The calendar page has flipped. We are now in February, speedily making plans into March. This brings up the painful realization that we are approaching the sad anniversary of The Great East Japan Earthquake, a magnitude 9, which brought the 40.5 meter-high (133 ft) tsunami and a whole host of devastating effects, including Level 7 nuclear reactor meltdowns. March can feel heavy in Japan.
Japan continues to hurt; after all, families were ripped apart. The national police agency accounts a staggering 15,893 deaths, 6,152 injured persons, and 2,572 people missing across twenty prefectures. Buildings collapsed in the hundreds of thousands, with approximately 228,870 people living away from their home in either temporary housing or permanent relocation. Even now. Many schools need basic materials. Mothers need sturdy walls and blankets for their babies.
We are nearing five years and still, assistance is needed for the survivors.
I marvel at those who help, those who give selflessly and with all that they have. This is where the goodness of people shows. Teams, corporations, countries invested and showed up in our Japan to build hospitals, to ladle soup into shocked, saddened mouths. They cleared away muck and rubble, working to restore that which remained.
These are the people we should join with physically, to lend aid or support.
We use of our gifts, talents, and resources in different ways. At the time of the March 11 crisis, I was away from Japan. Upon returning, I was busy nursing my infant daughter and longed to go and just be with those hurting and those helping. I still long to hear what those who went say. I want to see the people through their eyes, hear all they wish to share and learn what still must be done.
Leza Lowitz, writer, and owner of a Tokyo yoga studio, has taken part in the physical, bringing massage and help to the people of Tohoku. She saw where homes had been, saw stacks of cars and boats, piled high by tsunami waves.
Leza touched the shoulders and necks of those who suffered trauma. Her very yoga studio made it so a library was built, a place of respite and comfort, complete with a garden. However, she couldn’t continue to make trips there, being a mother with certain responsibilities. Leza decided to use her gift and desire to help in another way—by writing.
“I felt that the bigger contribution I could make was by writing a book….others could perhaps do more hands-on volunteering. I could use my time and skills to write a book while still being able to stay home to care for my son”, says the author.
And so her journey towards Up From the Sea began.
Leza writes from the perspective of a seventeen-year-old boy in his classroom when the shaking begins. We see, through Kai, what we could not see from the news. We see into his day-to-day, into his relationships with his mom, grandparents, and friends at school. We see his principal and teacher, the actions they took to make it to safety, and all that was left behind.
Through Lowitz’s novel in verse, a format built like unrhyming poetry, unencumbered and free to tell with emotion, we walk through grief with Kai. We see disrepair and fear.
RUNNING THROUGH MY RUINED TOWN, pack flapping winglike against my back.
Plowing through blocks
strewn with heaps of
in a marshland
We climb through tsunami wreckage with him and see Tohoku, see the world, really, on and post-March 11, after the tragedy. Through this form of verse, and through the authors’ own experience meeting a boy in a village who had lost his mother, the reader feels each phrase, each verse like a puncture or a wave. It is experiential and visual, in a way the traditional novel cannot live or tread. It is a deep work, appealing to young adults in being fast-paced and highly visual. This book is really for everyone.
It is poetry in the form of a novel and it is beautiful.
We are invited to join Lowitz and Kai in rebuilding, in coming Up From the Sea with a real semblance of hope.
Leza Lowitz adds, “As you know, next month will be the fifth anniversary of the disaster. It is hard to believe that five years have passed. There is so much work still to be done in the affected areas. I hope my novel might help shine the light there still”.
Shine, it shall. This book, her first novel-in-verse, has been named BUZZFEED’s #1 of 5 Young Adult books you should be reading.
The Japan Times calls it “A powerful, deeply moving book.”
Leza is a prolific, award-winning writer. This is her first solo book aimed at the YA audience (her prior YA novel was co-written with her husband). She also has books of poetry, short-stories, and a memoir.
“Up from the Sea touched me deeply with its beautiful message of hope and the resilience of humanity. Bravo.” –Ellen Oh, author of The Prophecy series
Visit Leza Lowitz’ website to read more of the accolades this book continues to collect.
Visit this Melibelle blog post of How to Stay Cool in Tokyo, featuring Leza!
It is the author’s hope that Up From the Sea become translated into Japanese. She would love to give away many copies to honor and strengthen the people of Tohoku. May it be so!
Leza Lowitz will be speaking at the Tokyo American Club Thursday, Feb. 4th!
Non-members also welcome!
Thank you to Leza & to all who make it their life-long goal to shine brightly & always help.