Cover image for Ghosts of the tsunami : death and life in Japan's disaster zone
Title:
Ghosts of the tsunami : death and life in Japan's disaster zone
Edition:
First American Edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux/MCD, [2017]

©2017
ISBN:
9780374253974
Physical Description:
320 pages, maps ; 22 cm
Language:
English
Contents:
The school beneath the wave -- Maps -- Having gone, I will come -- Where are the children? -- Jigoku -- Area of search -- Abundant nature -- The mud -- The old and the young -- Explanations -- Ghosts -- What it's all about? -- What happened at Okawa -- Last hour of the old world -- Inside the tsunami -- The river of three crossings -- The invisible monster -- In the web -- What use is the truth? -- The tsunami is not water -- Predestination -- The rough, steep path -- There may be gaps in memory -- Gone altogether beyond -- Consolation of the spirits -- Save don't fall to sea -- Acknowledgements -- Notes -- Index.
Abstract:
March 11, 2011. A powerful earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of northeast Japan; more than eighteen thousand people were crushed, burned to death, or drowned. Parry lived through the earthquake in Tokyo, and over six years of reporting he found himself drawn back again and again to a village that had suffered the greatest loss of all: Okawa Elementary School was decimated. Here he tells the story of how a nation faced a catastrophe, and the struggle to find consolation in the ruins.
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Summary

Summary

Named one of the best books of 2017 by The Guardian , NPR, GQ , The Economist , Bookforum , Amazon, and Lit Hub

The definitive account of what happened, why, and above all how it felt, when catastrophe hit Japan--by the Japan correspondent of The Times (London) and author of People Who Eat Darkness

On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of northeast Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than eighteen thousand people had been crushed, burned to death, or drowned.

It was Japan's greatest single loss of life since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki. It set off a national crisis and the meltdown of a nuclear power plant. And even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways.

Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and hauntings, and met a priest who exorcised the spirits of the dead. And he found himself drawn back again and again to a village that had suffered the greatest loss of all, a community tormented by unbearable mysteries of its own.

What really happened to the local children as they waited in the schoolyard in the moments before the tsunami? Why did their teachers not evacuate them to safety? And why was the unbearable truth being so stubbornly covered up?

Ghosts of the Tsunami is a soon-to-be classic intimate account of an epic tragedy, told through the accounts of those who lived through it. It tells the story of how a nation faced a catastrophe, and the struggle to find consolation in the ruins.


Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

British journalist Lloyd Parry (People Who Eat Darkness) sheds more light on the March 2011 earthquake and subsequent tsunami off Japan's northeastern coast, focusing on fatalities in the small coastal community of Okawa. Lloyd Parry notes that the disaster caused "the greatest single loss of life" in the country since the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki and triggered a meltdown of three plutonium reactors in the Fukushima Dai-ichi power station, "the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl." He calls attention to Okawa Primary School where scores of students and teachers perished and describes how Okawa's residents coped in the aftermath. He introduces readers to some of the parents of the hundreds of youngsters who died and traces the villagers' determined search efforts: "Almost as carefully as the bodies, they retrieved and set aside the distinctive square rucksacks, carefully labelled with name and class, which all Japanese primary schoolchildren carry." Later chapters deal with political fallout and resultant lawsuits, as numerous questions are raised about evacuation procedures, which parties were responsible for the deaths, and the proper ways for families to grieve their losses. Six years after the tsunami, the magnitude of the catastrophe remains difficult to fully grasp, but Lloyd Parry makes some sense of a small part of it. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Kirkus Review

Pensive travels in the wake of one of the world's most devastating recent disasters, the Tohoku earthquake of 2011.As Parry (People Who Eat Darkness, 2012, etc.), Tokyo bureau chief of the Times of London, writes, Japan is readier than any other nation for disaster, especially earthquake. Tokyo buildings are meant to stand up to shaking, even if they're highly flammable, and Japanese citizens have been drilled and know what to do. So, too, the author: "I had lived in Japan for sixteen years," he writes, "and I knew, or believed that I knew, a good deal about earthquakes." Yet, when the seafloor started shaking off the northeastern coast of Honshu on March 11, 2011, only a few experts could foresee what would soon unfold: the destruction of the nuclear reactor at Fukushima, the landfall of a wall of water 120 feet high, and a wave of death as people struggled to find safety on higher ground. An enterprising journalist, Parry visited the devastation in the immediate aftermath, and he recounts his experiences among grieving and dazed residents, many of those survivors having lost children as schools were swallowed up in seawater. The author's narrative is appropriately haunted and haunting. One memorable moment comes when he describes someone brought back from the brink of madness by a perhaps unlikely method: namely, being sprinkled with holy water and thus freed from the hold of "the dead who cannot accept yet that they are dead." Parry's set pieces come to have a certain predictability: expert-victim-expert-survivor. Yet they retain their urgency, for, as he writes, it won't be long before another earthquake of similar or even greater intensity strikes Tokyo proper, with its millions of inhabitants; in that event, "the Nankai earthquake, which might strike at any time, could kill more people than four atomic bombs." A sobering and compelling narrative of calamity. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake hit Japan: the largest in Japanese history, powerful enough to knock the Earth 10 inches off its axis. Though the Japanese were well prepared for both earthquakes and tsunamis, most did not understand the magnitude of what was to come soon after the quake: a 120-foot-high tsunami, which killed more than 18,000 people. Parry (People Who Eat Darkness, 2012), Asia editor of the Times of London, travels to the rural regions of Japan that were hardest hit, reconstructing the events from the day of the tsunami into the years of recovery that followed. Central to this book is the story of the Okawa Primary School, where an unusual oversight in the school's disaster plan led to the deaths of nearly all the students. Parry follows the parents of the children who died as well as the few who survived as they struggle to uncover the mistakes that led to their children's deaths. The stories that Parry gives voice to are not only deeply personal but they are accompanied with essential historical and cultural context that enable the reader to understand the roles of death, grief, and responsibility in Japanese culture and why some survivors may always remain haunted.--Winterroth, Amanda Copyright 2017 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

GHOSTS OF THE TSUNAMI: Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone, by Richard Lloyd Parry. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) A British journalist, long resident in Tokyo, probes the emotional and spiritual effects of the catastrophe that killed thousands of men, women and children in 2011. THE DOOMSDAY MACHINE: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, by Daniel Ellsberg. (Bloomsbury, $30.) When the Cold War ended in 1991, nuclear weapons vanished from the minds of most Americans. But Ellsberg, the former Defense Department analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers, sounds an impassioned alarm, warning that the dangers of nuclear conflict remain. MEGAFIRE: The Race to Extinguish a Deadly Epidemic of Flame, by Michael Kodas. (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $28.) An account of the misguided history and dire results of America's wildfire management policy that also captures the Sisyphean struggles of the men and women who battle blazes for a living. PALE RIDER: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World, by Laura Spinney. (PublicAffairs, $28.) The Spanish flu tends to be overshadowed by World War I in our cultural memory, but Spinney, a novelist and science writer, draws on medical mysteries and haunting vignettes to give the pandemic its due. THE GREAT QUAKE: How the Biggest Earthquake in North America Changed Our Understanding of the Planet, by Henry Fountain. (Crown, $28.) In 1964, Alaska experienced an earthquake so powerful that, in one town, the resulting tidal wave swept away a third of the residents. Fountain avidly explains both the science and the human toll. WINTER OF ICE AND IRON, by Rachel Neumeier. (Saga, $29.99.) The plot of Neumeier's epic fantasy of magic and political intrigue feels familiar, but her writing has a spare, haunting quality that makes up for it. The characters hook; this is more satisfying comfort food than most. THE ENDS OF THE WORLD: Volcanic Apocalypses, Lethal Oceans, and Our Quest to Understand Earth's Past Mass Extinctions, by Peter Brannen. (Ecco, $27.99.) Earth has undergone five major mass extinctions and Brannen tells us about all the destruction in great detail. DISCOVERING THE MAMMOTH: A Tale of Giants, Unicorns, Ivory, and the Birth of a New Science, by John J. McKay. (Pegasus Books, $27.95.) McKay examines our long fascination with the mysterious, extinct pachyderms that once roamed the earth. INHERITORS OF THE EARTH: How Nature Is Thriving in an Age of Extinction, by Chris D. Thomas. (PublicAffairs, $28.) Perhaps our "ecological despair," as Thomas puts it, is overblown; he argues we are seeing a sixth evolution rather than a sixth extinction. The full reviews of these and other recent books are on the web: nytimes.com/books


Library Journal Review

In March 2011, Japan was struck by multiple disasters: an earthquake, a tsunami, and a nuclear catastrophe. Parry (People Who Eat Darkness) specifically focuses on the effects of the tsunami on the severely hit community of Okawa. At the town's primary school, 74 children lost their lives, the most deaths out of all the primary schools in the country. This book follows families from the day the tsunami struck to the present; documenting the momentous lawsuit residents filed against the educational district in order to obtain the truth of what happened at the school. Through numerous interviews with the families and an intimate knowledge of Japanese society, Parry weaves a heart-wrenchingly bittersweet but resilient story. By focusing on one community, he deftly displays the process of grief and bureaucratic sidestepping in addition to the strength that individuals and families showed after the tragedy. VERDICT While other books have focused on the science behind earthquakes and tsunamis, Parry brings a human element to the disaster, perfectly highlighting how narrative nonfiction can shed light on an otherwise unfathomable event for any type of reader.-Laura Hiatt, Fort Collins, CO © Copyright 2017. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Table of Contents

Mapsp. xi
Prologue: Solid Vaporp. 3
Part I The School Beneath The Wave
Having Gone, I Will Comep. 17
Where Are The Children?p. 29
Jigokup. 38
Part II Area of Search
Abundant Naturep. 53
The Mudp. 65
The Old and The Youngp. 76
Explanationsp. 85
Ghostsp. 98
What It's All Aboutp. 115
Part III What Happened at Okawa
The Last Hour of The Old Worldp. 127
Inside The Tsunamip. 144
The River of Three Crossingsp. 156
Part IV The Invisible Monster
In the Webp. 165
What Use Is The Truth?p. 177
The Tsunami Is Not Waterp. 189
Predestinationp. 203
The Rough, Steep Pathp. 214
There May Be Gaps in Memoryp. 223
Part V Gone Altogether Beyond
Consolation of the Spiritsp. 237
Save Don't Fall to Seap. 250
Notesp. 271
Acknowledgmentsp. 281
Indexp. 283