Review of ‘Ghosts of the Tsunami’

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster ZoneGhosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very absorbing and moving book. I was keen to read it as I am a student studying death religion and culture, and thought that this book would cover all aspects of this.

Richard Lloyd Parry has spent 6 years meeting and interviewing some of the victims who were bereaved during the 2011 earthquake and consequential tsunami in Japan. The book focuses on Okawa primary school, where due to unfortunate circumstances, the reader learns why so many of the children died in the catastrophic event.

Parents of the children explain to the author how they coped with their grief, and how they need to prove the negligence of the school staff was so important to them. There was clearly a period of time when the staff had the opportunity to lead the children to safety, but due to a poorly written emergency action plan, this did not happen.

As the descriptive story of the disaster is told, as a parent myself, the details of the situation are both absorbing and harrowing to read.

The author explains how some of the children, who were normally well behaved and were used to doing what they were told, had realised they needed to run for safety, but their teachers insisted that they remain at the school.

The reader learns how the community dealt with the enormity of the loss of life both practically and emotionally.

The Japanese culture and ancestral worship are explained in great detail. The parents who had lost their children needed to find their bodies to be able to accept their deaths. In some cases, this meant that the parents were searching for body parts using diggers and looking in expanses of mud, for any small indicators that their children were there.

I learned a lot about Japanese culture from reading this book, and now appreciate the effects of such a catastrophic disaster on the lives of so many.

This book is an excellent account of a catastrophic loss of human life, that I understand more deeply after reading it. 


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