Most cultures have "ghosts" - but in Japan, a ghost isn't only the spirit of a dearly (or not so dearly) departed relative. In Japan, the word is yokai, and it refers to a group of supernatural beings which include not only "human" ghosts but other odd phantoms and apparitions also. Their diversity is as great, and as weird, as the human imagination can muster...and the Japanese imagination can muster quite a lot.
One of my favorite types of yokai is the tsukumogami, or "tool kami." Kami is the Japanese word for "god" or "spiritual being" -- but tsukumogami are not necessarily benevolent spirits.
In Western culture, a household object which survives for a century is considered an "antique." Japanese folklore takes a different view. According to legend, many common objects which survive to be 100 years old receive a soul and become self-aware.
Not all of them are happy about it.
|The possessed umbrella. Something to watch out for in Japan.|
Other ones simply like to play tricks on people.
At one time, many shinto shrines held ceremonies to pacify and appease broken household goods, or those which were being discarded, to prevent them from becoming angry spirits out to sabotage the household which abandoned them.
Tsukumogami took many forms, including...
The abumi-guchi, the sentient stirrup of a military commander:
|The possessed stirrup hides under bushes and waits for you to ride by...|
Ungaikyo - a hand mirror that curses any child foolish enough to look into it--and which sucks the child into the yokai's realm when the child reaches the age of 13.
And my personal favorite, chochin-obake, a possessed (and often malevolent) lantern:
|If you strike this lantern, it strikes you back.|
It's said that you can't throw a rock in Japan without striking a sacred object -- and since some of those objects might strike you back...I'm going to suggest not throwing rocks at all.
Oh...and Happy Mother's Day. If you're giving Mom a present, please make sure it's not possessed.
--Susan, who clearly has NO idea what's appropriate to discuss on Mother's Day.