Both in Japan and Thailand, people believe in the existence of ghosts and spirits. Our religion, Buddhism, is based on animism belief, thus we believe everything has spirits. They are not entirely harmful supernatural beings. Most of them are good spirits, often called gods, who protect us from evils. Strong connections to spirits in our life are still maintained by our society through traditional practices.
In Japan and Thailand, ghost stories are everywhere. People love watching and hearing about ghosts. Even in Thai and Japanese movie industries, we see a lot of ghosts and spirit stories while Hollywood movies tend to be more psycho-horror. We believe in strong connections to spirits in different objects and that they still live after they died. Unfortunately, because of industrialization and high technology, people start to doubt existence of spirit, but some of the ritualistic practices remained as part of the traditional culture.
In Thailand and Japan, we have a tradition to create a small shrine for land gods who protect the land. In order to live peacefully with the spirit who originally lived in the land, old people used to have a long process of an engagement ceremony. Otherwise, when you are not respectful and rude to the spirit, people will suffer disease and natural disasters. In the end of the ceremony, we make a little house that the spirit can stay in and when the spirit accepts and is satisfied with the people, they will have good blessings from the land. People pray for the spirit to keep land prosperous and people will always respect it. If you see a little shrine house in Japan or in Thailand, it is where a spirit of the land lives, so be respectful to it!
A lot of festivals in Japan have to do with spirits. The word itself means “celebrating god” (‘matsuri’ – festival). Festivals are originally started to celebrate and appreciate a god of the land who gives blessing and prosperity to people of the land. Like Kawagoe Festival, near TIU where my Japanese university is, people pull ‘dashi’ (a float which carries a doll where a spirit dwells on top) and parade it around the town to show the god to everyone. (for more info: http://kawagoematsuri.jp/English/index.html) People do not pay attention to the meaning of the practice of itself nowadays, but it is important and meaningful that they still practice it.
Unfortunately, I have never been to the spiritual festival in Thailand, so I cannot tell you about it, but I highly recommend you to search on articles online, or I found one of the articles about a spiritual festival in Northeastern Thailand called Phi Ta Khon if you are interested! http://www.utopia-asia.com/ghost.htm
I see a lot of spirits and ghost animes. If you are interested in anime and Japanese culture, check this out! I have recently been watching ‘Nurarihyo no mago’ which is about a boy, half spirit and half human, becoming a boss of all spirits (yokai). (entertaining!) The new anime came up called ‘shinrei tantei Yagumo’, about a spirit detective solving problems of spirits. (scarrryyy!!) My childhood favorite, ‘jugoku sense nuubee’ is about an elementary school teacher who has a devil hand and saves his students from spirits. (entertaining!) And ‘Shiki’ is the story of a small isolated village and since new neighbors have moved into the village, villagers have started to die gradually. (mysterious… and cool) Anime is one of the great ways to learn about Japanese culture! : )
I want to close this entry with a funny Thai commercial involving ghosts! ; ) Enjoy!
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