Today is the first day of Obon, the Japanese festival of the dead. It’s somewhat similar to Mexico’s Día de Muertos, in which family graves are tended and there’s feasting and celebration. In Okinawa, offerings of food and drink are left for the returning ancesters, and the final day is celebrated with a dance, the Bon Odori, that expresses appreciation for the ancesters and the joy that memories of them bring.

In honor of the day, I’m posting a ghost story, narrated by a ghost. Each stanza is in haiku format, though they are not, strictly speaking, Haiku.

Obon calls to me– 
The first Obon since my death 
Just four months ago. 

I find my way home. 
No feast, no lanterns greet me. 
No one remembers.  

This was expected; 
I am no one’s ancestor. 
So why have I come? 

Music fills the night. 
The dancers flow past my house 
Bright and deft as koi. 

I merge with the stream 
And dance the Bon-odori. 
But no one sees me. 

My feet remember: 
Step, turn, sway and dip, clap hands. 
I dance in silence. 

Once I danced and sang, 
“Oh, joyful Bon-odori! 
Welcome, ancestors!” 

Welcome, ancestors. 
But what of me, or my child, 
Gone, these twelve long years? 

The Land of the Dead 
Is vaster than all Japan. 
I have not found her. 

She’d be lovely now, 
Like the girl dancing near me, 
Hands like graceful birds. 

Strange, that this girl wears 
Grandmother’s blue yukata. 
It fits perfectly. 

She sees me and smiles— 
A smile my heart remembers 
As tiny, toothless. 

I once called Obon 
A festival for the dead.  
Now I understand. 

We dance and we sing, 
“Oh, joyful Bon-odori!” 
My ghost child and I.