As Japan prepares to mark fifth anniversary of magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami, local people report spectral sightings across Tohoku
Photo: Robert Gilhooly/Bloomberg
Taxi drivers working in towns in north-east Japan that were devastated in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami are reporting picking up “ghost passengers”.
At least seven drivers in the coastal town of Ishinomaki, where nearly 6,000 people died after it was battered by tsunami more than 30 feet high, claimed to have encountered phantom fares.
The men were among more than 100 drivers interviewed by Yuka Kudo, a student of sociology at Tohoku Gakuin University, as part of her graduation thesis, the Asahi newspaper reported.
One of the men told Ms Kudo that a woman climbed into his taxi near Ishinomaki Station just a few months after the disaster. She asked him to go to the Minamihama district, to which the driver said there was nothing left standing there.
The driver recounted that the woman asked, “Have I died?” and, when he turned to look, his taxi was empty.
Another driver, directed to a different part of the city by a man who appeared to be in his 20s, similarly found himself alone in his vehicle when he arrived.
Ms Kudo’s research indicates that the men were convinced they were picking up a genuine fare as they started their meters in each case. Some of the drivers noted their experiences in their log books and all remarked that the ghosts appeared to be young.
“Young people feel strong chagrin [at their deaths] when they cannot meet the people they love,” Ms Kudo said. “As they want to convey their bitterness, they may have chosen taxis … as a medium to do so”.
None of the drivers experienced fear of their ghost passengers, but instead regarded their encounters as events to be cherished.
Official records show that 15,893 people died as a result of the magnitude-9 earthquake, which lasted for 6 minutes and triggered tsunami that in places reached 133 feet high and travelled 6 miles inland. A further 2,572 people are still listed as missing.
Taxi drivers are not the only ones to report seeing ghosts in the rubble of Tohoku’s coastal communities. There have been numerous reports of “spectral figures” in residential districts that have been scoured of all buildings and spirits lining up outside shops that no longer exist.
Exorcists have reported helping people who claim to be seeing headless ghosts, bodies missing arms or legs and others who believe they have assumed the spirits of some of the dead.