Haunted by trauma, tsunami survivors in Japan turn to exorcists 創傷揮之不去 日本海嘯倖存者求助驅魔師

Thu, Apr 04, 2013 - Page 10

The tsunami that engulfed northeastern Japan two years ago has left some survivors believing they are seeing ghosts.

In a society wary of admitting to mental problems, many are turning to exorcists for help.

Tales of spectral figures lined up at shops where now there is only rubble are what psychiatrists say is a reaction to fear after the March 11, 2011, disaster in which nearly 19,000 people were killed.

“The places where people say they see ghosts are largely those areas completely swept away by the tsunami,” said Keizo Hara, a psychiatrist in the city of Ishinomaki, one of the areas worst hit by the waves touched off by an offshore earthquake.

“We think phenomena like ghost sightings are perhaps a mental projection of the terror and worries associated with those places.”

Hara said post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) might only now be emerging in many people, and the country could be facing a wave of stress-related problems.

In some places destroyed by the tsunami, people have reported seeing ghostly apparitions queuing outside supermarkets which are now only rubble. Taxi drivers said they avoided the worst-hit districts for fear of picking up phantom passengers.