In some places destroyed by the tsunami, people have reported seeing ghostly apparitions queueing outside supermarkets which are now only rubble.

Taxi drivers said they avoided the worst-hit districts for fear of picking up phantom passengers.'

"At first, people came here wanting to find the bodies of their family members. Then they wanted to find out exactly how that person died, and if their spirit was at peace," Ms Aizawa said. As time passed, people's requests changed.

"They've started wanting to transmit their own messages to the dead," Ms Aizawa said. Mr Yamada said life had improved since he put the two Buddhist statues in a shrine.

He still believes the statues are haunted, but now thinks their spirits are at peace.

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