This weekend was the semi-official Obon holiday in Japan. To celebrate, some Japanese users took a humorous twist on an age-old way to honor their ancestors. One user, in particular, saw themselves go viral with their carefully crafted eggplant Pokemon.
A return to the Obon of 2019
Obon is Japan’s holiday in which the country pays respect to its departed ancestors. The “holiday” isn’t legally recognized as an official public holiday. However, Japanese legislators at one point moved Mountain Day, which was originally in July, into August, on a Friday coinciding with the celebration of Obon. This results in a three-day holiday so that people have some time to head to their birthplaces to celebrate with extended family.
This is the first Obon Japan is celebrating in three years without any pandemic-related travel restrictions. And by all accounts, it was a busy – and somewhat chaotic – one.
By all accounts, travel wasn’t at the same level as in 2018 and 2019. However, it came damn close – about 92%. Unfortunately, with Typhoon 7 threatening to strike Japan’s Kinki region in the next day or two, many people worried about getting home on time.
Cucumber horses and eggplant cattle
Part of the Obon festivities involves creating shouryou-uma (精霊馬), or “horse spirits of the deceased”. A family puts the figures – horses made of cucumber and cattle made of eggplant – on a shelf along with their dead relative’s memorial tablet (位牌; ihai) and Bon flowers (盆花; bonbana).
The figures serve as figurative rides for the deceased so they can visit during Obon. One’s ancestors come to the material plane from the other world on the horse. When Obon is over and they’re ready to go back. they return on the cattle.
The different animals represent the different wishes people have for their ancestors on their visit and return. The horse is meant to communicate, “Come quickly.” Meanwhile, the cattle tells them, “Take your time heading back.”
No one really knows exactly when the shouryou-uma practice started or who originated it. One of the first recorded stories regarding the practice surrounds wealthy Edo-era merchant Kawamura Zuigen (河村瑞賢). Records say that Kawamura would collect the large amounts of cucumber and eggplant left over after Obon, then pickle and re-sell them.
An eggplant Miraidon takes X by storm
In recent years, adventurous social media users have put a new twist on this Obon tradition. Seeing horses and cattle as a little dated, they’ve started selecting other animals. But not real animals. Think…imaginary animals.
Okay, I mean Pokemon.
User Omuni, an illustrator and 3D graphics animator, garnered huge attention this weekend on X with their own take on how their ancestors might make the return trip: “Since it’s Obon, I made a Miraidon [Pokemon] for my beloved ancestors for their return trip.”
The creation garnered Omuni massive applause and praise for their skills. They also posted a video on YouTube showing the “making of” the eggplant Miraidon. In the video, Omuni says they wanted something “trendier” for their ancestors for the trip home. Miraidon seemed to fit the bill, as the Pokemon is the same color as an eggplant.
Other X users posted their own take on the shouryou-uma. User @AL33102 went the traditional route but decided to give their eggplant and cucumber a little locomotive power. The cucumber runs, um, a little bit faster than the eggplant:
Meanwhile, user @ultramagnus_no2 patterned their horse after Asurada, the superfast vehicle in the futuristic racing anime Future GPX Cyber Formula:
Hopefully, everyone’s ancestors made the journey swiftly – and are enjoying their leisurely and stylish rides back to the pure land.
What to read next
“精霊馬”とは？お盆に飾るキュウリ馬とナス牛の意味. Weather News
お盆のUターンラッシュ一足早く 台風懸念、予定前倒しの人も. Mainichi Shimbun
Uターンラッシュ始まる 新幹線乗車率140%、高速は32km渋滞. Asahi Shimbun