"Your mother is senile, senile, senile!"

The family was dining at a restaurant. Mom had gone to the rest room and Dad, in anguish, faced his two grown children. Sawako Agawa — TV personality, journalist and author — recalls the scene for Bungei Shunju magazine (July).

It was fall, 2011. Shortly afterwards her mother was hospitalized for heart surgery. Talk at the hospital bedside turned to the catastrophic Great East Japan Earthquake six months before. Mom, listening, looked bewildered: "What earthquake?"