Japan's taxi drivers pick up "ghost passengers" in area hit by 2011 tsunami

Japan's taxi drivers pick up "ghost passengers" in area hit by 2011 tsunami
A girl, wrapped in a blanket, stands to look on tsunami damaged town at Ishinomaki city in Miyagi prefecture on March 13, 2011.
PHOTO: AFP

Five years have passed since the devastating 2011 earthquake that hit north-east Japan.

But it seems like there are more than just memories that are still haunting some people.

Taxi drivers working near the affected areas have reportedly picked up "ghost passengers".

Yuka Kudo, 22, a sociology student at Japan's Tohoku Gakuin University discovered this as she interviewed over 100 taxi drivers as part of her graduation thesis, according to the country's Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

At least seven taxi drivers in Ishinomaki have reportedly admitted to picking up these passengers and ended up with "phantom fares".

The Mirror reported that the 100 drivers were asked if they had experienced anything unusual in the wake of the earthquake.

The cabbies said they would pick up these 'customers' and they would disappear halfway through or at the end of their journey.

The Telegraph reported that a taxi driver, in his 50s, told Kudo about a hair-raising incident involving a young woman who had hailed his taxi near a public transportation station a few months after disaster struck.

Dressed in a coat, the passenger requested him to take her to the Minamihama district, The Mirror reported.

However, he told her that the place had been devastated by both the earthquake and tsunami.

The taxi driver claimed that the woman then asked him: "Have I died?"

When he turned in his seat to face her, he found that she was gone.

In another incident, The Daily Mail reported, a taxi driver met with another ghost passenger who appeared to be in his 20s.

The man had asked to be sent to Hiyoriyama, a hilltop area near Ishinomaki.

But as with the previous case, the cabby lost his fare because the man was gone by the time they reached the destination.

According to The Mirror, Kudo said the drivers who were willing to discuss their spooky encounters seemed to have no doubt that they were picking up actual passengers.

This was proven by the fact that all seven drivers had started their cab meters.

Kudo also said that many of the seven cabbies had noted that their passengers were young in age.

One of the drivers even admitted to Kudo that he had lost a family member in the tsunami.

The Mirror reported that another cabbie also said he would be willing to accept a ghost as his customer again.

While there were those who could deal with passengers who would ride without paying for their fares, there were others who reportedly became angry when asked if they had been flagged down by ghosts.

Kudo told the Asahi newspaper: "Young people feel strong chagrin (at their deaths) when they cannot meet people they love.

"As they want to convey their bitterness, they may have chosen taxis ... as a medium to do so."

Taxi drivers are not the only ones who have reported their ghostly sightings, The Telegraph reported. Exorcists have also helped people who claimed to have seen strange figures in empty residential districts and spirits lined up outside shops that have closed for good.

Japan's National Police Agency confirmed that 15,891 people lost their lives as a result of the magnitude-9 earthquake that unleashed a monstrous tsunami. To date, 2,572 people are still reported missing.

ssandrea@sph.com.sg

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