In Japan, summer is the season when people think about the deceased more than any other time of year. Because August 13th to 15th is the Obon Festival when spirits of the dead are believed to return home to spend three happy days with their families. So people light lanterns to purify the environment and guide and welcome the sprits of the dead. And on August 16th, five mountains in Kyoto are lit with giant symbolic bonfires to bid them farewell and say goodbye until the next summer.
The eastern part of Kyoto near Kiyomizu Temple is called Toribeno which used to be the place where dead bodies were exposed to the birds until the 9th century. From then on the deceased came to be buried. Still now there are incredible number of tomb stones there. And about 500 meters west from the burial ground is the Ghost Candy Shop. I was told that it is the oldest remaining shop in Kyoto. This is how the shop got its name.
One summer night, after a usual, uneventful day Sobei, the owner of the shop, locked the front door to go to bed. After a short time he heard someone knocking at the door. He lit a candle and went to the door and said, “Who is it?” Then he heard a woman’s voice saying “Sorry to bother you this late, but could you give me some candy?” So he opened the door to find a young woman standing there. She said again. “I know it’s very late, but I really need some candy.” He felt there was something a little strange about her and thought she might be some kind of sweet-toothed candy addict. But anyway, he wrapped some candy in a bamboo sheath and gave it to her.
The next night, she came again and got some candy. This went on for six days even on a rainy nights when she would be soaking wet.
On the seventh day, Sobei, the owner decided to tail her to see who she was. That night, after giving her the candy he followed her. It was very late at night and it was pitch-dark. But, he was determined to follow her.
She was heading toward the hill and suddenly she disappeared. Sobei just looked around him and realized that he was standing in a graveyard. He was chilled to the bone. He went back to his house and trembled with fear in his futon.
The next morning, he went to a temple and told a monk about everything that had happened in the last seven days. They went to the place where she had disappeared the night before. When the monk saw the place he said, “This is the grave of a young pregnant woman who died seven days ago.” They sympathized with her and prayed for her happiness in the next world.
Then they heard a baby crying under the ground. When they removed the soil to open the coffin there was a baby sucking candy. Then they realized that the poor young pregnant woman had given birth to a baby boy after her death.
But she couldn’t feed her baby. So she came down to the candy shop every night to get something to feed her baby. They were really impressed by her profound affection and the baby was taken care of by the monk.
Since then the candy shop came to be called ‘The Ghost Candy Shop.’ The proper name of the store is Minato-ya Yurei Kosodate-ame Honpo.
Access and Info
Shop name: Minato-ya Yurei Kosodate-ame Honpo (みなとや幽霊子育て飴本舗)
Product name: Yurei Kosodate Ame
Location: North side of Matsubara Street, east of Kawabata Street.
Opening Hours: 10:00 – 4:00
Address: Kyoto-shi, Higashiyama-ku, Matsubara-dori, Yamato-oji Higashi-iru, 2-chome, Rokurocho (京都市東山区松原通大和大路東入る二丁目轆轤町)