What are these veggie creatures used for Japan’s Obon holiday?

What are these veggie creatures used for Japan’s Obon holiday?

by Takahiro Takiguchi
Stripes Okinawa

Every August, families in Japan prepare for the return of their ancestors spirits with elaborate altars, displays and even dance festivals called Bon Odori.

Around this time grocery stores prepare many festive foods used for offerings as well as special decorations. But, what are Shoryo Uma and why are they made of cucumbers and eggplants?

During Obon period, some families make a small horse out of a cucumber and a small cow of out of an eggplant. The legs are made of chopsticks or matchsticks. These are called Shoryo-uma (horse for souls). Usually they are placed with an incense burner outside of the entrance of a home on the first day of Bon to welcome that ancestors’ souls.

It is believed that the souls come back home quickly on a cucumber horse, tracing the trail of incense, and leave later slowly on an eggplant cow. The horse and cow are placed on altar on the second day.

People will display them with lanterns, flowers and food items around the altar.

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