Welcome to the ghostly world of the Yūrei

Welcome to the ghostly world of the Yūrei

We look at the many types of ghostly yūrei in Japanese folklore

Ghosts, the stuff of legends, campfire tales, horror movies and many Halloween costumes. We all know someone that swear they have seen a ghost or someone that knows someone. We all have listened to stories that made us shiver and wonder if that sound we just heard was not maybe a ghost. As like in the Western world, the Asian world especially Japan also has a vast treasure of ghostly tales.

In Japan, ghosts are known as Yūrei. The name consists of the kanji for yū meaning ‘faint’ or ‘dim’ and rei meaning ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’. Traditional Japanese belief states that all humans have a soul or spirit called a reikon. When you die, the reikon leaves the body and enters a type of purgatory, waiting for the proper funeral rites to be performed for it so that it can join its ancestors. If the funeral rites are done properly, it is believed that that spirit becomes a protector for its living family and that spirit will come and visit during Obon in August to receive thanks.

If the funeral rites have not been observed properly, especially if the person died in a violent or sudden manner like suicide or murder, or is influenced by powerful emotions like love, revenge, hate or sorrow, the reikon transforms into n yūrei, giving it the ability to manifest in the physical world. As yūrei lore goes, once a thought enters the mind of a dying person, if he or she dies, and the rituals were not properly done, the yūrei will come and complete that action be it a good or bad one. Only when a yūrei finds peace it can return to the cycle of reincarnation.

In yūrei lore, they are usually dressed in white, maybe this myth is based on the white burial kimono that the Japanese used in the Edo era. The colour white is the colour of ritual purity in Shinto beliefs, reserved for priests and the dead. Usually, the hair of a yūrei is long and black and their hands dangle lifelessly from the wrists, which they hold outstretched with the elbow close to the body.

The types of yūrei

Types of yūrei that are known are the Onryō (they are vengeful ghosts returned from purgatory to avenge a wrong done to them when they were alive), Ubume (the ghost of a mother who died during childbirth that left young children behind. The ubume returns to take care of the children and even brings them sweets.), Goryō (The vengeful ghosts of the aristocratic class), Funayūrei (the ghosts of those who died at sea. The can be fish-like in appearance or look like mermaids or mermen), Zashiki-warashi: (the mischievous ghosts of children), and earth-bound spirits or jibakurei. Ghosts come in many shapes and forms. They can have grudges, haunt objects like videos, and haunts houses and forests. If they are real or superstition is in the beholder’s eye.

Supernatural The Animation

Supernatural The Animation

Anime recommendation

Feeling like watching something ghostly this Halloween then we recommend Supernatural: The Anime Series. It is loosely based on the hit award-winning CW series Supernatural. The anime also features the Winchester brothers, Sam and Dean, just like the American series. The anime covers a few of the stories from the American series’ first two seasons like ‘Roadkill’ and ‘The Devil’s Trap’ and new original stories featuring some of the well-known secondary characters. Infused in this anime series are elements like the obake, yūrei and Yokai. It premiered in 2010 and consisted of 22 episodes. Other anime we can recommend with ghostly elements or characters are Noragami, Yuu Yuu Hakusho, Bleach, xxxHolic, and Negima.

For any suggestions, opinions or requests please mail us at bentobox@animefanatika.co.za