Ethnographies of the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disasters of March 2011
Edited By Tom Gill, Brigitte Steger and David H. Slater
Still Missing …
5 June 2011: Yamada bay is beautiful, but you cannot see it from the town because of the tsunami protection wall. So I walk around the harbour; it is almost empty. Two men are measuring how much the harbour has sunk. At one of the fishing buildings, a worn-out middle-aged man with a tight and hypertensive red face is looking under the debris. I ask whether he is a fisherman. He says ‘Yes’, adding ‘kā-chan dete konai’ (literally, ‘mummy hasn’t come out’; meaning ‘my wife is still missing’). He speaks as if he does not actually notice me, but neither does he seem surprised that a stranger is talking to him; he appears completely detached from his feelings.
He tells me that his house was destroyed and he now lives with his sister. During the tsunami, he stayed out in the open sea to keep the boat safe. I comment that it is a relief that he still has his boat, but, ‘No’, he says, ‘it belongs to a relative’. He explains that in a week from now, people who are missing will be declared dead. He keeps looking around and explains that he is searching for something that might be of use. I wonder whether there is still anything to be found. He answers that there is still useful stuff under the debris, though he wouldn’t know where to store it. He repeats ‘kā-chan dete konai’, and it is clear that it is...
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