Ghosts of the Tsunami

By: snowgood

Sep 02 2020

Category: Uncategorized

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We might be getting fed up with the Corona Virus, but the last few days I’ve been reading about something far worse.

Richard Parry’s book starts out in Tokyo as the author gives some context to the earthquakes and Tsunamis that blight the Pacific coast.

On the 11th March 2011 a giant wave surged westwards and engulfed the coastal plains causing devestation on an unprecedented scale.

We probably all remember the disastrous collapse of the nuclear reactors at Fukishima Daiichi, which precipitated a move away from this type of energy production.

What I didn’t recall was the tragic loss of life further up the coast.

Despite multiple warnings, and cries for an evacuation by young school children the inept teachers at Okawa Elementary School dithered.

Seventy four children were caught up in the tsunami and their families of spent years trying to find out what went wrong, and trying to bring the local authority to book.

Parry’s book unpacks the Japanese mindset, and as a Tokyo resident he describes nuances of the language helping the reader grasp the harsh realities of life for those that mourned.

If you look at Google Earth image you can just make out a bridge across the Kitakami River.

The Okawa school was directly in front of a wooded hill that reaches out like a green finger towards the bridge.

On that fateful day the teachers simply herded the kids into the playground, and did nothing. Just before the wave struck they moved the children towards the river.

Of course nobody on dry land expects a 130 foot wave to burst over the river bank, but it did.

The latter part of the book explores the emotions (and demons) which afflicted those who had to come to terms with bereavement.

Personally I’d rather the book had a wider brief, but the author has made the story more personal by interviewing people in a tight knit community.

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