Animal Crossing: New Horizons Adds Eggplant Cows And Cucumber Horses For Dead Spirits

With July nearly over, one of Japan’s biggest holidays gets underway next month: Obon. Not only will it be celebrated all across the country, but also in Animal Crossing: New Horizons with traditional cucumber horses and eggplant cows.

Held typically in August for three days (though, for some in Tokyo, it’s held a month earlier), the Buddhist festival marks the return of one’s ancestors. People in Japan visit cemeteries and clean their family’s gravestones, don light summer kimono called yukata or jinbei, watch fireworks, and attend festivals where they eat, drink, and dance.

Summer festivals are truly one of the best times to be in Japan. But this year, with 37 percent of the population under a state of emergency through August 31 due to spiking covid-19 cases, this Obon season will hardly be typical. People will still celebrate, though mass gatherings seem to be out, which makes enjoying summer in Animal Crossing more relevant than ever.

At home, people will still make horses and cows out of cucumbers, eggplants, and toothpicks. These Obon mainstays are also coming to Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and the sight of them might seem surprising at first. I remember the first time I saw a cucumber horse at the home of my wife’s grandmother. “That’s so my husband can visit,” she told me.

The horse cucumber and eggplant cattle are called shoryouma (精霊馬). The “legs” of each can be made from toothpicks, shortened chopsticks, or any other wooden sticks. The idea is that the ancestor will use the horse to get home asap, and then return on the slower cattle, sticking around in this world just a wee bit longer, soaking up the scenery on the way back.