Japanese Celebrate The Dead Amid Town's Ruins On a hillside in the devastated seaside town of Rikuzentakata, residents gathered to honor their neighbors lost to last month's earthquake and tsunami. It was an unusual celebration for Japan, and some survivors say they didn't know how to feel amid the bounty.
NPR logo

Japanese Celebrate The Dead Amid A Town's Ruins

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/135515115/135520305" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Japanese Celebrate The Dead Amid A Town's Ruins

Japanese Celebrate The Dead Amid A Town's Ruins

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/135515115/135520305" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

MICHELE NORRIS, Host:

This week, NPR's Yuki Noguchi happened to be there. She was drawn to the spot after hearing the sound of drums.

(SOUNDBITE OF SEAGULLS)

YUKI NOGUCHI: Rikuzentakata is so flattened it's hard to imagine life continuing here at all. Surveying the whole city, you can see maybe 10 buildings that are still standing. And yet, overlooking the city, we start to hear the sound of drums coming from the hillside.

(SOUNDBITE OF DRUMS)

NOGUCHI: Celebrations like these honoring the dead might be commonplace in the U.S., but in Japan, it's unusual, especially now, since the country's been in self-preservation and conservation mode.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NOGUCHI: The offering was followed by a long, silent prayer. Then a troupe of young men wearing wooden masks performed an acrobatic, traditional dance.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

NOGUCHI: Indeed, survivors like Takeko Kono didn't know how to feel.

TAKEKO KONO: (Through Translator) I can't tell whether I'm happy or sad to be here. My house is right there. Right there. I lost my daughter, so I came here looking for photos. But I didn't find anything. I just found these old bills.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SINGING)

NOGUCHI: Naoshi Sato is the muse behind this event.

NAOSHI SATO: (Foreign language spoken)

NOGUCHI: Sato himself looks tired and soiled, but he still likes to crack dry, off-color jokes. He tells those gathered he loves them like his grandchildren or wives or lovers.

SATO: (Foreign language spoken)

NOGUCHI: Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Rikuzentakata, Japan.

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.