Thursday, March 1, 2012

Japan's post-disaster reconstruction efforts hindered – by ghosts

 Numerous reports of ghost sightings have reportedly been made by residents in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture, home to nearly a fifth of all tsunami fatalities.

Reconstruction and repair have been put on hold in some instances due to workers' fears that the spirits of the dead who passed away a year ago will bring them bad luck if they continue, according to AFP.

Highlighting one half-repaired supermarket, local Satoshi Abe, 64, told the agency: "I heard people working to repair the store became sick because of ghosts. People died here everywhere, here and there. The city is full of such stories."

A taxi driver, who did not want to be named, added that he was unwilling to stop in certain parts of the city that were badly damaged in the tsunami for fear of picking up a customer who is a spirit of the dead.
Meanwhile, another local woman described hearing stories of people seeing queues of people rushing towards the hills, a replay of their final moment as they attempted to escape the tsunami, according to AFP.

As the first anniversary of the disaster approaches, Ishinomaki appears, on the surface at least, to be returning to a new level of normality, with the tsunami debris cleared away in most areas and a growing number of businesses reopening.

At the same time, the emotional impact of the massive losses of human life are clearly continuing to take their toll on residents: close to 4,000 Ishinomaki locals were killed in the tsunami out of a total death toll of 19,000 for the northeast region.

However, experts described the city's apparent widespread belief in ghosts as a "natural" side effect of a large-scale tragedy which wiped out vast swathes of the community and a potentially positive part of the healing process.

"Human beings find it very difficult to accept death, whether they are inclined by nature to superstition or are very scientifically minded," said Takeo Funabiki, a cultural anthropologist.

"A sudden or abnormal death, anything other than someone dying in bed of old age,

is particularly difficult for people to comprehend.

"When there are things that many people find difficult to accept, they can find expression in the form of rumours or rituals for the dead, among other things. The point is that it takes the shape of something that you can share with other people in your society."

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