cover image Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone

Richard Lloyd Parry. MCD, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-25397-4

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.)