On March 11, 2011, a massive tsunami roared over the coast of Japan, destroying entire towns and claiming over 18,000 lives. While the horrific event is a distant memory for most, the survivors’ pain and grief is still very real, and so are their tales of the paranormal. In “Ghosts of the Tsunami,” recently published in London Review of Books, author Richard Lloyd Parry shares a few of the chilling tales to emerge from Japan’s tsunami-devastated regions.
The Vanishing Passenger
Some of the stories in Parry’s article mirror ghost tales in the West; for example, a melancholy pedestrian who hails a ride but disappears before reaching his or her destination. According to Japanese rumors, that’s exactly what happened to a cab driver in the city of Sendai. The sad-looking passenger, a man, reportedly vanished halfway through the drive, but the cab driver kept on until he’d reached the man’s address. The driver found the leveled foundations of a destroyed home, and though his cab was now empty, he opened the rear door to let the ghostly passenger depart.
Calls for Help
In another eerie tale, firefighters in Tagajo repeatedly received distress calls from homes on a particular street. The only problem is that there were no homes on the street – they’d all been destroyed by the tsunami. Rather than ignore the calls, the firefighters went out to the ruins and prayed for the victims. After that, the mysterious calls stopped.
Then there’s the tale of Takeshi Ono, a man who believes the spirits of angry tsunami victims took over his body after he behaved disrespectfully.
Ten days after the tsunami, Ono drove to the coast to see the devastation with his own eyes. He took his wife and mother with him, and after a day of sightseeing, the trio returned home. That’s when things got weird.
“In front of the house was an unsown field,” Ono’s wife and mother told Parry. “And Ono had run out into it and rolled over and over in the mud, as if he was being tumbled by a wave, shouting: ‘There, over there! They’re all over there – look.’ Then he had stood up and walked out into the field, calling, ‘I’m coming to you. I’m coming over to that side.’”
Over the next three nights, Ono shouted death threats and licked the floor like an animal. He eventually saw a priest who said a chant over his body and drew the spirits out. The priest claimed the spirits were angry because Ono had disrespected them by claiming to be a rescue worker to access the disaster zone. Like a tourist, Ono had also walked along the beach, eating ice cream and gawking at the sights. As he drove home that night, pink jelly streamed from Ono’s nose. Could it be evidence of the spirits’ departure?
A Logical Explanation?
The London Review of Books isn’t the only news source to cover Japan’s tsunami ghosts. In 2013, Reuters published “Haunted by Trauma, Tsunami Survivors in Japan Turn to Exorcists.” The article describes headless spirits, ghostly figures at destroyed shops, phantom passengers, possessed survivors, and more. However, Reuters also offers a non-paranormal explanation: post-traumatic stress order.
“We think phenomena like ghost sightings are perhaps a mental projection of the terror and worries associated with those places,” said psychiatrist Keizo Hara.
Other articles about the tsunami haunting include “Japan’s Post-Disaster Reconstruction Efforts Hindered by Ghosts” (Telegraph) and “One Year on, ‘Ghosts’ Stalk Japan’s Tsunami City” (Mother Nature Network).
What do you think is going on in Japan? Are victims of the 2011 tsunami really haunting their former homes or are the ghost sightings merely a sign of post-traumatic stress disorder?