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Strong in the Rain: Surviving Japan's Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Hardcover – October 30, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


'Birmingham and McNeill have created a compassionate and important book which both gives valuable information about one of the most important events of the last few years, and helps call to account both the Japanese government and TEPCO...Strongly recommended.' -The Book Bag

About the Author

Lucy Birmingham is TIME magazine’s Tokyo-based reporter and covered the March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis. Since coming to Japan in the mid-1980s, her work has appeared in Bloomberg News, Newsweek, Wall Street JournalThe Boston Globe, Forbes, Fortune, The New York Times, Travel & Leisure, and U.S. News and World Report. A board member of the Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, she lives in Tokyo.

David McNeill writes regularly for the Independent, the Irish Times, and Japan Times, while teaching at Sophia University in Tokyo. His work has appeared in Newsweek, New Scientist, The Face, Marie Claire, New Statesman, the International Herald Tribune, The Chicago Tribune, on the BBC, RTE and CBC and in many other outlets.  He is a board member of the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan and chair of The Foreign Press in Japan. He lives in Japan.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Trade (October 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230341861
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230341869
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #553,770 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Jake Adelstein on January 13, 2013
Format: Hardcover
"Strong In The Rain" is a book with the literary density of uranium, it penetrates deeply and leaves the reader with a personal and factual understanding of of Japan's 3/11 mega-disaster that a simple narrative could never do.
The most appropriate expression I can use to describe the book is from the Japanese 痛感 (tsukan) literally to "feel pain" the metaphorical meaning being "to keenly know" something. I wasn't in Japan when the earthquake and the meltdown devastated the nation; I came back 10 days later. This book makes me feel like I was there--like I lived through it. It's that powerful and evocative. I know both the authors, so maybe I'm not objective. But this is a powerful and almost majestic book. It's a book I wish I had written...or could write.

It is a book about some amazing Japanese heroes, like the Mayor Sakurai, who fought the yakuza, the complacent press, the Japanese government, and the nuclear industrial complex that is sometimes referred to as "the nuclear village" or by those in the underworld as "the nuclear mafia." He's not an action hero--he's a man of action, a man who changed the coverage of the nuclear meltdown with a simple heartfelt video uploaded onto You Tube in two languages.
He becomes the embodiment in the text of the Japanese spirit and character.

Ms. Birmingham and Mr. McNeill deftly weave together the accounts of the victims and heroes into a Rashomon like account of 3/11 that creates a 4D picture of the tragedy and it does it without the moral relativism or ambiguity of Akutagawa; some problems are painted in shades of grey, but the authors have the courage to put things in black and white where it matters. Sometimes, there is a right and a wrong, a true and false.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ian C. Ruxton on December 10, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
This is a book by two seasoned journalists at the top of their profession who happen also to be long-term Tokyo residents, and thus perfectly placed to write this chronicle. It certainly deserves such attention, if only because the world came so close to a major nuclear catastrophe on March 11, 2011. The book is well-constructed, selecting six people from different walks of life (the mayor, the fisherman, the housewife, the foreign teacher, the power plant worker, the high school graduate) and showing how the events unfolded on each of them in different parts of the disaster zone. What stands out is not only the courage and resilience of the Japanese people as individuals and the strength of their well-documented group mentality, but also the troubling arrogance and lack of foresight of the giant Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), and worse still the scorn poured on whistleblowers, the ignoring of expert advice and the attempts made to cover up the seriousness of what occurred.

It is important that nobody forgets what happened in Fukushima, and after the dust has settled since last year this book is a welcome contribution to preventing just such an unfortunate outcome. Inevitably since the triple disaster of earthquake, tsunami and meltdown the wisdom of building 54 nuclear power plants in a country so prone to earthquakes (including one plant in Fukui prefecture directly over a fault line) has come into question. Almost all of them are currently shut down with corresponding increases to consumers of about 8% nationwide in the cost of electricity at the time of writing this in 2012, but this is a price most Japan residents will gladly pay for greater safety. Meanwhile outside Japan nuclear power plant construction programs have been halted, and in some countries abandoned altogether.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By S. L. on August 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book last November not thinking it was going to move me as much as it did. I was living in Tokyo at the time of the earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster but had also lived for a few years in a small, coastal town in Miyagi, one that was very badly damaged by the tsunami. Along with my family and friends, I lived through the initial fear of not knowing if everyone was okay. Once everyone was all accounted for we began dealing with the real terror of the nuclear meltdown, the unknown as it were, largely because we all felt we weren't getting the real story from the government. How true that has come to be. Most people I know struggled with deciding to stay or go. Family ties, jobs, personal financial situations, visa issues and not wanting to abandon a country they'd come to love were all concerns that kept most of us there. When we did finally leave, it was not easy on a personal or emotional level. On a logical level though we knew it was the right thing to do, not the least being because of the constant lies told to the people by the Japanese government and TEPCO. Reading this book brought back all of the horror of those days, weeks and months. To say it is well-written and informative does little to convey the emotion that this book evoked, not just in me, but in everyone to whom I recommended it, all of those family and friends who also went through the disaster. Even if you have never been to Japan or don't know anyone in Japan, read it to gain some understanding of the sheer terror of what it is like to go through an event that passes for a few minutes of evening news to most. Read it also so that you can feel even some of the anger the rest of us did at the poor response, obfuscation and bungling of what may prove to be the worst nuclear disaster ever.
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