The Japanese tsunami – what is it with ghost stories?

The newspapers report this week that the Japanese city of Ishinomaki, which took the brunt of the tsunami in March last year is awash with ghost stories. This one city accounted for a fifth of all the tsunami deaths. One supermarket stands half rebuilt because workers on the project were getting sick and blaming it on ghosts. One taxi driver won’t pick up fares in certain parts of the city for fear the passenger might be a ghost. Anthropologist Takeo Funabiki says people find it hard to accept death, so ghost stories abound.

This makes me stop and ask: why do ghost sties persist in literature, and why do some people believe in ghosts. Famous writer C.S. Lewis (The Narnia Tales) was a Christian lay theologian who said he didn’t believe in ghosts, even though he’d seen one. He was in bed one night (reading, as best I can recall,) when a recently deceased friend appeared at the end of his bed. The ghost said, “It’s not so hard as you think, you know,” apparently referring to death, and then disappeared. (He tells the story in the book A Grief Observed, which is about the death of his wife.) The last ghost book I read was “A Manhattan Ghost Story” by T.M. Wright, about a photographer who turns up to his friends apartment to find his friend gone, and an attractive young woman living there. She turns out to be … you guessed it. And who can forget Haley Joel Osment’s famous line: “I see dead people… Walking around like regular people. They don’t know they’re dead.”

The Japan Today site below has a debate between people who believe in Ghosts and those who don’t with many of the pro camp claiming to have seen ghosts or experienced them. Me? I’m a sceptic. My attitude is “show me the evidence.” But anyone reading this: do any of you believe in ghosts? How do you account for the persistence of ghost stories across time and across so many cultures? Please: fell free to post a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

One thought on “The Japanese tsunami – what is it with ghost stories?”

  1. Hi Richard. I had no idea that this was going on in Japan now. I think the anthropologist’s explanation makes perfect sense. Thank you for recommending our blog. Have a great day.

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