Take our user survey here!

Tweet of the Week #145: Cucumbers and Eggplants Ride for Ancestors Spirits

What do horses and cows have to do with Obon?

By 2 min read

In summer, Japanese people celebrate Obon (おぼん), a Buddhist festival honoring the spirits of their ancestors. The festival usually takes place from August 13th to 16th, but some regions keep the celebration in July, following the old calendar.

During Obon, families commemorate their departed relatives and invite them back to the human world for a home visit. They often display a cucumber and an eggplant, with four wooden sticks impaled in them, called shouryou uma (精霊しょうりょううま) and shouryou ushi (精霊しょうりょううし ) respectively.

The cucumber represents a horse that will carry the spirits home fast to be reunited with their descendants. While the eggplant symbolizes a cow that will ensure the souls have a leisurely journey back to the spirit world, leaving them with enough time to visit their families. In modern times, people like to get really creative, so it’s not just cows and horses anymore!

Check out some of our favorite creations below.

Isn’t that Dialga?


“Ancestors, please take this horse to come home this year. We are waiting for you.”

The ‘unicumber’


“First challenge. I was in a battle of wits, trying to find a balance between the legs and the ability to stand it on its own.”

Your ancestors are still proud



“When it comes to Obon, it’s the spirit horse.

I’m no longer willing to put my ancestors on them (lol).”

The symbiote

今年の精霊しょうりょううしは、アメリカさんA5えーごランク “ヴェノム牛”

ぜんこう25にじゅうごcmせんちめーとる 全長ぜんちょう30さんじゅうcm 全幅ぜんぷく15じゅうごcm



“This year’s cow spirit is A5 rank ‘Venom cattle’ from the United States.

25cm high, 30cm long, 15cm wide.

This is one of the largest cows I have ever made.

The eyes made of Japanese ginger gave it a Venom look.”



The Ghibli nerd





“There’s more this year.

A wild Ghibli-nerd spirit horse.

From past works to new works.”

Grandma’s drone


“Even grandmother, who didn’t like airplanes, would be willing to ride in a drone made by their granddaughter.”

Japanese vocabulary for Obon

Japanese Romaji English
ぼん o bon Obon festival
きゅうのおぼん kyuu no o bon Bon Festival of the old year (held on July 15th)
むか mukaebi Welcoming fire (for the spirits)
精霊しょうりょううま shouryou uma Carved cucumber with four wooden sticks for legs, symbolizing a horse to bring the spirits of the ancestors to their home
盆棚しょうりょうだな shouryou dana Display shelf for the 精霊馬 and 精霊牛
精霊しょうりょううし shouryou ushi Carved eggplant with four wooden sticks for legs, symbolizing a cow to carry the spirits of the ancestors back to the other world
ぼん提灯ちょうちん bon Lantern display on Buddhist altars to make offerings to the ancestors
閻魔えんま enma King of the world of the dead
盆踊ぼんおど bonodori Bon festival dance
灯籠流とうろうなが tourounagashi An event where lit lanterns float into the sea or rivers along with offerings for the Bon Festival
新盆にいぼん or 初盆はつぼん niibon or hatsubon The first Obon that’s celebrated after the death of a family member.
おく okuribi Farewell fire (for the spirits)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA - Privacy Policy - Terms of Service



10 Japanese Textbooks for Advanced Learners for Business, the JLPT and Beyond

Discover Japanese textbooks for advanced learners in business, JLPT and more. Elevate your Japanese study with these essential resources.

By 6 min read


Understanding Mount Fuji’s New Fees and Rules

There are new fees and rules for hiking Mt. Fuji. Here is why, and if your plans to hike the iconic mountain will be affected.

By 3 min read


10 Great Free Apps for Studying Japanese

Supplement your Japanese studies with these apps that don't cost a thing.

By 8 min read 52