Halloween -- A time for things to creep and groan and go bump in the night; a time for witches and goblins, and a time for thousands of weirdly costumed little people to go from house to house yelling, "Trick or Treat!" It's also a time for sitting around the kitchen table telling ghost stories. The Okinawan people have a multitude of ghost stories of their own; some of which are related below. Haunted Houses
Imps and Possessions
Okinawa, no different from any other country with respect to haunted houses, has more than its rightful share.
Many years ago a house burned down while its unfortunate occupant was in - of all places - the shower. Since that time, many a person who has walked by the ruins of that house at night tells of hearing the shower running - as clearly as if a shower were actually there. The burned-out house stood untouched for many years until a shaman was finally brought in by the owners to exorcise the ghost. Today a new structure stands in its place - as yet unoccupied.
There's another house in the same general area, flanked on three sides by tombs. Even at the lowest possible rent, this house also remains unoccupied. Could it be that it too is haunted?
Found in folklore all over the world are imps, "little men," and a variety of spirits - some good, others bad. Okinawan folklore is no exception. One entity is of particular interest.
Kijumuna (key jee moo nah) are tiny, long-nosed, red imps who live in the banyan trees. They are full of mischief and thrive on playing practical jokes, some of which are downright nasty. For instance, they like to jump out of the trees at night onto the backs of passersby. They then squeeze the breath out of their victims. They are such a nuisance that some Okinawans, even today, actually drive spikes into the trunks of the banyan trees to keep the little red devils in the branches where they belong. However, one group - fishermen - do happen to benefit from association with the kijimuna and are said to be extremely fortunate when one of the imps accompanies them on a fishing trip. The only problem comes when a fisherman happens to "break wind" at sea - the kijimuna become infuriated and wreak havoc! Or so the tales go.
Girl by the Roadside
A few years ago, an elderly Okinawan gentleman had finally saved enough money to build a house on a plot of land he owned in the Naha City suburbs. It was a very small house and only took a few weeks to complete. After the housewarming party, when his guests finally departed, the man proudly looked around his new home before retiring for the night.
Early the next morning, just before sunrise, he awoke. Suddenly, his arms and legs were pinned to the floor by an invisible force and he felt ice-cold hands squeezing his throat. Then, as suddenly as it began, everything was back to normal. The man was badly frightened but attributed the incident to being a bad dream.
The next morning, however, exactly the same rude awakening occurred, this time more violent than the first. Terrified, the man consulted a shaman. The shaman came to the house the same day. She carefully checked the area inside and outside of the house and, in ways only known to good shamans, discovered that three Japanese soldiers had been buried in the exact spot where the new home now stood. Their spirits were angry at the owner for having disturbed them. The shaman coaxed the spirits outside of the house with offerings of incense, sake and rice, and assured the old man that he would never be bothered by them again as long as he appeased their spirits with similar offerings every now and then.
There's the story about two young Marines returning to Camp Schwab (Northern Okinawa) by taxi. It was late at night. They had been visiting friends in Nago City and were on an old cross-island road when they saw a young Okinawan woman standing by the roadside. They asked the taxi driver to stop and offered the woman a ride. She accepted and sat between the Americans in the back of the taxi. They were almost to the end of the road, enjoying each other's company, when the young woman smiled and simply disappeared!
The Marines later found out that the young woman had been killed in an accident many years before and was often seen at night, standing on the roadside at the exact spot where the accident had occurred.
There are many more stories on Okinawa about haunted houses and hotels, demons, imps, wandering ghosts, possessions, and even a haunted car. But there are also going to be more Halloweens. So - we'll save them for the next time.