Why do the gaki ghosts merit a meal on O-Bon, the Japanese All-Soul’s day? Because ghosts can be the cause of misfortune, or even insanity. The separate altar for the ghosts is called the “gaki-dana,” and it serves the purpose of placating ghosts who may be hanging around waiting to do mischief. Buddhist monks will often set out a meal of rice for them before they take their own meals.
Ghosts are appeased so that they will stay away from the family, whereas it is hoped that the ancestors will take part in the family affairs as givers of good advice and good luck.
Especially in the case of the recently dead, people will communicate with their spirits, often relating their day’s events. This seems so much nicer than the way we tend to forget the dead.