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

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4.24  ·  Rating details ·  3,294 ratings  ·  494 reviews
On 11 March 2011, a massive earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of north-east Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than 18,500 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 ev
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Hardcover, 276 pages
Published August 31st 2017 by Jonathan Cape
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Average rating 4.24  · 
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Amalia Gkavea
‘’By the time the party came to an end, it was already becoming cloudy, but there was no wind. Not a single leaf was moving on the trees. I couldn’t sense any life at all. It was as if a film had stopped, as if time had stopped. It was an uncomfortable atmosphere, not the atmosphere of an ordinary day.’’
Sayomi Shito


Friday, 11 March 2011. A 9.1 earthquake strikes Japan, 70km east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tohoku. Its duration? 6 minutes. It was the most powerful earthquake ever in the count
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lark benobi
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Remarkable reportage from a writer of deep empathy and compassion. It's clear that Parry is very familiar with Japan. There just arent that many non native Japanese speakers who could have conducted these interviews, which must have required such sensitivity and such an appreciation for how language works in Japanese conversation. Parry is also an incredible writer. In addition to chronicling the tsunami and its aftermath he also manages to give non Japanese readers a strong understanding of Jap ...more
Libby
This is a heartbreaking story about the disasters that struck Japan on March 11, 2011. I enjoyed Richard Lloyd Parry’s investigative journalism writing style. He does not shy away from the emotions of grief and loss, even though the Japanese are very reserved.

Richard Lloyd Parry chooses to focus on the tsunami and what happened when small towns along Japan’s coastline were inundated with seawater, the huge loss of life and the psychological impacts of living in the aftermath of such a disaster.
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Darlene
Apr 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
On March 11, 2011, an earthquake shook Japan; but the earthquake was just the beginning of the natural disaster that would kill 18,500 people that day... the largest loss of life since atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The earthquake sent a 120-foot tsunami crashing into the coast of northeast Japan, crushing and drowning people in its path. Ultimately, this tsunami created a massive crisis in Japan when it was discovered that there had also been a meltdown at the Fuku ...more
Dianne
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2018
This is a very good and rather unsettling account of the 2011 tsunami in Japan and its aftermath. The story mainly focuses on the seventy four student deaths at Okawa Elementary school (only four children survived) and what happened to them. The story pulls in so many different threads - personal, social, cultural and political. It's a fascinating and heartbreaking tale.

I am drawn to tsunami stories, especially this particular one. In 2011, I was in an oceanfront condo on the Big Island of Hawai
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Peter Boyle
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
The March 2011 earthquake was the biggest ever known to have struck Japan, and the fourth most powerful in the history of seismology. It knocked the earth six and a half inches off its axis and along with the resulting tsunami, caused over $210 billion of damage. Worst of all, it was responsible for the deaths of over 18500 Japanese people, the greatest loss of life in the country since the atomic bombings of 1945.

Richard Lloyd Parry, a British journalist, was working in Tokyo at the time of the
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Paltia
Dec 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly moving telling of the 2011 earthquake that sent a 120 foot tsunami over the northeast coast of Japan. Parry’s writing brings the events and people to life with all the anxieties, despair, anger and sorrow imaginable. I found the Reverend Taio Kaneta’s description of his experiences poignant and profoundly spiritual. Here is an example of his thoughts - “We realised that, for all we’d learned about religious ritual and language, none of it was effective in facing what we saw all around ...more
Yun
Jan 17, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ghosts of the Tsunami is the tale of the human toll that resulted from the powerful 2011 earthquake that rocked Japan and the subsequent tsunami that killed thousands of people. It is told through the eyes of a small town in northern Japan, with a focus on its elementary school and the mystery of what happened there that led to the deaths of 74 students and 10 teachers, when safety was only a few steps away.

I found the story surrounding the elementary school to be fascinating. Parry's writing b
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Tony
These are the rough facts:

It was the biggest earthquake ever known to have struck Japan, and the fourth most powerful in the history of seismology. It knocked the Earth ten inches off its axis; it moved Japan four feet closer to America. In the tsunami that followed, 18,500 people were drowned, burned, or crushed to death. At its peak, the water was 120 feet high. Half a million people were driven out of their homes. Three reactors in the Fukushima Dai-ichi power station melted down, spilling th
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Jill Hutchinson
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What better author to write about this unthinkable tragedy than Parry......a London news correspondent who has lived most of his adult life in Japan and because of his deep understanding of the Japanese culture, could delve into the feelings and responses of the people who survived this horror.

On March 11, 2011, following a number of earthquakes (an almost monthly occurrence in Japan) , a 125 foot tsunami struck the north east coast of Japan, taking with it 18,500 lives. The author concentrates
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Rebecca
Eighteen and a half thousand people died in the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011. It’s not really possible to get one’s head around a tragedy on that scale so, wisely, Parry focuses on a smaller story within the story. Seventy-four children died at Okawa primary school because the administration didn’t have a sufficient disaster plan in place. Instead of leading the children up the hill above the school, the teachers took them down the road to a roundabout and they were all so ...more
Ammar
Nov 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
One of the best reads of 2017. The author who is a journalist who lives in Japan, and who lived there during the Tsunami and the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima. The book deals with the Tsunami. It brings various lives of victims, and their families and how they survived during the Tsunami and in its aftermath.

We readers go into the depth of the Japanese family, who is usually reserved and does not open up to strangers, and we get a rare glimpse into their psyche.

We read about bereaved parents, a
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Lisa
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You can tell the years of research that went into this heartbreaking book. One of the saddest and most maddening things I've ever read. Highly recommended. ...more
Kathleen
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My review for the Chicago Tribune:

http://www.chicagotribune.com/lifesty...

In sheer scope, certain natural disasters outstrip all quantitative efforts to describe them. Undoubtedly, the data on the Tohoku earthquake can help to express the vastness of the catastrophe: On March 11, 2011, the most powerful earthquake recorded in Japan — 9.1 on the Richter scale — occurred 20 miles beneath the sea about 250 miles from Tokyo. The quake triggered a 120-foot tsunami that devoured the coast of northeas
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Shelley
As a work of narrative non-fiction, I thought this was fine—not earth-shatteringly good but competently written.

The content, however, is very moving, and two things interested me in particular.

Japanese attitudes toward ghosts. Absolutely fascinating. (As a side note, I find Japanese horror films to be the scariest of them all.) The author describes the Japanese as one of the most "godless" people on the planet, yet ghost sightings are so common following tsunamis that Japanese academics feel co
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GoldGato
March 11, 2011. It was a Friday and for some reason, I turned on the telly and became entranced by the footage of the Black Wave which seemed to be engulfing the east coast of Japan. It didn't seem to be real, rolling along determinedly and swallowing everything in its path. I immediately texted a co-worker to see if her family in Japan was okay, but like everyone else, all I could do was watch as cars vainly tried to outrun the implacable monster. In Japanese, "hell" is jigoku.

This book looks a
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Amber
Oct 20, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This nonfiction book is written in such a poetic way that it makes the content even more powerful. My only criticism is that I found it a bit too long, even though it isn't a long book. I definitely recommend! ...more
Karmologyclinic
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A book about the tsunami becomes a study in grief, loss and humanity and delves into the supernatural as a coping mechanism. I cried a lot.

[...] we try to unthaw the frozen future [...]
Katia N
Jan 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Tsunami has struck Japan on March 11, 2011 and took away the lives of more than 18,000 people. Almost half of them were the old and vulnerable. However, only around 4% were children under 15. It is a relatively small proportion which indicates the Japanese in general took seriously the wellbeing of their young ones. But 74 of these deaths took place just in a single school - Okawa elementary. In this book Richard Lloyd Parry gives the account how and why this happened.

But it is so much more than
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Christine
Good, powerful reporting.
Colin
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Absolutely amazing book, this. I can't recommend it highly enough. It's an examination of the effects of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, seen through the lens of a single school, Okawa Primary School, where, through failures of planning and initiative, a large percentage of the children and almost all the teachers died. It's pretty harrowing of course, not so much for the scale of the tragedy, which is pretty familiar by now, but for the accounts of individuals, mainly bereaved parents. There w ...more
Denise
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own, read-2019
The March 11, 2011, Tohoku earthquake and tsunami - the deadliest event in Japan since the atomic bomb that devastated Nagasaki - caused an immense and scarcely imaginable number of tragedies, taking the lives of more than 18,000 people. In this powerful, meticulously researched account of the disaster and its aftermath, Parry focusses in large part on one such particular tragedy, that of the Okawa Elementary School, where 74 children and 10 teachers were killed by the tsunami - in spite of the ...more
Fatima Alqassab
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: asia, 2020
“What does life mean, in the face of death!?”
___________

This was my first read about the Tsunami disaster and it was heartbreaking one.
Noor Ali
Apr 04, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2020, audiobooks
This book is about the Tsunami that took place in Japan in 2011. I wasn't too eager to start it but I'm glad I did, I was actually surprised that I ended up liking it.

I liked the author's narrative of what happened and the way he wrote the book, which could have been so boring considering the subjct matter if it was written by someone else.

He made me sympathize with the victims of this tragedy and actually care about the fates of complete strangers, which is something that rarely happens to me
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Iona Sharma
Dec 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
Fascinating and devastating account of the 2011 Japanese tsunami and how it affected one small community, and some of the reported supernatural phenomena that occurred alongside it. It's a quiet, journalistic book, not voyeuristic - it doesn't sensationalise the tsunami itself and then doesn't attempt to debunk or ridicule the ghost stories, but tells them as they were told to the author. It's beautifully written as well, without ever being self-consciously literary, and treats all its interview ...more
Conor Ahern
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
"Ghosts of the Tsunami" chronicles the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami. The fifth most powerful earthquake ever recorded killed a handful of people in seismically prepared Japan, but the water it dislodged wreaked unprecedented catastrophe, killing tens of thousands more.

While many communities on the east coast of Japan were devastated, a particular rural community had an entire generation of its children wiped out in a tragedy this book attempts to encircle. "Ghosts" is as much a compendium of t
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Andrea
Sep 09, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Andrea by: Tracey Allen at Carpe Librum
Fabulous book, but gut-wrenching at the same time.

Journalist Richard Lloyd Parry has lived in Japan for many, many years. He's experienced many earthquakes and tremors from his base in Tokyo, so when a cluster began in early March 2011 he didn't think much of it - ducking underneath his desk every now and then, and straightening the occasional picture frame. It was the same in the region of Tohoku, in the north-eastern part of Honshu, until the big quake came on March 11, followed by the devasta
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Kathleen
Nov 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
British journalist Parry was living in Tokyo when the 9.1 earthquake off the coast of northeast Japan took place in March of 2011. Earthquakes are frequent occurrences in Japan, so the country’s response was blasé at first. The initial tsunami warnings were also discounted—certainly there was no chance that a tsunami would advance two and half miles inland to reach the Okawa primary school. But, it did. The elders of the village did not believe such a tsunami was possible. The result was a feebl ...more
Kolumbina
Apr 04, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! What a book! And non-fiction!!!
An outstanding book written by a very mature writer/foreign corespondent about a very powerful earthquake in Japan in 2011 followed by tsunami. The story is concentrated on Okawa school where at the time of disaster more than 70 school children and 11 teachers died/disappeared.
Richard Lloyd Parry did a fantastic job, obviously he knows and understands Japan, Japanese culture, habits, traditions, emotions, religion, ...
A very rich book, very emotional, involvin
...more
Nancy
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
#20BooksOfSummer
Finished: 19.06.2019
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: B
Conclusion:

Impressive piece of investigative journalism
about the human side of the March 11 2011 Tsunami.
Parry centers the narrative around the tragic loss of life at
a small primary school.
Lives are torn apart by grief and anger.
Personal accounts are pieced together
through interviews with
survivors after a tsunami as high as a 11 story building
crushed the village of Okawa.
One man describes what it was like to be in the
tsunami wat
...more
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Richard Lloyd Parry was born in north-west England, and has lived since 1995 in Tokyo, where he is the Asia Editor of The Times newspaper of London. He has reported from twenty-eight countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq and North Korea. In 2005, he was named the UK's foreign correspondent of the year. He has also written for Granta, the New York Times and the London Review of Books. ...more

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“I asked him what kind of consolation a priest could offer to people such as the parents of Okawa school, and he was quiet for a moment. “You have to be careful,” he said. “You have to be very careful in doing this to people who have lost their children. It takes long months, long years—it might take a whole lifetime. It might be the very last thing that you say to someone. But perhaps all that we can tell them in the end is to accept. The task of acceptance is very hard. It’s up to every single person, individually. People of religion can play only a part in achieving that—they need the support of everyone around them. We watch them, watch over them. We remember our place in the cosmos, as we work. We stay with them, and we walk together. That’s all we can do.” 3 likes
“Most of the parents who came to the school were full-time mothers and housewives; most of the villagers offering their opinions were retired, elderly and male. It was another enactment of the ancient dialogue, its lines written centuries ago, between the entreating voices of women, and the oblivious, overbearing dismissiveness of old men.” 3 likes
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