II Traumascapes of Body and State

6 Bonds and Companionship

Bonds and Companionship: The Healing Efficacy of the Picture Books of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake

Michelle Chun

After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, a group of volunteers organizes a picture book delivery project for the victims in the affected areas. They have received requests from people in refuges that they would like to reclaim a “sense of hope and future that they can get through reading” and “read and see the real face of the world” (71-72). Kimiko Matsui (2012), who is one of the volunteers in this deliver}' service, writes:

Children’s books are not only effective for helping children cope with trauma, the gentle words that a child understands also ease the raw feelings of adult. I hope the books we sent to North Japan provide a means for the people of the earthquake stricken region to dream and believe in a better world.


Matsui’s comment highlights three notions: the potency of children’s books in one’s struggle against trauma, the inclusion of adults in readership, and the optimism embodied in the reading materials. All these raise the question of how children’s books help alleviate the pain of young and adult readers and redeem a belief in future. The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake is one of the most severe natural disasters that Japan has experienced in centuries. The main quake and its series of aftershocks triggered tsunamis and subsequently led to a nuclear crisis in Fukushima. It caused irrevocable destructions ranging from a massive loss of lives to the traumatic memory' on individuals and the nation. A number of children’s books expressing grief and bereavement were published in response to the catastrophe. These publications make an attempt to encapsulate and reconceptualize the disaster without losing authenticity while trying to portray it in a less nightmarish manner.

This chapter will examine a few selected picture books of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and demonstrate how picture books address the earthquake, the tsunami, and their aftermaths. These works recall the traumatic experience such as the ruination of places and the loss of the beloved, while at the same time, they endeavor to relieve the pain by visualizing and discussing the hardship from multiple perspectives. These books accentuate the fact that the disaster is undergone collectively by both children and adults. Since all are suffering from distress and senses of abandonment, the collaborative efforts between them are required for acknowledging their vulnerability, growing resilience, and ultimately, recovering from the traumatic experience.

One significant aftermath of catastrophe is the sudden rupture of life, which creates an existential crisis in the survivors. Gumpert (2012) explains that fundamentally, catastrophe is an accident that is strong enough to be “a suspension of temporality itself” (xvi). Catastrophe is a “rupture in the ordinary scheme of things [...] an irruption, an eruption, a disruption” or even an “interruption” (xvi). It does not disrupt only the usual routine of daily life, but also what humanity has been laying its foundation on. This situation causes a suspension of values and a collapse of beliefs. Its abruptness is often beyond “the realm of human apprehension and control” (xvi). This means that humans are unable to comprehend the reason for the massive destruction as well as being utterly impotent and passive to catastrophe. Gumpert is trying to argue that, catastrophe itself seems “to happen for no determinable reason that, by the very same token, they seem to point to a reason, one beyond our fathoming.” Catastrophe is a “sign of transcendent,” which “belongs to a genre of the revelatory” (xvi). On the surface, catastrophe may appear to be chaotic and occur without reason or pattern, but it can be a revelatory agent for a new understanding of specific issues. Before this happens, nonetheless, it is necessary to tackle the emotional disturbance of the affected. The disruption can be unbearably profound and overwhelming that the general public is so emotionally disturbed that they are incapable of making sense of the situation, not to mention that they have to figure out the essence of catastrophe. While humans are building their sense of security through their experience and knowledge, the loss of what they rely on give rise to their existential crisis. For the children, particularly, natural disasters “cany with them a profound and ongoing threat to children’s sense of the world as a safe place” (Golding, 283). Certainly, science can explain the cause and impact of natural disasters, but rather than a rational analysis, catastrophic impacts may have already exhausted the society and the individuals.

Herman explains that in catastrophe, humans suffer from a loss of bonds (1997). The breaching of connections happens not only in the way that the natural disasters take away the life of one’s family, friends, and the beloved but also in depriving survivors of a sense of security, which has been founded on these stable relationships:

Traumatic events call into question basic human relationships. They breach the attachments of family, friendship, love, and community. They shatter the construction of the self that is formed and sustained in relation to others. They undermine the belief systems that give meaning to human experience. They violate the victim’s faith in a natural or divine order and cast the victim into a state of existential crisis.


Yoko Imoto’s Kaze No Demva (#>-t+*® "C'/v ty>), for example, addresses feelings of abandonment, distress, and impotence by using some anthropomorphic

Bonds and Companionship 109 animal characters to assume the roles of survivors. All these animals are attempting to talk to the deceased ones through a phone, despite the fact that it is not connected to any other devices. A raccoon who is personifying a child calls his brother and asks when his brother will return. He feels like he is being left by his brother abruptly and unreasonably. A rabbit, who takes up the role of a mother, asks about the well-being of her deceased child. She misses the playfulness of her child, and she wishes her child to come home and for things to be as they used to be. Regardless of if she is trying to deny the horrid truth, her wishes only evidence that she is not prepared to be separated from her child. These calls mention nothing about the crashed home or the falling infrastructure but only the reminiscence of the deceased. Compared to other forms of destruction, the loss of “basic human relationships” surely devastates the survivors the most.

Likewise, Eri Nakada’s Kiseki No Ippon Matsu

® 9 C A. X) illustrates a similar sense of abandonment felt by a whole community. Inspired by an actual event, this picture book delineates a story’ of a pine tree, which survives the tsunami and becomes the only one out of the 70 thousand pines that still stands along the coastline of Rikuzentakata city in Iwate. This tree represents hope and vitality, yet, the whiteness around the tree also externalizes visually its loneliness resulting from the missing companionship. The void is so strong and dominating that it fills up more space on the page than the tree. Some other survivors, including an aged schoolteacher whose students are missing, a gardener wishing to comfort the abandoned tree, and many other victims, gather around this tree and lament for their loss. While the pines are planted by the ancestors to protect Iwate, the missing of trees denotes the deprivation of the security which has been built for years. With an illustration which shows a character placing his hand on the pine, Nakada lays out the solitude shared by all these individuals.

On top of the shattered relationships and sense of security, frustration escalates when the characters see little hope and prospects in the near future. Natural disasters destroy a man’s belief in “the continuity of life,” “the order of nature,” and “the transcendent order of the divine” (Herman, 51-52) drastically in a very short time span. Such subversion of one’s assumption on natural order arouses an existential crisis. In Imoto’s Kaze No Denwa, a cat asks God, or any form of deity, how life and death should be understood in such extreme conditions. The perplexity of this character reflects how one is disturbed by the violation of what they believe is “normality.” At the same time, this exemplifies how the survived ones have to cope with a conflicting mindset. Rationally, they understand the inevitability of natural disaster, yet emotionally, they fail to handle the affliction. It is perhaps like what Manifold argues that the trauma of natural disaster contrasts “sharply with [one’s] emerging senses of justice” ( 23). They lose an ideological foundation to regulate their lives. Natural disaster violates the victim’s idea of justice when significant losses do occur on the innocent and virtues do not make any changes to the devastating result.

Minoru Kamata’s and Yoshifumi Hasegawa’s Hourensou Wa Naiteimasu (9 A 9 U 1i f) addresses the anguish over the unfairness through the voice of personified animals and vegetables in Fukushima. Here, the characters are looking forward to making full use of their lives by providing humans some nutrition. However, because of the nuclear accident, these products are contaminated and no longer edible. Spinach, for example, resents bitterly since he loses his purpose of living. Its future is ruined unexpectedly. It even wonders if it has to blame itself for its predicament. Kamata and Hasegawa delineate the accounts of a number of agricultural products, encapsulating the extensive scale of destruction on both humans and nature. These characters project the plights of those who reside in the stricken area, who have to endure not only the devastation the earthquake caused but also the growing estrangement from the public. Although progress is being made in the reconstruction of the affected areas, some areas remain too dangerous for human residence. Many survivors have been staying in temporary housing for years and are still struggling in the post-disaster era. These picture books outline the distress of the victims honestly. They are not attempting to varnish the truth nor conceal the afflictions but conveying a strong message that misery and confusion are ubiquitous in all affected parties. Sorrow is found in individuals and the whole community. Neither justice nor karma can explain the catastrophe. These picture books make a clear stance in acknowledging human’s vulnerability and emotional disturbances when they discuss resilience and recovery.

Children’s stories are secured media for exploring traumatic experience since they “provide opportunities for reliving painful or frightening experiences with the safe limits of their cover” (Golding, 3). A picture book can be a reconceptualization of the traumatic experience and readers are placed at a “safe” distance from the pain. It is essential to understand that such efficacy of picture books and related studies are still relatively new in the discipline. Even if there are more varieties in children’s book in recent years, many adults still wonder if some topics, such as death, war, violence, natural disaster, and so on are too “dangerous” or too “upsetting” for young readers. There is only a limited number of children’s books that tackle controversial topics, not to mention that outside of these publications, there are even less handling natural disasters. Golding provides an overview of children’s literature of healing as well as suggesting some ideas on how picture books can possibly assist recover}'. Manifold also identifies certain key characteristics of this kind of picture book. Some studies concerning trauma and war can also be found. Yet, relevant criticisms are still scarce. Besides, while Japan may have more publications related to earthquakes, America has more concerning flooding. The location of publication does confine the picture books of natural disasters since they are more or less designed to discuss hazards with references to specific geographical location and cultural practice. It is highly possible that the views and resolutions advocated are not applicable universally, and no wonder that the studies of this area are heavily restrained. Nonetheless, when there is an increasing number of natural disasters globally, these picture books of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake are valuable sources for outlining certain features that are needed for developing children’s literature of trauma and healing.

It is as Golding states, picture books open doors which “lead into a secure sense of a strong self in reliable relationship, a capacity to use imagination to work through difficult situations, and a self that can cope positively and creatively with the challenges children face as they develop” (2). Such argument on imagination is explored by Manifold with more details: “art images draw on feelings, abstract memories, and metaphoric associations whereas narratives spark the reader’s imagination to weave explanation and meaning” (20). In other words, imagination can “work through difficult situation” by offering “explanation and meaning,” indicating that the imagination used in decoding picture books is capable of rationalizing atrocities for the victim. Reading a picture book itself requires an extensive usage of imagination since “picturebooks composed of pictures and words whose intimate interaction creates layers of meaning, open to different interpretation” (Arizpe 2002, 22). It is an activity that involves a dynamic interplay between visual and textual languages, which are independent but also interdependent in narration. Nikolajeva and Scott argue that even if words and images can “fill each other’s gaps, wholly or partially” (2), neither of them are competent enough to complete the entire narration without the imagination of the readers, who are responsible for filling in the gaps with “their previous knowledge, experience, and expectations” (2). A picture book is like a “miniature ecosystem,” which runs by “the interdependence or interanimation ofword and image” (Lewis, 48). Readers take up the leading role of determining the significance of codes as well as figuring out the model of collaboration. This also means that picture books are intrinsically equipped with some room for free interpretation. In this case, it can be presumed that when readers are introduced to a picture book of natural disaster, they will have to re-visit and re-interpret their view through imagination, and subsequently, liberate themselves from their personal views to other possible perspectives and alternatives.

Manifold states that “picture books that provide soothing visuals and rhythmic beats combined with reordering mythic motifs may be helpful in calming children’s fears of devastation” (23). The collaboration between the “rhythmic fashion,” the layout, and some elements such as “meter, metaphor, and other meaning making process,” are capable of bringing readers the “harmony with the world” (21). Such an idea of “harmony” can refer to the internal peace of a person, the harmony in the community, and the reunion between humanity and nature. Manifold does not elaborate on how these features of picture books can pacify readers but reading picture books itself requires a constant modification of one’s mindset so as to construct a “coherent” plot. By doing so, they need to employ their intertextual knowledge in “constructing explanatory narratives” (Arizpe 2001, 116) or a “schema for interpretation” (117). Since these picture books of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake are contextualizing real-life experience, the understanding of the emotional distress in these books will lead to individualized explanations and meanings of the crisis. Before forming a complete interpretation, readers have to employ the intertextual context acquired by their social experience and interpersonal encounters. In other words, when readers are moderating their interpretations of the codes and constructing a coherent reading, they make use of the knowledge that reminds them of the other parties in their social community. This is an advantageous feature for the picture books of natural disaster because these books concern mainly the completeness and strength of relationships. In the process of reading, it is inevitable that the inter-textuality of picture books will forge a subtle connection between readers and the others.

At the end of 2011, (kizuna), which means “bonds,” was elected by the Japanese as the word of the year. This conveys a powerful message that even though the nation has suffered from atrocities, the bonds between all parties are still strong. Many of the picture books related to the 2011 Great Japan Earthquake concern, notably, the collectiveness of the experience. As demonstrated by the selected picture books, those who suffer from frustration, anger, and abandonment can recover when companionship, whether in physical or spiritual forms, is being introduced or readers are reminded of it. Some of these picture books make use of children protagonists to encourage the identification between the real children with the fictional ones. Mari Mitsuoka’s and Shouzou Yamamoto’s Tanpopo Anohi Wono Wasurcnaide (® 0 £ iStl % C > T') and Kazu Sashida’sand Hideo Itou’s Tsunami Tendcnko Hashire Uehe!(C> ТІЛ'КІ (І L fl, -h'4-! ), for example, re-visualize the disaster chiefly from the perspective of young characters. Both begin the plot with an average school day, and no signs of imminent upheavals are detected. When the earthquake starts, the young characters flee from their schools with their peers and teachers.

After the earthquake, the leading role in Mitsuoka’s and Yamamoto’s picture book, Mai and her friend, Saki, are told to wait for rescue in their classroom. The protagonist in Shashida’s and Itou’s work takes care of the kindergarten students and follows the instruction of the secondary school students. All students run to a hill and spend their night together in a gymnasium. The young characters of these two works hold hands, hug, and pad each other’s shoulders, showing that they do recognize their vulnerability and they offer peer support to each other. Golding argues that, while children are dealing with the traumatic experience of natural disaster, they “often need extra time and support from parents, including reassurance, an honest acknowledgement of their feelings, and permission to cling” (283). Here, the bond between the young protagonists, however, accentuates not the guidance of adults. No particular adult character stands out as being the leader of the evacuation. In these two picture books, the young are capable enough to take care of themselves.

Even if picture books are conventionally printed for young readers, these picture books of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake underline the fact that all members of the community undergo the catastrophe collectively. Sashida’s and Itou’s Tsunami Tendcnko Hashire Uehe! manifests the “vastness” of the disaster through an eye-witness account, presented along with several bird’s-eye views and long shots. “Eye-witness” account, as explained by Paula Connolly (2012), is “more closely approximate the vastness of disaster” while picture books reveal “the emotional landscape of potential trauma amid the devastating effects” (3-4). These accounts are “narratives of pain,” “expression of fear, confusion, and loss” (4).

Sashida and Itou use undulating lines and dark, intense colors to illustrate the fear and tension of the flight. This scene set in the middle of this story takes up a four-page spread. The extensive scale of such illustration displays the massiveness of the escape and the imminence of danger. Long shots are used several times to highlight the flight of the entire social community. It is impossible to identify the evacuated adult and children from the crowd. The image reinforces that all victims belong to the same wholeness.

In this sense, Sashida and Itou are stating that the trauma of the earthquake and tsunami, as also presented by the irregularities and asymmetries in this scene, haunts not just individuals but the whole community. Thence, rather than solely focusing on individuals, resilience and recover}' should be cultivated along with all the other members. Herman (1997) writes:

The core experiences of psychological trauma are disempowerment and disconnection from others. Recover)', therefore, is based upon the empowerment of the survivor and the creation of new connections. Recovery’ can take place onlv within the context of relationships; it cannot occur in isolation.


Despite the fact that Herman focuses her discussion on the trauma of war and domestic violence, the ideas of empowering the survivors and forming new connections are nonetheless applicable to the victims of the natural disasters: “in the immediate aftermath of the trauma, rebuilding of some minimal form of trust is the primary' task” (Herman, 61). The bond between the survivors, no matter whether they are children or adults, is an immediate source of mental support. In Mari’s and Shouzou’s Tanpopo Anohi Wo Wasurenaide, children are terrified during the earthquake and the tsunami, yet, they' regain their laughter and play games when they' are in the sanctuary’. These children build new friendship in a difficult time, and they' share the same memory' and commemorate the casualties together.

In Sashida’s and Itou’ Tsunami Tendenko Hashire Uehe!, an old lady' says that she may' have given up her life if she had not seen how the children were running for their lives. A fisherman also expresses that he may' have drowned if he has not seen the note which states that his family' had already' evacuated. Here, the convention of adult’s guidance and children’s reliance is reversed, showing explicitly that all ages are suffering and undergoing the same trauma. No one is coping with the pain alone. The ending of Sashida’s and Itou’s work accentuates the strength of the bond between the survivors. The last few pages show a spread on which ropes are tied with their invocations written on bright and bold color papers. These pages contrast sharply with the pages of the escape, on which the evacuees are running uphill in a mass. The illustrator presents the powerfulness of the sharing invocations by' printing such a scene on a four-page spread, the same number of pages used in the evacuation scene. This implies that these wishes are strong enough to counteract the atrocity. It evinces optimism, the collectiveness and particularly, the collaborative power of the survivors.

Other than printing books exclusively for child readers, in this case of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, some picture books target ostensibly adult readers. The genre has long been embracing a sense of “childlikeness,” and this is precisely the quality aspired to by adult readers, especially during such a difficult time. Adult readership is no longer novel in the studies of children’s literature. Scholarly researches understand that the “single address” in children’s literature is theoretical. Adult readers are always present in the discipline. They take up the role of the publishers, who define and categorize the text; they also take up the role of parents and teachers, who select the texts for young readers. Barbara Wall introduces terms like “single address,” “double address,” and “dual addresses” while Peter Hunt calls the address “polyphonic.” Haus-Heino Ewers divides the discipline into “monosemic multiply addressed children’s literature” and “bisemic multiply address children’s literature.” Nodelman even suggests that the characteristic of “childlikeness” itself in children’s literature reveals the hidden adults in the readership:

Picture books are clearly recognizable as children’s books simply because they do speak to us of childlike qualities, of youthful simplicity and youthful exuberance; yet paradoxically, they do so in terms that imply a vast sophistication in regard to both visual and verbal codes.

(Nodelman 1988,21)

Picture books are full of “childlike qualities” that are recognizable to adult readers, and they also embody a vast number of visual and verbal codes that it is essential for readers to have the “general knowledge and experience of life, of literature, and of visual art” (Nodelman 1988, 101) before they decipher the codes. Nodelman argues that such “childlike qualities” recall the childlikeness and innocence of the adult authors. Children’s literature is indeed a “literature of nostalgia” (2008, 192).

In this way, “childlikeness” is a deliberate artifact created based on the understanding of “non-childlikeness.” The difficulties in the adult world, subsequently, strengthen the “innocence” in children’s books. In the picture books of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, adults are in need of childlikeness, a reminder of “innocence,” so as to console themselves from traumatic experiences. As Katherine Smith (2005) observes, adults tend to imagine children as an innocent subject, “who are figured almost iconographically as the ultimate victims of trauma, those who require above all else adult protection guidance” (116). When children are the marginalized or the vulnerable figures in society, adults equip themselves with a responsibility to protect the children. It is an act of assuring the prosperity of the future. Perhaps children are generally being seen as a weaker party; however, as aforementioned, the children in these books show courage and wisdom. They are calm and determined. Thus, instead of keeping the children safe, adults focus on redeeming “innocence” in these picture books. Additionally, “innocent” children are also configured as “the survivor of trauma,” who are capable of offering “adults spiritual advices in how to triumph

Bonds and Companionship 115 over pain through simple, honest, essential values like love, trust, hope, and perseverance” (116).

Even if picture books have to minimize the historical intricacies of the disasters, “these experimental narrative privilege evidence of child reader’s survival ability as well as identification with a suffering protagonist, a process that would bring us back to the idea that adults long for both vulnerability and strength, victimization and recover}'” (Smith, 118). Thereby, the clear storyline and undisguised characterization accentuate the sharing of vulnerability between adults and children. The survival of characters brings a sense of hope and cultivates the recovery of adult readers. Like Herman, Smith’s criticism focuses mainly on the trauma of warfare and holocaust, yet the projection of these feelings generated from traumatic experiences is presumably working in a similar manner with the ones from natural disasters. Therefore, though some of these picture books are using child protagonists, their survival is an inspirational role model for adult readers.

Additionally, instead of making use of the story' of the Active child characters, adult characters are included in these picture books to strengthen the identification of adult readers. In Imoto’s Kaze No Denwa, for instance, four out of five characters are adults, who respectively play the role of a mother, a widower, a questioner, and the guard of the telephone. The adult characters share the same grief with the only child character. They express their mourning as vehement as the young one. The fox, who assumes the role as a widower, resents how his wife leaves him and their children abruptly. He starts the conversation by reprehending the departure of his wife, but soon his rage turns into gratitude for what she has been doing for the family. This scene reflects a complex emotional response of the victim upon the sudden ruination of his matrimony. Adult characters can also be found in Tan Hakata’s Himawari No Oka (O £ H 9 ® feZ>>), which is an epistolary’ composed by a group of bereaved mothers. The book records the reminiscence and the wishes of the parents to their deceased children, who pass away' in the tsunami. Mikiko Asanuma and Ken Kuroi’s Hanamizuki No Michi

$ X ® ^ *>) is recited by' a deceased child, whose purpose of narration is to comfort her survived parents. Hisanori Yoshida’s and Eto Mori’s Kibou No Bokujou (f^®® ftl’b1) unfolds a story’ of a cattleman, who continues to work in a radiatively active region since he believes that it is his duty to take care of his livestock. All these aforementioned picture books display' a great deal of childlikeness in pictorial manifestation and fantastical elements in the plot. Nonetheless, the stories are clearly' related more to an adult’s life, role, and job than a child’s.

In addition to the interconnection between children and adults and also the bond in the social community', the reconnection between the survived and the dead also relieves the pain of the victims. Imoto’s Kaze No Denwa is capable of making a connection to all victims. They' share the same loneliness and the desire of reconnecting to the deceased. Imoto’s Kaze No Denwa finishes with the ringing of the phone. When the guard of the phone picks up the call, the snow stops and the stars glitter, a metaphorical shift from distress to prospect. The other side of the phone answers with plenty of “Thank yous,” as if the deceased are expressing their gratitude for the calls. The gratitude can also be relevant to the good old times that the living and the deceased have spent. The story’ finishes when the guard shouts to the sky that the grief and wishes of the survived are transmitted successfully at last. The replies symbolize a restoration of the reconnection between the living and the dead, and at the same time, assuring that the bond between them is still secured.

According to Connolly, while “using animal stories to describe natural disasters” could provide “a means for identification,” they could also be “simultaneously removing the focus from human tragedy,” stating that anthropomorphism could distance readers from direct addresses to bereavement. (2012, 2) Connolly argues that “animal stories that narrow the scope of the disaster by synthesizing its effect on one or two animals often traverse the geographical and situational boundaries of their respective natural catastrophes to speak to universal emotions” (2012, 2-3). The deliberate inclusion of “universal emotion” removes precise identification, and thereby, distances the readers intentionally from a conscious reminder of their agony. The death of the beloved is a tragic yet inevitable incision of human relationships. These answers in Kaze No Demva, thence, alleviate the pain of the mourning. They pacify the living ones by implying that they are departed in peace, and thus, providing the best possible comfort to the survivors and moderate the acute pain of these sudden deaths.

Nakada’s Kiseki No Ippon Matsu focuses on the historical root of the trees and proposes a reconnection with ancestors. The survived and personified pine recalls the endeavor of previous generations by tracing its past to the Edo period. A businessman, Mokunosuke Kanno plants the pines because he believes that the trees can prevent the erosion of sea breeze and keep the fertility of the soil. Fifty years later, another official, Shinuemon Matsuzaka, repeats the practice. Visually, Nakada illustrates the scenes from the past, showing how different parties are trying to plant pines for defense and prosperity. These plantings reflect the hope of the ancestors, who wish their acts will keep their descendants away from catastrophe. The recollections manifest the sharing invocations and the companionship of a few generations. The missing of the pines indicates the impotence in the face of the natural forces and also a waste of the endeavor of the ancestors. Nonetheless, one pine survives miraculously. This tree preserves the bond with the past, even if it becomes relatively feeble. Still, its survival reminds of the fact that their ancestors have also experienced the same devastation caused by natural disasters. Yet, they are able to thrive in the face of extremity. Thence, the tree revitalizes the affected and reminds the ubiquity of catastrophic events in history. The victims can also recover and rebuild their hometown as their ancestors have done.

Some writers refuse to fantasize about the remnant of the disaster or soothe the poignancy through anthropomorphism. Instead, they configure the reconnection between the survivors and the deceased by illustrating their return in the form of soul or incarnation. Usa’s Boku Wa Umininatta { ii” < U ¡Af IC -St O tz) narrates the return of a dog, Chobi, to his owner. At first, the dog is confused because his owner cannot see it; yet, readers will find out that the reason for such invisibility

Bonds and Companionship 117 is that the dog is dead. Chobi accompanies his owner to walk around the stricken area, during which its owner identifies the body of her mother. Here, the living one and the deceased one are still mutually dependent. When the survivors are mourning for their loss, the deceased is also trying their best to go back to the Earth, even if it reappears only in the form of a soul. Neither of the two characters intend to abandon each other. The visualization of the reunion of Chobi and his owner evidences the strength of bonds, which can persist and restore under challenging circumstances. Despite the fact that the deceased ones are no longer visible for the survivors, the two parties are still spiritually tagging along.

In both Mikiko Asanuma and Ken Kuroi’s Hanamizuki No Michi and Tan Tanaka’s Himawari No Oka, for example, the deceased children are incarnated as flowers. Asanuma and Kuroi spend the first half of the story recalling the quotidian life before the earthquake, and then they spend the latter half on the narration of the deceased child. With the purpose of consoling her bereaved parents, the child asks them to plant dogwoods, her favorite flowers, along the road. The narrator is hoping that her parents will imagine and believe in her companionship whenever they see the flowers. Her spirit will stay on the flowers so that when the next disaster comes, she will guide the evacuees to a safe location. The blooming dogwoods recall the past of the child as well as symbolizing the incarnation of the child at present. This new form of bond requires not obliterating the death of the child but helps foster the resilience in the face of the tragedy while proposing a new fashion of companionship.

Different from the child narration in Hanamizuki No Michi, Tan Hakata’s Himawari No Oka (V- £ Ъ 9 Ф fe Zu) is given by bereaved parents. It is based on a real event of the students attending Ookawa primary school. More than 70 per cent of the students and teachers are engulfed in the disaster. The book delineates how the parents commemorate their children by planting sunflowers near the school. A mother recalls how her children are looking forward to their graduation, while one recalls how her child takes care of her family. Each mother picks one or two stories of their children that vividly present the kindness and the beauty of each child, laying out to the readers that these children are all precious to their family and the nation. Some tell these parents that the sunflowers are dehydrated since the land has been soaked with seawater before, but the mothers reply that they will water them as long as the flowers need it. Even if some tell them that excessive watering will drown the roots, they are pampering the flowers as if they are doing so on their deceased children. The parents are much comforted and contented when they witness the growth of these sunflowers. It is apparent that they project their parenthood on the flowers, which, in their view, are incarnated with the souls of their children. To be sure, the parents do not deny the fact, but they feel like they reconnect with their children spiritually through the sunflowers. Incidentally, considering that this book presents the letters written by the mothers along with the images of the children, it can also be served as a medium that reunites the mothers and the children.

Hanamizuki No Michi and Himawari No Oka concern how humans are seeking comfort in nature rather than holding grudges against it. It is encouraged to see nature as hope and a continuation of life rather than a destroyer. At the beginning of Sashida and Itou’s Tsunami Tendenko Hashire Uehel, the grandfather of the protagonist comments on the beauty of the sea. Yet, the old man has warned the protagonist that he has to run for his life if a tsunami comes. The same discussion happens again at the end of the book. The protagonist laments on the loss of his flat, and he asks if the old man is afraid of the sea. Even though the tsunami is horrific, as the grandfather explains, it is part of the natural cycle. Humanity has long taken advantage of the sea but has forgotten the power of nature. Nonetheless, the relationship between human and nature is not about one being more superior to the other. The grandfather ends his comment with a remark that everything is possible as long as humans live. The conversations here give readers a sense of optimism, suggesting that instead of staying hostile to the environment, humans should re-examine their role on Earth or even look for the intrinsic connection between human and nature. It is vital that survivors reconcile with nature by acknowledging that disasters are part of the natural cycle. It is still possible, as suggested by the grandfather, that man will find a way to co-exist with nature in peace. The contemplation and reflection on the relationship between human and nature may echo what Gumpert has argued about the “revelatory” characteristic of catastrophe. New understandings and thoughts can be generated after a catastrophe. These picture books of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake remain silent to the possible “new” understandings. They are not obliged to provide a manual for recovery, and to be sure, it would be too simplistic just to lay out the solutions to settle the traumatic experience. If this happened, these books would be underestimating the impact of trauma. It would be disrespectful to the deceased and an overlooking of the afflictions of the survived. As it appears, instead of “solving” the trauma, these books question the dualistic relationship between nature and humans while initiating an exploration of the possible remedy for the affected.

Along with the “optimism” embodied and the reflection on humans and nature, a sense of melancholy is paradoxically and consistently reminded. The earthquake and the tsunami trigger the ongoing radioactive releases in the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Picture books such as Minoru Kamata’s and Yoshifumi Hasegawa’s Hourensou Wa Naiteimasu and Hisanori Toshida’s and Eto Mori’s Kibou No Bokujou illustrate the unsolved nuclear problem in the post-disaster era. Kamata and Hasegawa contrast the life of the personified vegetables and animals in the affected area by having a brightly colored page followed by an image colored with dark monochrome. The vivid pages illustrate the invocations of the characters, and the following pages display how nuclear pollutants contaminate these figures. The alternating manifestations of vibrancy and lethargy manifest noticeable disparity before and after the nuclear accident. Additionally, the authors make use of the short span of page-turning to show the suddenness of calamity. Such juxtaposition of the forecast before and after the catastrophe effectively exhibits the sudden loss of hope and the devastation of various parties. In the end, these characters state that they do not have any more tears to

Bonds and Companionship 119 shed, showing that they are too exhausted from their afflictions and impotence. The authors also illustrate the power of radiation with a black and white double spread, on which all objects are only outlined. The horror of radiation is evinced profoundly by its invisibility, intangibility, and unavoidability. The minimalistic design only highlights that the disaster is impacting the life of the residents thoroughly. Life is ruined ceaselessly in these affected areas.

Toshida’s and Mori’s work, instead of personifying characters, is based on a true story of a cattleman, who stays in the stricken area of radiation and takes care of his livestock. The book is mainly colored with an earthy tone, projecting the distressing state of the remnants. Other human characters, which are voiced only in the text, ask the cattleman to leave. Nonetheless, he insists that it is his duty to look after the place. His loneliness is highlighted when no communication between him and the other human are visualized. Before the radiation, children are playing around, and farmers are working in the field. Those pages are painted with bright colors and chiefly in green, showing a strong sense of vitality. However, on the following pages, the leakage of radiation scares off all humans. Though the layout is very similar to the previous page, the absence of human characters creates a noticeable hollowness. The story illustrates the troubles of the abandoned animals in the stricken areas. Even if this cattleman, or perhaps some others, take care of the remaining animals, most of them are being left without food and support, not to mention the physical danger that these parties are exposed to on a daily basis.

Regarding the future of those affected, both Hourensou Wa Naiteimasu and Kibon No Bokujou portray a strong sense of devastation in the last few pages. In Kamata and Hasegawa’s work, two farmers, who turn their back to the reader, are colored with dark gray. They stare at the field, in which the agricultural products are all contaminated. They can do nothing to rectify the current situation. Their impotence shows how vulnerable humans can be when they face disasters. Mori, in a similar fashion, draws the back of the cattleman and his herd with a snowing background, displaying the bareness of the region in conjunction with the solitude of the character. These two picture books present clearly the seclusion of those residing in these areas and the alienation that befalls on the victims. In spite of the fact that these characters have survived the earthquake and the tsunamis, their lives are not thriving in all ways.

Different from other aforementioned picture books, Hasegawa’s and Mori’s works focus more on the hardship in the post-disaster era. While melancholy and solitude persist, these picture books are not impeding the recover}' of the survived. Instead, they encourage readers to foster their resilience and cultivate their recover}' by accommodating themselves with these atrocities. Like the invocations upheld in Sashida’s and Itou’s work and the reminiscence of the bereaved mothers in Hakata’s work, these picture books are not trying to uphold a happy ending senselessly. They suggest a practical optimism for all the affected. To survive is not about obliterating the past but living with it. While staying optimistic is preferred, the mindset of the survivors should also have to be prepared for the lingering effects of the disaster.

These picture books admit the fact that earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear crisis are “unavoidable,” and both children and adult survivors will have to cope with the traumatic experience. Rather than simply recalling the past, these picture books advocate the essentiality of companionship, the critical stimulus for one’s recovery from trauma. In order to alleviate the painful experience, they examine the connections between survivors, reconnections with the deceased, and the incarnation of souls. It is apparent that these books are written or illustrated neither for edification nor entertainment. They stress neither the horrific nor haunting nature of trauma. While picture books, or even children’s literature, concerning trauma and disasters are still scarce, the picture books of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake demonstrate how picture books can respond to natural disaster and how they can impact readers. Even if recalling traumatic experience may provoke unpleasant memory, these books propose a contemplation and re-examination of bonds, reflection on the interrelations between humanity and nature, and reassessment of the roles of humans in the natural order. While they admit humans’ vulnerability, they also ask them to learn to live with the powerful nature in peace. These publications are not burying the history and upholding a blind exhilaration to prosperity; instead, they advocate practical optimism, which recognizes the aftermaths of the disasters while growing resilience with the past and preserving a faith for the present and future.

Primary Resources

Asanuma, M., and K. Kuroi. Hanamizuki No Michi. Tokyo: Kin no Hoshisha, 2015. Hakata, T., and M. Matsunari. Himawari No Oka (7th ed.). Japan: Iwasaki Shoten, 2014.

Imoto, Y. Kaze No Denwa (7th ed.). Tokyo: Kin no Hoshisha, 2014.

Kamata, M., and Y. Hasegawa. Hourensou Wa Naiteimasu. Japan: Poplar, 2014.

Mitsuoka, M., and S. Yamamoto. Tanpopo Anohi Wo Wasurenaide (2nd ed.). Japan:

Bunken Shuppan, 2012.

Mori, E., and H. Yoshida. Kibou No Bokujou (3rd ed.). Japan: Iwasaki Shoten, 2015. Nakada, E. Kiseki No Ippon Matsu (12th ed.). Japan: Chou Bun Sha, 2014.

Sashida, K., and H. Itou. Tsunami Tendenko Hashire Uehe! (6th ed.). Japan: Poplar, 2014.

Usa. Baku Wa Umininatta (4th ed.). Japan: Kumon Shuppan, 2015.

Secondary Resources

Arizpe, E. “Letting the Story Out’: Visual Encounters with Anthony Browne’s The Tunnel.” Reading: Literacy and Language 35, no. 3 (2001): 115-119.

Arizpe, E., and S. Morag. Children Reading Pictures: Interpreting Visual Texts. London/New York: RoutledgeFalmer, 2002.

Connolly, P.T. “Surviving from the Storm: Trauma and Recovery in Children’s Book about Natural Disaster.” Bookbird 50, no. 1 (2012): 1-9.

Ewers, H. Fundamental Concepts of Children’s Literature Research: Literary and Sociological Approaches. (W.H. McCann, Trans). New York: Routledge, 2009.

Bonds and Companionship 121

Golding, J. Healing Stories: Picture Books for the Big & Small Changes in a Child’s Life. London: M. Evans, 2006.

Gumpert, M. The End of Meaning: Studies in Catastrophe. Newcastle Upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012.

Herman, J. Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror (2nd ed.). New York: BasicBooks, 1997.

Hunt, P. “Defining Children’s Literature.” In Only Connect: Readings on Children’s Literature (3rd ed.), edited by S. Egoff, G.Stubbs, R. Ashley, and Sutton, W., 2-17. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Lewis, D. Reading Contemporary Picturebooks: Picturing Text. New York: Routledge, 2001.

Manifold, M.C. “The Healing Picture Book: An Aesthetic of Sorrow.” Teacher Librarian 34, no. 3 (2007): 20-26.

Matsui, K. “Cheering Ourselves through Children’s Book: Bookbird Helps Quake-Hit North Japan.” Bookbird 50, no. 1 (2012): 70-74.

Nikolajeva, M., and Scott, C. How Picturebooks Work. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Nodelman, P. Words about Pictures: The Narrative Art of Children’s Picture Books. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1988.

Nodelman, P. The Hidden Adult: Defining Children’s Literature. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008.

Smith, K.C. “Forum: Trauma and Children’s Literature.” Children’s Literature 33, no. 1 (2005): 115-119, 303.

Wall, B. The Narrator's Voice: The Dilemma of Children's Fiction. New York: Palgrave, 1991.

7 Tyrants, Typhoons, and Trauma

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