• Ghosts of the Tsunami

  • Death and Life in Japan's Disaster Zone
  • By: Richard Lloyd Parry
  • Narrated by: Simon Vance
  • Length: 7 hrs and 47 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (401 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Masterfully narrated by Simon Vance, winner of 14 Audie Awards and 61 Earphone Awards, comes the heartbreaking true story of a natural disaster and the resilience of Japan. The definitive account of what happened, why, and, above all, how it felt when catastrophe hit Japan - by the Japan correspondent of The Times (London) and author of People Who Eat Darkness.

On March 11, 2011, a powerful earthquake sent a 120-foot-high tsunami smashing into the coast of Northeast Japan. By the time the sea retreated, more than 18,000 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 even after the immediate emergency had abated, the trauma of the disaster continued to express itself in bizarre and mysterious ways.

Richard Lloyd Parry, an award-winning foreign correspondent, lived through the earthquake in Tokyo and spent six years reporting from the disaster zone. There he encountered stories of ghosts and hauntings and met a priest who exorcised the spirits of the dead. And he found himself drawn back again and again to a village that had suffered the greatest loss of all, a community tormented by unbearable mysteries of its own.

What really happened to the local children as they waited in the schoolyard in the moments before the tsunami? Why did their teachers not evacuate them to safety? And why was the unbearable truth being so stubbornly covered up?

Ghosts of the Tsunami is a soon-to-be classic intimate account of an epic tragedy, told through the accounts of those who lived through it. It tells the story of how a nation faced a catastrophe and the struggle to find consolation in the ruins.

©2017 Richard Lloyd Parry (P)2017 Macmillan Audio
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

Critic Reviews

In an understated performance, Simon Vance details one of the stunning tragedies arising from the tsunami that struck Japan in 2011...Vance's steady pacing, crisp enunciation, and careful inflection enhance the weight of the story, which moves between reportage and interviews, and ultimately reveals unsettling truths about this particular disaster." (AudioFile Magazine)

Editor's Pick

A natural disaster that reads like true crime
"The tsunami makes this a classic of disaster literature; Richard Lloyd Parry’s status as an outsider in Japan despite decades of residency make this feel like True Crime. Every fact he investigates and brings to light leads to deeper questions. As with all truly great nonfiction, Simon Vance’s performance has all the suspense and character development of a novel. If you loved Isaac’s Storm or Unbroken, this is the next listen for you."
Christina H., Audible Editor

What listeners say about Ghosts of the Tsunami

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  • Overall
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    4 out of 5 stars

Riveting True Story You Didn't Hear On The News

If you are curious about the Japanese tsunami of 2011, this is a good place to start. If you want to learn some surprising facts about the Japanese culture, get this book, too. However, if you are concerned in your school age child's safety and well-being, as well as your own--and you ought to be--most definitely start here, download and listen to this audiobook. Don't put it off.

It is beautifully written, expertly narrated, and tells the story you didn't read in the newspapers or see on the 11 o'clock news. It details how 78 elementary school children in one village lost their lives in the tsunami. I don't think the loss can be blamed on the tsunami but from the inaction, passivity, and ignorance of the school officials.

Before I retired, when I was still working, I was sent to a training on Safety given by law enforcement. One of the key takeaways for me was the paralysis of trauma victims, that is, the inability to act or think for themselves along with the passivity of meekly waiting to be told what to do. What apparently happened at one Japanese school is a prime example of this phenomenon. When it comes down to it, it could happen anywhere given the right set of circumstances and "officials in charge."

Read the excellent publisher's summary and choose this audiobook if this review peaks your curiosity. It is, after all, up to you.

20 people found this helpful

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Heart-wrenching and necessary.

The story revolves around the 2011 tsunami and its aftermath. It focuses on Okawa Elementary School, where scores of children lost their lives because due to the inaction of school officials and teachers. But it also follows other survivors as well and looks at parts of the Japanese social psyche and how that played a role in the deaths of so many young children and why justice and solace were so hard to find.

4 people found this helpful

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Informative, heart-wrenching, and well read

I learned a lot about Japanese religious culture and the heartbreaking story of incomprehensible loss.

8 people found this helpful

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Not just water

Like other people on earth elsewhere, I never really understood what happened on that fateful day. Not until I listened to this heart wrenching story.

3 people found this helpful

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Important story written with deep respect

It’s hard to describe a story on a tragedy “beautiful”, but that was my impression upon finishing it. The level of respect the author has for all the victims is felt, and his anger at the injustices helps lift the voices of those who have suffered. It’s an honor being able to hear the strength in the survivors, from children, to parents, to priests.
It’s also an important lesson. NEVER think “this will never happen to me” and ignore common sense. It is always better being safe than sorry and being prepared to face an emergency. Especially if you are supposed to be keeping children safe.

He details the physical things that happened regarding the tragedy, how people reacted, and the emotions people have/had in regards to it. The reader is thrown into the water that day, into the yellow hat of an elementary school child, or into the mud covered shoes of a mother desperately looking for any sign of her child. You are there in the moment desperately hoping they are able to succeed.

It’s not someone “spooky story” you might hear on YouTube with dramatized voice and music. The ghosts aren’t a Halloween attraction. They are the real grief and pain left over from the tragedy. It’s hard not to cry for these people doing whatever they can to live another day with the guilt of being alive.

2 people found this helpful

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Very good but needs a PDF with maps and photos

The book includes maps and photos. Often these are included in a PDF for the audiobook version. This would help in understanding where the various schools and towns are located.

1 person found this helpful

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A great recount

Well narrated, and tear jerking accounts of living through sheer senseless horror that need remembered.

1 person found this helpful

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family loss culturally slanted excellent

the loss of children is insurmountable. As it's happening in America from guns and violence so it happened with a tsunami. Many similarities in the social structure and the approach to solving the issue

3 people found this helpful

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Excellent and sad

The book was a story of humanity ensconced in politics, nature, grief, love, and spirituality...in the end we have a choice to heal or stay in trauma. May those lost rest in peace as those left behind be in peace.

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Heartbreaking account of the 2011 Tsunami in Japan

Beautifully written and performed. Lloyd Perry paints a detailed and devastating picture of loss and survival from interviews with survivors of the Tsunami.

He is a gifted author and storyteller and I look forward to reading and listening to his other works.