Several taxi drivers from towns in northeast Japan have reportedly had encounters with "ghost passengers" who disappear upon reaching their destination. The episodes have occurred in towns, like Ishinomaki, which were badly affected by the 2011 tsunami.
The news surfaced after a research conducted by sociology student, Yuka Kudo, 22, from the Tohoku Gakuin University who reportedly interviewed over 100 drivers as part of her study. Kudo noted interviewing a taxi driver in his 50s who recalled having a ghost encounter with a woman near the Ishinomaki Station.
The female passenger allegedly asked the driver to be taken to the Minamihama district to which the driver responded: "The area is almost empty. Is it OK?" The woman next said: "Have I died?" Upon turning back to answer the woman, the taxi driver says the car's rear seat was empty.
Several similar incidents have been reported by taxi drivers leading to unpaid fares since the drivers reportedly started their meters in all cases believing the passengers were living people. None of the drivers, however, reported being scared of the ghosts.
According to the interviews, Kudo said most of the ghosts were identified to be young. "Young people feel strongly chagrined [at their deaths] when they cannot meet people they love. As they want to convey their bitterness, they may have chosen taxis, which are like private rooms, as a medium to do so," said Kudo, reported The Asahi Shimbun. "[Through the interviews], I learned that the death of each victim carries importance ... I want to convey that."
The magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan in March 2011 claimed over 16,000 lives, according to Japan's National Police Agency. "The places where people say they see ghosts are largely those areas completely swept away by the tsunami,' said Keizo Hara, a psychiatrist in Ishinomaki, reported The Daily Mail.
"We think phenomena like ghost sightings are perhaps a mental projection of the terror and worries associated with those places. It will take time for the Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) to emerge for many people in temporary housing for whom nothing has changed since the quake."