At 2.46 pm local time on March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck close to Japan’s northeast coast. It was the most powerful earthquake in the country’s recorded history, and it instantly triggered a tsunami of equal proportions.
Waves up to 40 metres high surged as far as six miles inland, leaving a trail of death and devastation behind. Entire towns and communities were reduced to rubble. By the time it was over, approximately 18,500 people had either died or been reported missing.
Needless to say, the physical wreckage caused by the tsunami was only surpassed by the emotional trauma – a tragic factor that may help explain a strange phenomenon that emerged in the aftermath…
Countless encounters with ghosts.
The Ghosts of Japan’s Tsunami
In the days and weeks after the disaster, dozens of survivors reported sightings and interactions with ghosts of tsunami victims. For example:
- Neighbours who had drowned would appear at peoples’ houses
- Taxi drivers opened the door to passengers, who then disappeared
- Mothers watched their deceased child’s favourite toys light up on their own accord
- Faces were seen in puddles
- Spooky figures were seen strolling down beaches.
- A woman in a scarlet dress was observed standing alone in the middle of nowhere.
- And so on and so forth.
People didn’t just claim to see ghosts, either. Some say they were possessed by them.
For example, one man, described in numerous articles on this topic, drove to a beach soon after the tsunami to see the damage.
Things were normal, to begin with. But it didn’t last. After dinner that evening, he suddenly started rolling in the mud outside his house, making animal noises. He talked in a “strange guttural way, threatening violence” and referenced the dead.
However, upon awakening the following morning, he had no recollection of what had happened. This repeated itself for three days until his family took him to a priest who managed to perform an exorcism.
What Was Behind the Phenomenon?
There are different explanations for these supernatural encounters. Of course, some believe there’s nothing to explain away. The ghosts were real. And, even if there was no actual apparition present, it was real to them.
Interestingly, although Japan is considered one of the most secular countries in the world, ghosts feature prominently in certain aspects of its culture and mythology. In traditional Japanese beliefs, yūrei are the ghosts of people who died in a sudden or violent manner, which have been caught between the physical and spiritual realms as a result.
Perhaps this belief contributed to the number of ghost sightings.
More secular theories explain the proliferation of ghost encounters after the tsunami as a manifestation of collective grief – a form of PTSD among survivors struggling to come to terms with what had happened.