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Ghosts of the Tsunami

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Shadowraith
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« on: October 20, 2014, 08:28:32 pm »

‘She told us to seize hold of her,’ Kaneda said, ‘and when the dog entered her it had tremendous power. There were three men holding on to her, but they were not strong enough, and she threw them off. She was scratching the floor and roaring, a deep growl.’ Later, after the chanting of the sutra, and the return to her peaceful self, Rumiko recounted the story of the dog. It had been the pet of an old couple who lived close to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. When the radiation began to leak, its owners had fled in panic with all their neighbours. But they forgot to unchain the dog, which slowly died of thirst and hunger. Later, when it was much too late, the spirit of the animal observed men in white protective suits coming in and peering at its shrivelled corpse.

In time, Rumiko became able to exercise control over the spirits; she spoke of a container, which she could choose to open or close. A friend of Kaneda, who was present at one of the exorcisms, compared her to a chronically ill patient habituated to vomiting: what at first was disgusting became over time familiar and bearable. By August, she reported being able to brush the spirits away when they approached her. She was still conscious of their presence: they were no longer shoving and jostling her but skulking at the room’s edge. The evening telephone calls and late-night visits became less and less frequent. Rumiko and her fiancé married and moved away from Sendai, and to his extreme relief Kaneda stopped hearing from her.

The effort of the exorcisms was too much. Friends were beginning to worry about him. ‘I was overwhelmed,’ he said. ‘Over the months, I’d become accustomed to hearing the stories of survivors. But all of a sudden, I found myself listening to the voices of the dead.’

Most difficult to bear were the occasions when Rumiko was possessed by the personalities of children. ‘When a child appeared,’ Kaneda said, ‘my wife took her hand. She said: “It’s Mummy – it’s Mummy here. It’s all right, it’s all all right. Let’s go together.”’ The first to appear was a tiny nameless boy, too young to understand what was being said to him, or to do anything more than call for his mother over and over again. The second was a girl of seven or eight. She had been with her even younger brother when the tsunami struck, and tried to run away with him. But in the water, as they were both drowning, she had let go of his hand; now she was afraid that her mother would be angry. ‘There’s a black wave coming,’ she said. ‘I’m scared, Mummy. Mummy, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.’

The voice of the girl was terrified and confused. Her body was drifting helplessly in the cold water, and it was a long struggle to guide her upwards towards the light. ‘She gripped my wife’s hand tightly until she finally came to the gate of the world of light,’ Kaneda recalled. ‘Then she said: “Mum, I can go on my own now, you can let go.”’

Afterwards, Mrs Kaneda tried to describe the moment when she released the hand of the young-woman-as-little-drowned-girl. The priest himself was weeping for her, and for the twenty thousand other stories of terror and extinction. But his wife was aware only of a huge energy dissipating. It made her remember the experience of childbirth, and the sense of power discharging at the end of pain as the newborn child finally enters the world.

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v36/n03/richard-lloydparry/ghosts-of-the-tsunami
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