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One reconstruction project appears stalled because of fears the undead spirits of those who perished last March will bring bad luck.
"I heard people working to repair the store became sick because of ghosts," Satoshi Abe, 64, said, gesturing to a half-repaired supermarket.
"People died everywhere, here and there. The city is full of such stories," he said.
One taxi driver, who did not want to give his name, told AFP of his unwillingness to stop in parts of the city that were all but wiped out by the enormous waves of last March, because he worries that his customer will be a spirit.
A woman who lives in the city said she had heard stories of queues of people who can be seen rushing towards the hills as they try again and again to escape the waves, an endless replay of their last, fruitless minutes.
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.
However, if the person dies in a sudden or violent manner such as murder or suicide, if the proper rites have not been performed, or if they are influenced by powerful emotions such as a desire for revenge, love, jealousy, hatred or sorrow, the reikon is thought to transform into a yūrei, which can then bridge the gap back to the physical world.
The yūrei then exists on Earth until it can be laid to rest, either by performing the missing rituals, or resolving the emotional conflict that still ties it to the physical plane. If the rituals are not completed or the conflict left unresolved, the yūrei will persist in its haunting.
At least seven taxi drivers in Ishinomaki have reported such an experience of a 'phantom fare', according to The Asahi Shimbun newspaper.
The coastal town in Miyagi Prefecture was among the regions most seriously affected by the deadly tsunami, which killed nearly 16,000 people in total.
More than 3,000 Ishinomaki residents lost their lives in the tragedy, including 70 students and nine staff members at Ishinomaki Okawa Elementary School.
He said he was working in the town when a young woman dressed in a coat climbed into his cab near Ishinomaki Station and told him: “Please go to the Minamihama (district).” In response, he told her that the area was 'almost empty' and asked her if she was sure she wished to go there.
The woman replied in a trembling voice, "Have I died?".
Chillingly, the driver said he then turned around in his seat - but no one was there.
Another cabbie, in his forties, spoke of a similar experience.
He said a young man climbed into his taxi and asked to go to “Hiyoriyama" (mountain).
The customer would not elaborate on his response, but pointed in the direction he wished to go in, he said.
The driver set off, but when he eventually pulled over, he realised the passenger had disappeared, the newspaper reports.