December 22, 2011

My Ghosts of Okinawa

Thunk, thunk, thunk. Swish, swish. . .

and a little later. . .

Knock, knock, knock. . . I think something just touched me. . .

Ask anyone who has lived on Okinawa any more than 5 minutes about the ghosts here. Everyone has a ghost story to share. It's either a personal encounter, or a story that's been passed from person to person. Recently, I shared my encounter(s) with a friend, no longer caring if she thought me to be insane, only to discover that she had had ghostly experiences too. The Japanese, and the Okinawans in particular are a very superstitious people. Since ghosts, and anything to do with the supernatural is right up my ally, I looked around and did a little research on the ghosts of Okinawa. I came to find out that this little island is fondly known as "spook central".

I certainly do not doubt the prevalence of ghosts here. One of the bloodiest battles of WWII was fought here. Many soldiers, both American and Japanese, and Okinawan civilians died during that battle. TheOkinawans worship their ancestors, not a "God" in the sense of Christianity, Judiasm, or Islam. Tombs located randomly all over. Small, single person tombs, and larger tombs to accommodate many family members. The prevalence of these tombs is somewhat spooky, and unnerving, yet you get used to it eventually. Homes, restaurants, hotels, and more are not uncommonly abandoned by the Okinawan people due to a haunting, or other supernatural experience occuring there. So no, ghosts in my home do not surprise me.

I don't know anything about the ground that our townhouse is built on but I am convinced that there are spirits that visit me. Shortly after we moved in, my husband was sent out for a training mission for several weeks. The first few weeks were quiet and uneventful. I became accustomed to the sounds of our home, our neighbors. The neighborhood dogs barking in the evening, and the sound of the airconditioning kicking on were all sounds that I eventually got used to hearing.

One night I had gone to bed early and quite suddenly my bed started to vibrate, and then shake. Could have been an earthquake, yes, but not night after night after night. Shortly after my bed becand shaking I started hearing foot steps coming up my stairs. Not necessarily an uncommon thing, true. However, our house is built like a bomb shelter. Everything is concrete. The stairs are concrete and covered with carpet, the walls are concrete and covered in paint, everything. The only thing that is drywalled, are the interior walls. So the sound of footsteps coming up our concrete stairs, down the hallway, and approaching my bedroom were not something I should have been hearing. Especially while my kids are in bed asleep, and my husband was away.

Along with the footsteps, I could hear knocking on the exterior walls. The concrete exterior walls. There was also knocking on walls that weren't shared with nextdoor neighbors, or other rooms in my house. Including the wall between my shower and my husband's closet, and my closes and the empty stairwell. You could explain it away with pipes, and waterlines, etc. But Our homes are wired and piped through the floor. Our walls are concrete.

At night while I'm laying in bed, and it's all quiet, I can hear what sounds like a radio tuned between two stations. I hear this almost nightly. I hear it still. Sometimes it's loud enough to sound like I am standing in the middle of a crowded room. Sometimes it sounds like there are children playing in the hallway. No matter what it is, it's always there.

And finally the clincher. I was laying in bed  reading a book and I hear the footsteps come up my stairs. I hear them come down the hall. I heard them come into my room. I could hear the swishing sound that clothing makes when you're walking. Then it stopped and I felt something sit down on my bed, and put it's hands on my legs. It didn't scare me a bit. I just put my book aside and fell asleep.

I contacted the medium who did a reading for my family shortly after my brother died and asked him what he thought of my situation. I told him that I didn't mind if the spirit, or spirits stayed just so long as they weren't evil, and didn't scare me or my kids. He gave me some advice. So I promptly said aloud one evening, that only good spirits were welcome here, anything else had to go. And in keeping with the Okinawan customs, I went out and bought myself a pair of Shisa. The Shisa are half dog, half lion and are said to be protectors. They are almost always seen in pairs. The Shisa with his mouth open keeps evil spirits away, and the Shisa with her mouth closed keeps good spirits in.

I don't mind sharing my home or my city with spirits and ghosts. I am ok with the fact that there are some who reside in my house. The fact is that they were there first. As long as I can live comfortably in my home I'm ok.

I guess I really did get a true welcoming to Okinawa.

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