Translated from Mizuki Shigeru’s Mujara
In Goto city in Nagasaki, on the morning of the 15th day of the Obon festival of the dead, it was said that an evil wind blew. Anyone who felt the caress of this evil wind would fall sick and collapse. This day also happened to be the traditional day for visiting the graves of ancestors. It was believed that the souls of the unworshiped dead flew on the winds.
Since olden times, the people of Japan believed in and feared the unworshiped dead, called muenbotoke ( 無縁仏). Farmers blamed everything from droughts, to strong winds, to infestations of insects on these unhappy spirits. And so, during the Obon festival of the dead, along with the usual offerings of rice and sake to the ancestor spirits of the family, they would try to calm the spirits of the muenbotoke and the Buddhist hungry ghosts, so that they would not lay their curse on any living person. But some of these spirits would not be calmed, and so on the morning of Obon these vengeful souls would take flight on the wind and become the shōrōkaze.
It was not just evil spirits that used the wind to travel. The kami spirits of Shinto were also known to flow with the winds. For example, in the middle of March the wind from the East was called the kami-kudashi, and in the beginning of October when the kami gathered in Izumo for their annual meeting it was said that they traveled from all corners of Japan on the wind. And of course, the most famous of all is the kami-kaze, the God Wind that saved Japan. But of these all, only the shōrōkaze is counted amongst the yokai.
The Shōrōkaze uses the kanji 精霊 (shōrō – ghost) + 風 (kaze – wind). 精霊 as a term for ghosts is interesting in that it has two different pronunciations, each with different connotations. The most common reading of 精霊 is seirei, and means ghosts or spirits in the Western tradition. When proncounced shōrō, as it is here, the word carries Buddhist meanings. So it is appropriate that the shōrōkaze is associated with Obon, the festival of the dead.
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