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

by Marie Mutsuki Mockett

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945217,355 (3.94)None
"An intimate voyage into Japanese culture and spirituality, culminating in one of Japan's most sacred places. Marie Mutsuki Mockett's family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather's bones. At the same time, Mockett grieved for her American father, who had died unexpectedly. As Japan mourned thousands of people lost in the disaster, she wondered: how does one cope with overwhelming grief? Seeking consolation, Mockett is guided by a colorful cast of Zen priests and ordinary Japanese who perform rituals that disturb, haunt, and finally uplift her. From the ecstasy of a cherry blossom festival in the radiation zone to the ghosts inhabiting chopsticks, Mockett writes of both the earthly and the sublime with extraordinary sensitivity. Her unpretentious and engaging voice makes her the kind of companion a reader wants to stay with wherever she goes, even into the heart of grief itself"--Provided by publisher.… (more)

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Showing 5 of 5
An interesting one this. At times it felt like the Lonely Planet Guide for Japan and at other times a Buddhist Primer and at other times like a poignant memoir. Like a lot of Japanese stuff I constantly felt like I was missing a bit or that there was a gap running all the way though it like a small silence.

The author, who is half Japanese seems to have experienced the same kind of feeling through most of her journeys too. The constant reminders to her that: "only the Japanese would understand that" only seemed to add to the otherworldness of this book.

Having been through the New Zealand Christchurch earthquakes in 2011 I felt that shadow of disaster as she recounts some of the statistics of the small places she visits like: "the waves here were 100 foot tall and 10,000 people died here". It is tempting to say that the Christchurch earthquakes were nothing compared to what happened in Japan, and on a statistical level that is true. But in terms of the shadow left on your spirit I am not sure that size matters at all when it comes to human response to disaster.

And this is a book about disaster, in a way it is a book for all those souls lost, both the ones missed and the ones that no-one survived to miss them. A book for all the lost bodies, remans that were never recovered and never will be. A book for all those who had no body to bury. A book about how a nation that has such strict protocols about death is dealing with a situation that doesn’t account for something like a protocol. It is also a book about displacement, longing and remembering.

I found it strangely moving and strangely repressed at the same time. It is not a simple book although it is easy to read. I guess that's it really. ( )
  Ken-Me-Old-Mate | Sep 24, 2020 |
A lovely book about grief I snagged this from a library giveaway of an ARC (they're trying to get rid of them), so this review may not reflect the final published product.
 
I was under the impression that the book was about author Mockett's attempts to deal with the death of her father. It is, but at the same time it really isn't. It's a journey Mockett takes exploring various practices of Buddhism across Japan. The author is treated to bits of Japan's history, culture, and a look at the country in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami and earthquake.
 
I know bits and pieces about Japan, but I did not know that much about the various Buddhist practices. I found that I really liked her text overall, that she made the discussions of the meditation, the temple, the ceremonies, relatively readable and easy to flow. I tend to have a lot of trouble digesting books on religion and often find books on Buddhism and meditation very hard to really get. They tend to be very abstract and theoretical.
 
But I feel like Mockett's personality is similar to my own: she talks about trying to think through the possible appearance of a ghost with her husband, she dislikes gossip and tunes it out. Although this is not a memoir in the strictest sense, I appreciated this book was not overwhelming about her and her life but she did share these parts of herself with us.
 
And I also learned a lot. The various meditation practices, the up-keeping of the temples (and the passage of the temples from father to son or other heir, etc.), exorcisms (!), cremations, paying respect to the dead, etc. It was overall rather fascinating. I won't like and say that the book kept me on tenterhooks (sometimes I did feel it get bogged down a bit here and there due to my personal lack of interest), but it was a good read.
 
For someone who has an interest in Japan's religious practices, this would be a great book. But it is not a book on Zen Buddhism, or grief, or the country post-2011 tsunami and earthquake. It's a combination of all of those, and it's worth a read.
 
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  HoldMyBook | Feb 11, 2018 |
A touching look at Japanese ways of dealing with grief. Fascinating. Not much about the tsunami, more about living with loss. I loved her look at the seasons as she grieved for family members. A very interesting look at just one small aspect of Japanese culture. ( )
  njcur | Feb 17, 2015 |
A must read for 2015, Where the Dead Pause, and The Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey by Marie Mutsuki Mockett is an extraordinarily beautiful, lyrical, at times deeply saddening, and all inspiring work of non-fiction. The books not only offered me a lot of historical as well as spiritual information, as well as being a deeply inspiring book that will stay with me for an extremely long time. My only regret is not having a book discussion group to discuss Mockett’s memoir. I highly recommend Where the Dead Pause, and The Japanese Say Goodbye: A Journey to all readers. ( )
  knittingmomof3 | Dec 28, 2014 |
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"An intimate voyage into Japanese culture and spirituality, culminating in one of Japan's most sacred places. Marie Mutsuki Mockett's family owns a Buddhist temple 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami, radiation levels prohibited the burial of her Japanese grandfather's bones. At the same time, Mockett grieved for her American father, who had died unexpectedly. As Japan mourned thousands of people lost in the disaster, she wondered: how does one cope with overwhelming grief? Seeking consolation, Mockett is guided by a colorful cast of Zen priests and ordinary Japanese who perform rituals that disturb, haunt, and finally uplift her. From the ecstasy of a cherry blossom festival in the radiation zone to the ghosts inhabiting chopsticks, Mockett writes of both the earthly and the sublime with extraordinary sensitivity. Her unpretentious and engaging voice makes her the kind of companion a reader wants to stay with wherever she goes, even into the heart of grief itself"--Provided by publisher.

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