksgiving in America, a time when many businesses close and people take extra days off from work to be with family.
While many Japanese may not believe in God, they can be highly spiritual and superstitious. I am thankful to the creator of the following video for these interview on the topic of ghost.
I too have had conversations with Japanese friends who shared with me their experience with ghost. I don’t doubt that they have experience something spiritual, I am concerned however that those who have such experiences without proper spiritual discernment are being deceived by evil spirits and led away from the truth of God’s love.
Ghosts and spirits are closely related spiritual words that describe spiritual beings, the bible uses the word angel to describe them and tells us that God created them to be good together with everything else that he made. There are good angels who have serve God faithfully and bad angels who rebelled against God. These bad angels, also called demons, work to destroy and corrupt everything good that God has made. Every spiritual experience can not be trusted. Just as you need discernment with whom to leave your kids with, so you need spiritual discernment to judge if your spiritual experience are from good angels or bad angels.
All good and healthy spiritual discernment begins with the bible and a knowledge of Jesus Christ. He died and resurrected from the dead, you will not find Jesus’ body in a cemetery today because he is alive! Jesus Christ is God, he loves his creation and is very kind. His Spirit is called the Holy Spirit and is near to all who desire to know him. If you ask he will give you discernment to know which spirits are good and which are harmful.