In 2011 the north-east region of Japan
was hit with a 30 foot tsunami that was triggered by a magnitude 9 earthquake. Thousands lost their lives as a result of this devastating natural disaster. Now, five years later, strange reports are coming out of the town of Ishinomaki, where at least seven cab drivers have reported picking up "phantom passengers".
Tohoku Gakuin University student , Yuka Kudo, has been interviewing the cab drivers as part of her research for her thesis. The 22 year-old sociology student interviewed over 100 drivers as part of her research. She asked all of the drivers if they had had any unusual experiences after the disaster. Seven of them did.
The cab drivers all have similar reports. The phantom passengers appear and ask to be taken to unusual destinations. At some point during the trip the passenger disappears.
As teenagers, many of us have surely heard similar stories. Some involve hitchhikers, some a damsel in distress picked up by the side of the road. The common thread? They all disappear during the ride, usually at their "destination." The difference with the Japanese cab drivers is that there is actually some compelling circumstantial evidence that they are telling the truth. When the passengers climbed into the cabs, the drivers all started their meters. This data gets recorded and sent to the cab companies. When the cabs arrived at the requested destinations with no one in the cab, the drivers were left to pay the fares out of their own pockets. There is also anecdotal evidence: there are drivers who made note of their odd passengers in their logs and one who noted an unpaid phantom fare in his driver's report. Unlike some of the more traditional urban legends, the drivers in Japan report being unafraid of their passengers. One driver quoted in the report said: “It is not strange to see a ghost (here). If I encounter a ghost again, I will accept it as my passenger.”
Yuka Kudo has some theories around the occurrence. She told theThe Asahi Shimbun AJW:
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.
Kudo , who comes from an area of Japan that was not as hard hit by the disaster, told the paper that prior to this experience she had only seen the victims of as “thousands of people” who had died in the disaster." Now, she says “[Through the interviews] I learned that the death of each victim carries importance,” she said. “I want to convey that [to other people].”
Whether one believes in ghosts or not, remembering that every victim of these large scale disaster is an individual with a life and a story is something that needs to be remembered.