After the tsunami... it's a wave of ghosts

Ms Aizawa (right), who says she has seen numerous ghosts, conducts a spiritual cleansing ritual for a woman in Higashimatsushima, in Miyagi prefecture.

JAPAN - The tsunami that engulfed north-eastern Japan two years ago, has left some survivors believing they are seeing ghosts.

In a society wary of admitting to mental problems, many are turning to exorcists for help. Tales of spectral figures lined up at shops where now there is only rubble are what psychiatrists said was a reaction to fear after the March 11, 2011, calamity.

Japan on Monday honoured the victims of its worst disaster since World War II. The earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis killed almost 19,000 people and stranded 315,000, including refugees who fled radiation from the damaged Fukushima atomic plant.

"The places where people say they see ghosts are largely those areas completely swept away by the tsunami," said Mr Keizo Hara, a psychiatrist in the city of Ishinomaki, one of the areas worst-hit by the huge waves touched off by an offshore earthquake.

"We think phenomena like ghost sightings are perhaps a mental projection of the terror and worries associated with those places."

Mr Hara told Reuters that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might only now be emerging in many people, and the country could be facing a wave of stress-related problems.

"It will take time for PTSD to emerge for many people in temporary housing for whom nothing has changed since the quake," he said.

Mr Shinichi Yamada escaped the waves that destroyed his home and later salvaged two Buddhist statues from the wreckage.

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