Subtitled: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone
In March 2011, an enormous earthquake shook Japan. Afterwards, one of the largest earthquake-driven tsunamis swept over communities in the northeast part of the country. In this book, Parry lets the survivors tell their stories of the time leading up to the disaster, and the aftermath that followed.
I want to start by discussing what led me to this book, the weird roundabout way I ended up going full-circle. It began in 2011, because a friend of mine actually lived in the disaster zone and was very close to the nuclear power plant explosion that also resulted from the tragedy. He and his wife were safe, and shortly thereafter, moved to the US. I’ve talked with him, and might have a guest post soon about his personal experiences living through March 2011. More on that later in this post. Because of my friend’s experiences, this is one natural (well, and not-natural) disaster that has stayed with me.
Then last year, when the new Unsolved Mysteries season came out, one of their episodes was about the tsunami, and especially about the ghost/spirit phenomena that occurred afterwards. I’m not here to make any judgements about what is/isn’t paranormal and/or coping mechanisms, religion, etc. I found the episode fascinating, but mostly because it was the first time I’d seen clear footage of the tsunami. It made me want to learn more – less about the “ghosts” and more about the experience of the tsunami itself. I was told that the episode borrowed heavily from Ghost of the Tsunami, so I picked out this book, hoping that from it, I could get further resources on what I was looking for. Ironically, the book ended up exactly what I was looking for, with only two small sections discussing the focus of the UM episode; the rest far more about the experience of disaster.
I have never lived through a mass disaster, natural or otherwise. (Well, at least not one that I haven’t been far removed from – the whole country is experiencing the pandemic and the US is doing a sh!t job at managing it, but that’s a different situation altogether.) I’ve watched various disasters from afar – hurricanes and shootings and the twin towers and tsunamis and more. I know well what it feels like to experience secondhand horror, like most folks. But I’ve never experienced tragedy on a large scale myself, and in general, I like learning about the experiences of others (good and bad) that I haven’t had. I am not a grief or tragedy vampire, however, vicariously living through others’ pain and reveling in it. I want to learn, but I want to do so respectfully. In the past, I have put back nonfiction (or turned off documentaries) where authors treat their subject exploitatively, and I was prepared to do the same with this one. However, it was not at all exploitative. Parry was careful with the subject, let those who lived through the disaster tell their stories, and kept himself in the background. It was excellent journalism.
For this reason, I’m not going to say much more about the contents of this book. I wouldn’t do it justice. A thirdhand account isn’t something anyone needs from me. Instead, I’m going to encourage anyone who is interested in this subject to pick up this book. Don’t be thrown by the title or the UM episode – this is not about ghosts in the traditional paranormal sense.
As for my friend, I reached out to ask if he would be interested in sharing his experiences in a guest post here. Personally, I think that the closest we can get to understanding a situation, without going through it ourselves, is through the stories of people who did. I wanted to give him a chance to tell his story, if he wanted, and to give y’all a chance to read it, if y’all wanted. So look for that coming soon.
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