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

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  2,597 ratings  ·  397 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
Hardcover, 276 pages
Published August 31st 2017 by Jonathan Cape
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Eleanor This essay which was published in the London Review of Books in 2014 should give you a good preview of the book:

This essay which was published in the London Review of Books in 2014 should give you a good preview of the book:

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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 ...more
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.
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 ...more
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
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
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
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
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
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 ...more
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,
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
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My review for the Chicago Tribune:

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
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.
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 [...]
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
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
Good, powerful reporting.
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 ...more
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2019, own
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
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
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
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 ...more
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,
Jun 19, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019
Finished: 19.06.2019
Genre: non-fiction
Rating: B

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
Dec 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, journalism, japan
Well-researched and compelling. The author is a journalist and long time resident of Japan. “Ghosts of the Tsunami” endeavors to come to terms with the events of 3/11/2011, an earthquake and tsunami that killed around 20,000 people, from a human perspective. It focuses on the community around the Okawa elementary school in Miyagi Prefecture, where 74 students and 10 teachers were lost to the tsunami. It’s a sad and moving portrait of a particular region of northern Japan, based on the author’s ...more
Linda Lipko
Feb 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
High up on my list of one of the best I've read thus far this year, this captivating, well-written book pulled me in from the first page.

March 11, 2011 was a day of incredible disaster for Japan. In particular, the hardest hit were the Northern reaches which are comprised of small hamlets of hard-working people who live off the land. Near the epicenter, and the hardest hit by after shocks and 30-foot tsunami waves and walls of crushing danger, everything seemed to happen so very quickly.

Oct 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ok, such is reading these days that I started two other books but was drawn to reading this one on my Kindle instead. I had waited eagerly for it after requesting the book on Netgalley, but then it was archived and I thought I must have missed out until I got the joyful email I've come to love! Books <3

Like many others, I watched with fascinated horror as first and Earthquake, then Tsunami, swept through Japan in 2011. That is, I watched from the safety of my living room, with no conception
May 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018
Some books are interesting mostly because of their subject matter - they might be indifferently written but they are gripping solely by virtue of the story they are recounting.

This book, about the 2011 tsunami in Japan, is about something inherently fascinating...and somehow elevates it. It is better and more interesting than it should be, even though by default it should be quite good just based on the subject matter. It's about the tsunami, but also Japan, Japanese culture, Japanese religion,
This is a powerful book about the massive earthquake and tsunami which hit the northeastern coastline of Japan in March 2011. It doesn’t so much recount the events of that fateful day, but instead focuses on the impact it has had on the victims and local communities and how they have dealt with the trauma. It centres in particular on the tragedy at Okawa Primary School, where 84 pupils and teachers perished. While this means the book doesn’t reflect the full scale of the events – over 18,000 ...more
Katherine Addison
As it has to be, this is a very sad book. It's at once simple and very complicated. It's about the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami, particularly in the northern region of Japan called Tohoku, and particularly about Okawa Elementary School, where 74 children were killed. It is about literal ghosts, but mostly about figurative ones, and sometimes on the foggy boundary in between, about how the survivors grapple with what happened and what "going on" looks like when you've lost your entire life.

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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.
“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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