At the festival of the spirits
And even at the crematory
Tama matsuri/ kyō mo yakiba no/ kemuri kana
玉祭り 今日も焼場の 煙哉
I am writing this post on Halloween, an American festival celebrated with costumes, masks, and candy for the trick or treaters. It has become popular in Japan, but it has no true Japanese equivalent, since its roots are in Christianity. Halloween being a corruption of Allhalloween or All Hallows’ Eve, the day before All Saints Day.
A Japanese counter part could be Okuribi (送り火).
It is the culmination of the Obon festival (matsuri) on August 16. In Kyoto, five giant bonfires are lit on mountains surrounding the city giving off both light and smoke. The fires signify the moment when the spirits of deceased family members, who visit the real world during O-Bon, return to the spirit world—thus the name Okuribi, roughly meaning “send-off fire”.
In some parts of Japan, smaller okuribi fires are lit before the home to send off the ancestors’ spirits. Smoke fills the air. Incense called senko is added to the mix of smoke and fire. Sky lanterns are also sent into the night sky.
Probably, not Matsuo Basho’s best work, but a nod to the crematories who do their work daily sending souls to the spirit world.
Notes on translation
Tama matsuri (玉祭り) Tama (玉) Spirit. Soul. Particularly, a pure, lofty soul. Tama matsuri is a festival held to pray to, give thanks to, and appease the souls of the dead. Matsuru is the verb form meaning to celebrate.