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Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  665 ratings  ·  125 reviews
Marie Mutsuki Mockett's family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather's bones. As Japan mourned thousands of people lost in the disaster, Mockett also grieved for her American father, who had died unexpectedly.

Hardcover, First Edition, 330 pages
Published January 19th 2015 by W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.
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Cavak Something like: "Don't be a dreamer who is deluded into only accepting the good." Even if her mother only wanted her to see the beautiful in Japan, a …moreSomething like: "Don't be a dreamer who is deluded into only accepting the good." Even if her mother only wanted her to see the beautiful in Japan, a younger Marie noted that contradictions exist everywhere in the world.

And the zashiki warashi at the very end of the book was the sweeter contrast to the man in the window.(less)

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Average rating 3.96  · 
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Oct 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan, nonfiction, travel
What an incredibly lovely but solemn book. The reader journeys across Japan with Mrs. Mockett, a Japanese-American woman, who recently lost her father as she grapples with both the grief of his death and that of the devastating aftereffects of the March 2011 tsunami. We visit the family-run temple residing in the long shadow of Fukushima nuclear power plant that she knows well from her youth. Pilgrimages are made to other temples and shrines from zen to Pure Land to Shingon to the delicate weavi ...more
Oct 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received an ARC of this book from W.W. Norton through the Goodreads Giveaway program.

It took me a long time to read this book as I was literally savoring every word. The author takes a spiritual journey through Japan, her mother's homeland, where the author spent much of her own childhood. She has been unable to recover from the sadness she feels at the deaths of her father and of her maternal grandparents, and seeks solace through the Buddhist faith of her family. It is an absolutely fascinat
A solid three star book though sometimes it inched up in the rating when the author wrote more about the Japanese character. Her discussion of the Japanese aesthetic view of wabi sabi, interested me greatly. At some point the subject of ghosts and the spirit world lost my attention, though I was very much interested in the various Buddhist sects. The writing at times was disjointed but not so much that it lost my interest or focus.
Feb 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Not knowing much about the book other than it was about grief and Zen Buddhism, and nothing at all about the author, I went to a reading of it. Mockett read an excerpt, and I found that my fears of New Age-ism and "Eat, Pray, Love" fetishization and egotism were totally unfounded. This is much more than just a memoir; it's a history book, a book on Japanese culture, and on religion as well. Mockett does an incredible job of providing the necessary context for her experiences, (historical, cultur ...more
After the Tohoku quake and tsunami caused the meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, there was a widespread effort to plant sunflowers as a way to remove radiation from the soil. It was a gentle Buddhist way to try to make life bearable again in a land where the dead are never far away from the living. This kind of insight into a major catastrophe is what made reading this book such a delight.

It was once believed that if a chair or table or any object had been around for one hundred ye
Mar 08, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The subtitle of the book is A Journey, and Mockett's journey is a complicated one. Half Japanese by birth, she never forgets—or lets the reader forget—that she was also born and raised American. With family in Japan, though, and her grandfather's bones to bury, she sets out in the wake of the 2011 earthquake to better understand Buddhism and grief and Japan's peacefully co-existing contradictions.

I read this for class, and it's easily my favourite book of the semester. There aren't easy answers,
Ian Josh
Sep 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Really Enjoyable Read

Full Review on Blog:
Mar 12, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As someone living in Japan for almost four years, I loved this book. I found myself thinking, "Yes, exactly. That's exactly how Japan feels" over and over while I read. The author opened up a piece of Japan to me that I do not have access to because of the language barrier.

There are no wasted words or pages in this book. It is filled with history, culture, religion and personal stories. Some reviewers thought she jumped around too much. Because this is a cultural exploration of grief, the shift
Jul 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The first Noble Truth is that we all suffer, and one of those sufferings, for all of us, is the loss of the people we love. Death is inevitable, as are the wounds caused by the loss of those around us.

The writer has lost her father, her grandparents, and her sense of joy. She returns to the land of her mother's birth to try to make sense of her pain. Her mother's family has long owned a temple. Her ancestors helped people, and, when there seemed to be no one to inherit the temple and its respons
Feb 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Mockett’s memoir explores her experiences with Japanese traditions surrounding grief. She personally grieves her American father who died recently and unexpectedly, an event that is probably partially the impetus for her memoir. Yet she is also deeply affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami where so many thousands died. She travels to her extended family’s Buddhist temple in 2011, not far from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and finds herself in a country where almost everyone is grieving ...more
Sep 09, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5, leaning toward 3. Issues first. The book is not at its best when it compares "Japanese" to "Westerners". I put them in quotes because these categories seem quite solid to the author, but they don't to me, and I find prejudice in the comparison to both sides. Repeated comparisons come to my eye as essentialist at best and Orientalist at worst. There is some attention to how the older and younger generations behave, and there is interest in that, but again the broad strokes are troubling. The ...more
Glen U
Jun 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is an amazing look into the cultural mores of Japan especially concerning grief and death. It is a clear and concise treatise on the different forms of Buddhism and how the Japanese people believe in both animism and a supreme being. It incorporates the journey of a Japanese-American woman to Japan, soon after the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Northern Japan. It also captures the clear differences in thinking, in acting, in living between those of the Japanese people ...more
Mrs. Danvers
A gently beautiful consideration of loss.
Moira Clunie
a rich, generous and deeply personal exploration of japanese spirituality and religion, approaches to death, grief & ancestors, and the collective trauma of the 2011 earthquake and nuclear disaster. careful and nuanced telling of the process of learning about and making sense of these things as a relative outsider. evocative descriptions of sights, tastes, smells and the feelings of places.

i read this hungrily in a single day (just after returning from a visit to Tokyo), and am looking forward t
Oct 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I received this book for free through Goodreads Fist Reads

After her Grandfathers death, the author who is _ Japanese and whose family owns a Buddhist Temple just 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiich nuclear plant, decides to go back to visit after the earthquake and tsunami that took many lives on March 11, 2011. The plant which was damaged in the tsunami as well, started to leaked radiation causing the area to become an unsafe place for people to return. Not having been able to bury her Grandfath
Linda Lombardi
Mar 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I read an interview with the author that was so compelling to me that I put aside everything that turned me off about the descriptions of this book. I don't normally read memoirs and have no interest in reading a memoir about grieving a dead father. But that's not what it is. We hardly learn anything about the author's father other than that she's sad he's dead. It's less about the aftermath of 3/11 than I expected (although that's definitely a central component.) And if I'd known this was mostl ...more
Feb 20, 2015 rated it liked it
The theme of this book - learning to deal with grief - is wonderful. The author shares the beliefs of Buddhism about the connection between the living and the dead, and they are beautiful. She shares her insights into the Japanese people, their beliefs, and their struggles since the 2011 tsunami, and it made me desire more information. Japan, and the temples named in this story, are now on my bucket list. I'd love to learn to turn my thoughts into myself, to meditate like she did.

The descriptio
Oct 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
I won an advance copy of this book through a Goodreads giveaway, and I'm very glad that I did!

While at times meandering and repetitive, this is a well written book. Miss Mockett's journey across Japan visiting many different temples and shrines to process her personal grief, while at the same time experiencing the aftermath of the March 2011 disaster, was compelling and also easy to follow. I am quite fond of Japanese spirituality, from ceremonies to ghost stories, so there was a lot to enjoy he
Interesting exploration about how the Japanese grieve.

The author loses her father and grandparents. She's learning to deal with her grief or as she describes it she want to be "more happy than sad". She travels to Japan which is her mother's homeland during the aftermath of the March 11, 2011 tsunami. This is the perfect time and place for her to learn how the Japanese grieve.

She visits several temples and Buddhist training schools. In fact, her family are guardians of a small temple. I learned
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it
I read this book primarily because of how moved I was by the film "Departures" (2010), a Japanese film that was a fascinating exploration of grief and death. The film was fiction - this book is nonfiction, and revolves around the survivors of the devastating tsunami that hit Japan in 2011. The author and her mother visit Japan several weeks after the disaster, as family members live near the nuclear facility. The author continues with a personal journey into Buddhism, and examines a country shoc ...more
Sep 02, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Passages that struck me:
"As a priest, Maruko had seen many people die, and he had seen many families just after a loved one had passed away. The very worst thing was when someone forgot to say "thank you" before dying. If only the dead could see the pain they left behind when they died selfishly. He often counseled the living on this inherited pain and tried to get them to put it into context.
"In order to become myself, my mistakes and hardships were also necessary." This was an essential way to
Jennifer Rolfe
Dec 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
I savored this book too (as other reviewers have said) and I also enjoyed the detailed history of Buddhism in Japan. Her experiences and encounters with people on her journey through Japan (her mother's homeland) were delightful. I feel I learned so much from this book and it all happened in such a way that I felt at the end that I had experienced the process of the cherry blossoms blooming and dying. I was aware of her grief and her struggle with coming to terms with the sudden death of her fat ...more
Jul 28, 2015 rated it liked it
This book made clear to me how grieving is expressed so differently between people and cultures. The stories gave rich meaning to festivals that I have experienced in Japan but failed to understand the symbolism. There were fascinating insights to religious practices far beyond text book descriptions of Buddhism and Shintoism. It is difficult to understand the impact of a disaster such as the recent tsunami and radiation leak without the intimate stories provided by the author following her exte ...more
Dec 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I am very interested in Japan and especially how they are dealing with the aftermath of the tsunami. I am also very interested in Buddhism and Shintoism and other "ism"s of Eastern religion. Mockett does a superb job of engaging and informing the reader on these topics, while she chronicles her visits to Japanese temples to discover what she can about her Japanese roots. However she is a bit rambling and I struggled a time or two wondering where we were going now. ...more
Jan 26, 2015 rated it really liked it
This sweet book follows the author's journeys to her relative's Buddhist temple and then to a number of other temples of some repute. The driving question is to discover the resources in culture, religion, custom and folklore that shape and address grief. A fascinating encounter with Japan by one uniquely qualified to see it. ...more
Keturah Stickann
Nov 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful book. Touched on so many of the themes that I'm going through right now in terms of death, dying, ghosts, collective grief vs. individual grief, but was also a poetic travelogue of post-Fukushima Japan. I thoroughly enjoyed it. ...more
Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dead-baby
I really liked this, and it was packed full of interesting things to learn. The structure was a little unclear, as if she wasn't sure how to connect or chonologize all of the different things she wanted to touch on. But I can forgive her that, especially since it didn't impede my motivation--for much of it, I couldn't put it down. I found some of the reflections on grieving insightful, but there wasn't nearly as much of that in here as I expected. I saw it as more of an exploration of Japanese c ...more
Dec 31, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-memoir
A terrific book to read if you are a Westerner visiting Japan. Also simply a great book.

One of those things they don't tell you about growing up is that, as an adult, you are enveloped in an inexplicable sense of good feeling far less frequently than when younger. But I was so enveloped during my recent (first) trip to Japan, which is probably the very definition of a successful vacation. The Long-Suffering Wife, meanwhile, was reading this book and finding it intensified her similar sense of va
Gerry O'Malley
This book has moments of beautiful writing and entire chapters that are full of fascinating and heartbreaking stories but as a whole, it is disjointed and disorganized. It seems like Mockett started off writing a book about the survivors and the dead of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami but ran out of material to write about (as difficult as that might be). She fills the second two-thirds of the book with essays on her travels around Japan, emphasizing ceremonies and destinations having to do wi ...more
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MARIE MUTSUKI MOCKETT was born in California to a Japanese mother and an American father. A graduate of Columbia University, she lives in San Francisco with her husband and son.

Marie Mutsuki Mockett's family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfat

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“The distance between losing someone and accepting that they are gone is of course the very essence of grieving,” 1 likes
“I often felt in those days that to be stuck in grief was to feel kidnapped against one’s will and forced to go to some foreign country, all the while just longing to go back home.” 0 likes
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