On March 11th, 2011, Japan was hit with the worst earthquake in its history. To make matters worse, a deadly tsunami devastated the country shortly after. Nearly 16,000 people lost their lives in this tragedy and many areas of Japan were badly destroyed.
Ishinomaki was one such place that was heavily affected by the disaster. The tsunami claimed the lives of around 3,000 people in this city alone, including several students and staff from an elementary school, and upwards of 50,000 buildings were destroyed.
A few years after the tsunami, Yuka Kudo, a student at Tohoku Gakuin University, interviewed around 100 Ishinomaki taxi drivers to see if they had noticed any strange phenomena or if they had had any experiences with ghosts in Japan following the tsunami.
Many drivers refused to answer or reacted with anger, but seven came forward to recount their fascinating encounters with ghost passengers to Yuka Kudo.
In all seven cases, the ghost had gotten into the taxi like any other passenger. The taxi drivers started the fare meter, also believing that it was another average passenger. Many even still had their logs of unpaid fares to prove it.
In each account, the ghost passenger told the driver to bring them to a strange place, either a place with very few people or an area devastated by the tsunami. Each time that the driver turned to ask or say something, the phantom passenger mysteriously vanished into thin air.
In one notably chilling account, a woman dressed in a coat got into the taxi and informed the driver that she was heading to the Minamihama District. An area heavily affected by the tsunami, this district was nearly void of human life at the time.
The driver reportedly asked the woman if she was sure that she wanted to go there. The woman asked “Have I died?” in a quivering voice and vanished by the time the driver turned to look at her.
In another instance, a young man entered the taxi and told the driver he was going to Hiyoriyama, a nearby mountain. He simply pointed in the direction he wanted to go without elaborating on the details. After driving for a short while, the driver realized that the passenger had disappeared.
All of the stories seem to have the same general theme and the ghost passengers are described as being young in all of the accounts.
And these aren’t the only sightings of ghosts in Japan since the 2011 tsunami disaster. The ghosts of Japan have been seen roaming around the ruins of former towns and forming lines outside of stores that no longer exist.
Some experts have discussed the relationship between mourning and hallucinations, suggesting that perhaps these ghost passengers were just a product of the mind dealing with loss and devastation.
However, others, including the affected taxi drivers, believe that these ghost passengers truly were spiritual beings, whether trapped while waiting for loved ones or caught in confusion before passing on to the other side. The taxi drivers also see these encounters with the ghosts of Japan as a blessing, rather than something to be feared.
Regardless of whether Ishinomaki has ghostly tsunami victims roaming its streets or if it’s simply a coping mechanism for the massive and tragic loss that took place during the 2011 tsunami in Japan, sharing stories and experiences will continue to help Japan grow and continue the memory of those lost.