CROSSROADS TO SOMEWHERE: Our Ghost Now Has a Name: ‘O-bah-keh-san’

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By W.T. WIMPY HIROTO

It’s apparent I may never solve the mystery of the “Tap Tap Tap” intruder turned visitor. But just in case it feels offended because recent references have been lighthearted and in jest, I’ve decided a name is the first order of business to make amends. I am also convinced it reads these weekly accounts of our joint adventure and though critical, is pleased for the most part.

Tabbing it a ghost story just doesn’t do it; much too impersonal. Halloween is the only time ghosts are remembered and they are seldom featured in movies. You may remember Casper the Friendly Ghost from childhood, a cartoon character, and “Ghostbusters,” a surprise motion picture hit that made Bill Murray a star.

So in an effort to humanize my invisible company and star CR2S subject, I have turned to ethnic roots and decided all further references and depictions will be identified as “*O,” short form of “Oh-bah-keh,” Japanese for ghost(ly.) In a warmer, more familiar form it would be “Oh-bah-keh-san.” [*I’m told the “O” in our native tongue is a form of reverence and respect i.e., O-baa-chan, O-tou-san. I’m not a linguist but I think it probably also applies to o-mi-ya-geh (present), o-rei, O-bon (festival) and maybe o-hana (flower, also family in Hawaiian.) Dang. If nothing else, look at the knowledge you get here if you hang around long enough! For the nonce, let’s not concern ourselves with the number of O’s, gender or sexual preference.]

Now that we’ve established an identity, where do we go?

First off the continuing narrative has prompted a whole slew of people to offer suggestions and explanations, as well as most who merely follow the saga with an interest usually reserved for Korean soap operas, weekly card games or Macy’s sales. Again, a humble thanks to one and all.

A belief in “o-ha-rai,”  suggested by several Japanese readers, is the conviction that victims of unexpected tragedy and death remain in a netherworld  because there was no time for a proper burial, thus have no place to go; as in the case of an earthquake or tsunami.

And then there is “yu-rei,” comparable to “o-ha-rai,” in that it literally means spirit of the deceased. Japan Internet recently described the plight of survivors of the Ishinomaki, Miyagi-ken disaster: They were haunted by the knowledge the victims had never been given a proper burial ceremony (because their bodies were never recovered).

I’ve also been told an “o-kyo” reading by a priest would satisfy the “yu-rei” in my humble situation, and would thereafter be left in peace. Others advised purification and absolution in different formats. And the most popular suggestion: Why don’t you move?

A couple of important points to make: CR2S doesn’t want to move, nor do we want O to be removed, eliminated, excised. Strange as it may seem, I’ve gotten kinda used to its early morning presence and often find myself in anticipation when the now familiar knock-knock-knock is not forthcoming. Yeah, I admit one is a lonely number, so the presence of O serves as a welcome interlude at a cost of a few Z’s. For the time being, a fair exchange. [In this age of transparency, I confess to recently adding naptime to my daily routine; something I never did heretofore.]

Addendum: It has been brought to my attention there are many who are not long-time readers/fans; Sansei and others who have recently been attracted to this corner. Thus reminded, the oft-used acronym CR2S needs periodic explanation: It is simply the short form of Crossroads to Somewhere. I occasionally choose to use it as a fallback, remembering my favorite creative writing professor’s advice: Too many personal references (I/my/me/mine) can sometimes be disconcerting to readers and turn them off. Thus CR2S became a fifth personal pronoun. You may recall Hall of Fame outfielder (Oakland/New York Yankee) Ricky Henderson. He made a career referring to himself in the third person.

Last week’s off-handed remark about a ghostly acronym that spelled a foul word also resulted in more declaring “I can’t figure it out” than the few who caught on. To review, I wrote: “My now concern is to give (s)he/it/them a name … (but) I discovered the acronym spells out a foul word …” Well, folks, if you  spell out what is in bold face and underlined, you have a dictionary word that stinks, doesn’t belong in a CR2S column nor worthy of Word of Week rating. Of course it also means heroin, a trifle, nonsense, as well as a bad person. So there you go.

TTYL.

W.T. Wimpy Hiroto can be reached at [email protected] Opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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