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Black Rain

by Kris Kosaka

Special To The Japan Times

Masuji Ibuse’s classic 1965 novel “Black Rain” takes readers into the everyday lives of a family poisoned by radiation sickness. The narrative structure carefully balances between the present time of the novel and journal entries from the bombings of Hiroshima to craft a carefully wrought masterpiece of how great tragedy begets an unending spool of unraveling quieter tragedy.

Black Rain, by Masuji Ibuse Translated by John Bester.
Kodansha USA, Fiction.

Four years after World War II, Yasuko finally has a chance at a normal life — marriage to a young man from a good family. Her earlier marriage prospects were consistently defeated by a rumor that she suffers from radiation sickness, despite a clean bill of health. And when her newest suitor requests proof of her whereabouts during the bombing, another spoiled marriage agreement seems imminent.

Yasuko’s uncle, Shigematsu Shizuma, asks his wife to copy out Yasuko’s journal as proof that she was not exposed, and Ibuse uses this plot device to weave Yasuko’s journal entries, and later those of her uncle’s, into his narrative. The result: painstaking, detailed recordings of the bombing and its aftermath.

Based on interviews and notes from actual survivors, the novel has been called “cold” or “clinical” by some critics, but the documentary style allows Ibuse to reveal Japanese customs and culture in an affirmation of normalcy in abnormal situations.

“Black Rain” journeys into the heart of superstition and fear — places the survivors of Fukushima know all too well, and a place Japan bibliophiles owe it to themselves to visit.

Read archived reviews of Japanese classics at jtimes.jp/essential.

  • Richard

    URGENT! The People concerned about black rain because they have being radiated by a nuclear power plant or from an attack need to know that taking Potassium Iodide bills are WORTHLESS if a disaster occurs and you have already become radiated which is most likely going to be the case because many disasters happen without notice! Potassium Iodide pills must be taken BEFORE being radiated and then they ONLY protect the thyroid gland for a 24 period of time! So if you are stuck in a radiation zone you are going to be exposed to radiation anyway if you have been there for over 24 hours! THE BEST WAY TO REMOVE BOTH RADIATION AND HEAVY METALS AFTER BEING RADIATED BY EXPOSURE TO RADIATION is with the natural detox mineral called zeolite which has been proven to safely remove both radiation and heavy metals from the body! The Nuclear power plants should be passing out zeolite to the people living near these power plants! For more quality information on this detox do a simple search for the single word Zeolite.

    • rossdorn

      Stop giving idiotic advice like that… why does the JT nonsense like this stand here and make idiots out of people who are afraid?