A sociology student in Japan interviewed taxi drivers for a thesis and found that a number of them reported picking up ghosts after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Where were they going? Are ghosts good tippers?
Have I died?
That’s not the kind of comment taxi drivers expect to hear from a fare but that’s just one of the eerie comments drivers working in Ishinomaki related to Tohoku Gakuin University sociology student Yuka Kudo. About 6,000 Ishinomaki residents died as a result of the 2011 disaster, making it one of the hardest hit areas and the reason why Yuka chose it for her study.
Did you have any unusual experiences after the disaster?
That was the question Yuka asked over 100 drivers during her year of research. She reported responses from indifference to anger. But seven drivers willingly shared their chilling experiences with ghosts.
One driver said he picked up a young man in his 20s and asked where he wanted to go. The man kept pointing ahead and repeating “Hiyoriyama” which means mountain. When they got there, the young man had disappeared from the back seat. Another picked up a young woman who told him she wanted to go to an area that was deserted. When the driver pointed this out to her, she asked, “Have I died?” When he looked over his shoulder, the girl was gone.
Kudo heard similar stories from the other drivers, who considered them to be spiritual experiences. In each case, they verified their stories by showing her records that they had started their meters, which meant they were responsible for collecting a fare … a fare they instead had to pay out of the pockets when the riders vanished.
What does soon-to-be sociologist Yuka Kudo make of these accounts? She seems to believe that they were definitely ghosts of young adults who perished in the disaster.
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.
So Yuka thinks these were ghosts were hoping their taxi ride would cross over a different bridge. Could it be something besides ghosts? Here’s another scenario from Ishinomaki psychiatrist Keizo Hara.
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.
Did these cab drivers pick up real ghosts or were they hallucinating from PTSD? Would an Uber driver make a ghost pay surge prices?