Do the spirits of those who died tragically in the 2013 tsunami in Japan, still visit the residents of Ishinomaki?
On March 11, 2011, a powerful 9.0 magnitude earthquake sends a 120-foot-high tsunami crashing into the coast of northeast Japan. It is the most powerful earthquake and the most-deadly tsunami ever recorded in the country. Once the sea retreats, nearly 20,000 people have been crushed, burned to death, or drowned. It is Japan’s greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945.
The city of Ishinomaki is one of the hardest hit areas of the tsunami. Six thousand lives are lost in that city alone. Teruo Konno is working in his office when the tsunami wave comes crashing through his building, throwing him into the freezing waters. He struggles to stay afloat for more than two hours, suffering severe hypothermia, before miraculously being rescued by a friend.
In the weeks and months following the tsunami, rumors of “ghosts of the dead” start to circulate and people speak of unusual events; mysterious knocks on doors from soaking wet figures who don’t speak, spirits wandering through the streets unsure if they are dead or alive, and curious eyes peering out from puddles in the road. Journalist Shuji Okuno recounts haunting stories of taxi drivers who believe they were picking up human passengers, only to have them vanish from the backseat, mid-ride. Kiyoshi Kanebishi, a professor at a local university, has collected accounts from 71 survivors, many with compelling ghost stories and hauntings of their own.
Buddhist priest and spiritual medium, Kansho Aizawa, survives the earthquake but barely escapes the tsunami. Weeks later, she sees the spirits of a group of deceased boys, aimlessly trying to find their way home. Today, she works with survivors to help them cope with the tragedy and connect them with the departed.
Many suffered unimaginable loss, such as Kazuya Sasaki, who loses his wife and two daughters in the tsunami. He discovers his older daughter hanging from a tree; his infant daughter is found days later, in a pile of rubble. It takes weeks before he is able to give them a proper burial.
Just outside the tsunami zone, Buddhist monk, Reverend Taio Kaneta, who lives 30 miles from the coast, performs funeral services for over two hundred people within one month. He says he feels a calling to help the victims. He performs spiritual cleansings during this time, but none are more memorable than “Ami”, a 25-year-old nurse from Sendai, whose body is assailed by various spirits. Over several weeks, Reverend Kaneta expels more than two dozen spirits from her body.