The Polish journalist takes her title from a Japanese word that means “Hang in there!” and her form from the oral-history collage perfected by the Nobel writer Alexievich for a panoramic, yet detailed account of everything related to the March 11, 2011, Tōhoku earthquake. Her powerful narrative presents statistics as astounding as the tsunami was—5000 buildings, or 40% of Onagawa lost; 5800 dogs left in the evacuated zone; 22 million cubic tons of black plastic bags full of contaminated soil—but it’s the individual experiences that prove most moving. As post-Katrina, here are stories of lost families, homes, jobs, and even towns, along with protracted exile and the fear of radiation sickness from the disabled Daiichi nuclear plant. What sustains people through such horrors? The answer is both history and imagination. Japan is no stranger to earthquakes and tsunamis—nor to nuclear disasters—and the latest victims draw on a heritage ranging from the kataribe, “people who talk about disaster,” to the itaki, or shamanesses, who contact the dead on behalf of the living, to come up with practices including the disconnected land line where you can phone lost ones, cafes where you can recall the dead and cry, and workshops where you practice letting go of your five favorite places, things, activities, and, hardest of all, people.
Ganbare! Workshops on Dying, by Katarzyna Boni