Tuesday, February 28, 2012

One year on, ‘ghosts’ stalk Japan’s tsunami city

A family prays by a grave in Miyagi prefecture'
Our understanding of the world around us and the ways we react to the events that occur in life are deeply effected by our understanding of death, and what we believe happens to us after death.  In a recent article on Japan's recovery following the catastrophic tsunami last year,  cultural anthropologist, Takeo Funabiki offers some insight into the phenomenon of tsunami ghosts.  

Funabiki said it was only “natural” that stories of the supernatural abounded in the wake of such an event.
“Human beings find it very difficult to accept death, whether they are inclined by nature to superstition or are very scientifically minded,” he told AFP.
“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, amongst other things.
“The point is that it takes the shape of something that you can share with other people in your society,” he said.
For some of those who lost loved ones, the traditions that usually accompany death in Japan have served their purpose.
Shinto priests have been called upon to console the souls of the dead and ease their passage into the next world before they purify the places their bodies were found.
At the Buddhist festival of Obon in mid summer, offerings were made at altars as those left behind readied to welcome back the spirits of lost loved ones, who they believed would return to this world to visit for a few days.
But other people have struggled to make sense of their loss.
Koji Ikeda, a therapist and lecturer at the Academy of Counselors Japan, said “survivors have various complex emotions — fear, anxiety, sorrow or desire for the return of deceased people”.
“It is possible that a whole lot of emotions that people cannot fully cope with lead to ‘projections’ of spirits” he said.
“Pent-up emotions need to be expressed in order for people to be able to adapt to the new reality and move forward with their grief.”
While few in the city will talk openly of actually having seen a ghost, many are prepared to accept spirits could stalk the deserted streets.

For the full article, visit  The Borneo Post

For related posts, visit San-Zhr: Ghost TownGhost Month, and Floating Memories

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