Tsunami Recovery, Adoption, and Life as an Expat

Finding Home, Finding Hope in Japan, with author Leza Lowitz

March 24 @ 6:00 pm9:00 pm

Thursday, March 24 | 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm
Digital Garage, San Francisco

As we approach a more unified world culturally and economically we begin to meet others from distant places, far from their native lands. Or we may be the travelers, ourselves. How can we be at home wherever we are in the world, especially when facing challenges, or when disaster strikes?

In this inspiring talk, award-winning writer Leza Lowitz shows us how the idea of ‘home’ can be more than a physical location and that family can transcend the nuclear unit.

Lowitz knows this from personal experience. She moved to Tokyo at the age of 40, but rather than struggle to fit in she opened a yoga studio and made a home for others. Then, at 44, she and her Japanese husband sought to adopt — in a country where bloodlines are paramount and family ties are almost feudal in their cultural importance.  Her memoir, Here Comes the Sun, charts this journey of adapting and adopting. By embracing outsider status, Lowitz become an insider.

Then disaster struck. Lowitz was in Tokyo on March 11, 2011, and her yoga studio mobilized to organize the largest non-corporate donation drive for Tohoku on record. She volunteered at the temporary housing shelters, and her studio helped build a library in a town devastated by the tsunami. But she wanted to do more.

Inspired by a young boy she met in the disaster zone, Lowitz began to write Up from the Sea, a novel about a boy who loves soccer and creates a team to rally his town after the tsunami. Later, she discovered that exactly this had been done. Then she learned that a soccer ball belonging to a teenager in Tohoku had washed up in Alaska. The ball was found by a man with a Japanese wife who traced the owner and returned the ball. 

In June 2011, four Japanese school students who’d lost family members in the tsunami flew to New York to raise funds for the children of Tohoku orphaned in the March 11, 2011, disaster. Two American students, one who had lost her father in 9/11 and another who had lost his mother in Hurricane Katrina, joined them. Lowitz was deeply inspired by this story of survivors of tragedies in one country reaching out to survivors in another.

Mixing fact with fiction, she based her novel on these events to keep a light shining on Tohoku.

In this special talk, Lowitz will share these stories of hope, resilience and activism to suggest that even ordinary people can help each other across vast oceans and overcoming great obstacles.

As the Dalai Lama has said, “no matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.”


Leza Lowitz is an award-winning author of over 20 books, many about Japan. Formerly a lecturer in literature at Tokyo University and an editor at NIRA, a semi-governmental Japanese think tank, Lowitz has run her own highly successful yoga studio in Tokyo for 13 years, and has shared the power of mindfulness and the nurturing potential of creativity with Fortune 500 companies to Academy-award winning actors and directors to everyone in between.