Death by literature?

In amongst many newspaper stories commemorating the first anniversary of the earthquake, this one caught my eye for several reasons. Firstly, it is about one of the few people who lost their lives in Ibaraki (there were twenty-four in all – twenty-five if you include another who is still missing), and one of the few who did so as a result of the earthquake rather than the tsunami. Secondly, the events described took place in Mito, which is just down the road from where Mrs M and I now live. But thirdly, the manner of her death was bizarre to say the least…

A mother’s heart has not healed, but she is helped by a circle of friends and supporters

Daughter died with her beloved cat – Akira Ikegami’s publication is her destiny

Ms Seguro of Mito – ‘Finally I can get back on my feet’

65-year-old Yasuko Seguro runs a beauty salon in Matsumoto Town, Mito City, and lost her daughter Keiko Taguchi – a housewife, who was 37 at the time – in the Great East Japan Earthquake. Yasuko showed us a recently published book that contains Keiko’s story.

Keiko had a cold and was asleep on the third floor of Yasuko’s house when the disaster struck, and died from cerebral contusion when her collection of books collapsed on top of her. She loved novels and manga, and more than five thousand titles were arranged on the bookshelves in her bedroom. She was staying with her parents at the time because her husband was working away from home.

Yasuko found Keiko’s body after pushing her way through the many books that were scattered about the room. Keiko was with her beloved cat Gato. As if the cat was protecting Keiko, it was covering her face when it too died. ‘My daughter had no visible injuries,’ says Yasuko. ‘Gato had protected her.’

When this story appeared in newspapers, a publisher made an offer to Yasuko, saying, ‘We want Keiko’s story to appear in Akira Ikegami’s book.’ Yasuko preferred to quietly lay the incident to rest, and rejected the offer.

After losing Keiko, Yasuko stopped eating, and lost over ten kilogrammes. Almost every day she talked to her daughter’s photograph, and while she knew there would be no reply, she even sent text messages to Keiko’s mobile phone saying, ‘I want to meet you, I want to meet you’.

Soon afterwards, Ikegami called Yasuko directly, telling her that all proceeds from the book would go towards helping people in areas affected by the disaster.

‘Lots of people have had a hard time, had their houses swept away in the tsunami, had family members go missing.’ Yasuko agreed to the publication, and says, ‘Hopefully I can contribute something to helping the victims of the disaster.’

The book, published as ‘From The Great East Japan Earthquake – News To Join Our Hearts’, was published at the end of June last year, with Keiko’s story appearing as ‘To heaven with her beloved cat’. But even now, after a year has passed, Yasuko has yet to read the book. The events of 11th March 2011 weigh heavily on her heart. Recalling Keiko, she says, ‘Why couldn’t I have helped you?’

Meanwhile, Keiko’s story has appeared in newspapers and in the book, acquaintances of Keiko have come from far and wide to meet Yasuko, neighbours have given her food, and people often pause as they pass the house to bow silently. Many people have supported Yasuko.

‘Even if it hadn’t been for the earthquake, I wouldn’t have been able to put my mind in order yet. But despite having been affected themselves, everyone has shown their support for me, even though they should have been too busy to even think of me. So now, at last, I can get back on my feet,’ says Yasuko, her voice filled with tears.

(From the Tokyo Newspaper, 11/3/12. Incidentally, Akira Ikegami is probably the brainiest person in Japan, or at least the most famous brainy person in Japan, and while it hasn’t yet been translated into English, you can buy his book here.)

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