The Vanished: The "Evaporated People" of Japan in Stories and Photographs

Every year in Japan thousands of individuals just disappear, motivated by shame, hopelessness and debt. They are called johatsu, the evaporated. Some commit suicide, some go into hiding, some change their names, others just don't expect to be pursued. But Léna Mauger and Stéphane Remael set out to pursue them in The Vanished: The "Evaporated People" of Japan in Stories and Photographs

The search proves difficult for the author and photographer, as they even have difficulty in securing translators. The taboo surrounding the johatsu is great; the shame their families feel is greater still. Nonetheless, in powerful vignettes, readers meet some of the evaporated whose narratives are compelling, tragic and revealing. The Vanished serves not just as a story of those who have disappeared and those they left behind, but is also an exploration of a country struggling with multiple economic collapses; the power of the yakuza (organized crime); and a traditional culture unable to keep step with modernity.

Family pain is especially poignant: "We simply want to hear from him, he doesn't have to come home. If he needs money, we'll send it to him," says one johatsu parent.

Remael's photographs add significantly to Mauger's prose. They are atmospheric, haunting and disruptive, just like the evaporated. The loss both the johatsu and their family members feel is etched in their faces and even in their environments. --Evan M. Anderson, collection development librarian, Kirkendall Public Library, Ankeny, Iowa.

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