Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey by Marie Mutsuki Mockett - review by Lesley Downer

Lesley Downer

In the Shadow of Fukushima

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

By

W W Norton 316pp £10.99 order from our bookshop
 

The earthquake and tsunami in 2011, compounded by radiation contamination, were the most devastating catastrophes to strike Japan since the Second World War. Most cruelly, they hit Tōhoku, the northern part of the main island and the poorest part of the country, home to farmers, fishermen and day labourers.

This is Marie Mutsuki Mockett’s home in Japan. Her mother’s family temple is only thirty miles from the Fukushima Daiichi reactor. Her American father died three years previously and her Japanese grandfather had passed away in January 2011; after the earthquake, her grandfather’s bones could not be buried because radiation levels were too high.

In Where the Dead Pause, and the Japanese Say Goodbye, she describes how she phoned Sempō, the Buddhist priest who runs the temple and a cousin of her mother, to urge him and his family to flee. He replied, ‘The truth is, I’m not afraid to die.’ Then, to her

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