At least seven taxi drivers in Ishinomaki, north-east Japan, have reported experiencing a ‘phantom fare’ in the wake of the devastating 2011 tsunami and earthquake.
In each instance, the story is similar.
A taxi driver in north-east Japan picks up a passenger in an area devastated by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.
He starts the meter and asks for the destination, to which the customer gives a strange response.
Either then, or sometime later, the driver turns around to address the man or woman – but the passenger has vanished.
This is because, it is claimed, it was a ‘ghost passenger’ who was, in fact, killed in the disaster five years ago.
At least seven taxi drivers in Ishinomaki have reported such an experience of a ‘phantom fare’, according to The Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
The coastal town in Miyagi Prefecture was among the regions most seriously affected by the deadly tsunami, which killed nearly 16,000 people in total.
More than 3,000 Ishinomaki residents lost their lives in the tragedy, including 70 students and nine staff members at Ishinomaki Okawa Elementary School.
Speaking to Yuka Kudo, a student of sociology at Tohoku Gakuin University, one taxi driver told of how he may have seen one of these residents just months after the March 2011 earthquake.
He said he was working in the town when a young woman dressed in a coat climbed into his cab near Ishinomaki Station and told him: “Please go to the Minamihama (district).”
In response, he told her that the area was ‘almost empty’ and asked her if she was sure she wished to go there.
The woman replied in a trembling voice, “Have I died?”.
Chillingly, the driver said he then turned around in his seat – but no one was there.
Another cabbie, in his forties, spoke of a similar experience.
He said a young man climbed into his taxi and asked to go to “Hiyoriyama” (mountain).
The customer would not elaborate on his response, but pointed in the direction he wished to go in, he said.
The driver set off, but when he eventually pulled over, he realised the passenger had disappeared, the newspaper reports.
The haunting accounts – which were among seven similar ones – were collected by Ms Kudo as part of her graduation thesis.
The student asked more than 100 drivers if they had experienced anything unusual in the wake of the earthquake.
The question strangely sparked anger among some of the cabbies, but others were willing to discuss their encounters with ‘ghost passengers’, it is reported.
Ms Kudo said that her research suggests that the drivers believed they were picking up genuine passengers – because they each started their meters.
She added that many of the seven cabbies who agreed to discuss their mysterious experiences noted that the ‘ghosts’ were young in age.
“Young people feel strong chagrin [at their deaths] when they cannot meet the people they love,” she said.
“As they want to convey their bitterness, they may have chosen taxis … as a medium to do so”.
The drivers did not feel fear toward the vanishing passengers – with one even revealing to Ms Kudo that he lost a family member in the terrifying tsunami that swept through the region.
Another reportedly said that he would willingly accept a ghost as a customer again.
The 2011 9-magnitude earthquake was the most powerful quake to ever strike Japan and the fourth most powerful one in the world.
It triggered a tsnuami with waves of up to 133 feet, which travelled six miles inland, destroying thousands of homes and other buildings in its path.
Last March, a Japanese National Police Agency report confirmed 15,893 people were killed in the disaster.