Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group
Strong in the Rain

Strong in the Rain

Surviving Japan's Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill

St. Martin's Press



Blending history, science, and gripping storytelling, Strong in the Rain brings the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck Japan in 2011 and its immediate aftermath to life through the eyes of the men and women who experienced it. Following the narratives of six individuals, the book traces the shape of a disaster and the heroics it prompted, including that of David Chumreonlert, a Texan with Thai roots, trapped in his school's gymnasium with hundreds of students and teachers as it begins to flood, and Taro Watanabe, who thought nothing of returning to the Fukushima plant to fight the nuclear disaster, despite the effects that he knew would stay with him for the rest of his life. This is a beautifully written and moving account of how the Japanese experienced one of the worst earthquakes in history and endured its horrific consequences.


Praise for Strong in the Rain

“[Birmingham and] McNeill bring readers directly into the moment in this action-packed account of the earthquake, tsunami and resulting meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear plant. In this intense narrative, the authors include stories of fishermen who survived by sailing their boats into the oncoming tsunami waves, teachers who raced to get their students to high ground, and plant workers, bound by a sense of duty and honor, who returned to the melting and highly radioactive nuclear facility to help cool overheating fuel rods…Harrowing, sensitive stories of heroism during one of the most traumatic natural disasters in Japanese history.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Intrinsically gripping… Stories of individuals stand out … an important contribution to remembering the tsunami and its aftermath.” —Publishers Weekly

“A solid, first class work of journalism. A thoroughly researched and masterfully written account of the horrific Tohoku disaster of the spring of 2011 and its aftermath that brims with telling detail. Gripping, heart wrenching, yet ultimately uplifting in its depiction of the power of the human spirit to overcome unimaginable adversity. Hats off to Japan experts Lucy Birmingham and David McNeil for giving us this valuable work.” —Robert Whiting, author of Tokyo Underworld

“Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill's Strong in the Rain is a harrowing story of the Fukushima nuclear plant disaster that turned Japan upside down. They put a human face on the tragedy. This is contemporary journalism and history at its finest. A powerful read.” —Douglas Brinkley, author of The Great Deluge and The Quiet World

“How bad was the Fukushima reactor disaster? How perilous the aftermath? Far worse than you realized. Mixing human drama with science and sociology, Birmingham and McNeill have compiled a deeply disturbing account of what the tsunami-triggered meltdown was like for the people of Japan.” —Jed Horne, author of Breach of Faith: Hurricane Katrina and the Near Death of a Great American City

“Powerful and evocative. Birmingham and McNeill deftly weave together universal truths & tales about heroism, mortality, calamity and Japanese culture that will still be relevant long after the physical evidence of the devastation are covered up in dirt and concrete.” —Jake Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice

“Japan's tripartite catastrophe as seen from its homes, cars, boats, schools, shelters, bars, control rooms and corporate and government headquarters, in personal stories whose intimacy and complexity rarely made global headlines. The authors are clear: No one can stop an earthquake or tsunami, but we all bear responsibility for nuclear disasters--our most urgent burden and legacy. This book, the best yet in English about Japan's latest nightmare, aches as much as it edifies; it teaches us, whoever we are, how to survive the unthinkable to come.” —Roland Kelts, author of Japanamerica

“It is hard to appreciate the terror and power of a major earthquake unless you have actually experienced it. However, this book comes as close as possible to taking the reader through such an experience, primarily by focussing in-depth on victims, namely several individuals and families, including bereavements. It was not ‘just' a massive earthquake, for it led to a huge tsunami and potentially even worse damage in the form of leakage from a nuclear plant. Both the tsunami and the radioactive danger are also covered in detail, and in the latter case no punches are pulled. There is also detailed contextualisation, such as Japan's history of earthquakes and tsunamis and their causes, the role of the Self-Defence Forces (and US forces) who assisted in the recovery, the politics involved, the media, the reactions of foreigners, and so forth. Birmingham and McNeill have done an excellent job in conveying the aftermath of a calamity. Let's hope we learn from it.” —Kenneth Henshall, author of A History of Japan

“A riveting story told uncommonly well. This is as close as anyone would want to get to a tsunami and the panic, horrors, desperation and heartbreak endured. The authors contrast the quiet dignity of the Japanese public with the shameful tale of risks ignored and sheer bungling by woefully unprepared authorities.” —Jeff Kingston, Director of Asian Studies, Temple University Japan and editor of Natural Disaster and Nuclear Crisis in Japan

Reviews from Goodreads

About the author

Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill

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 Journal, The 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.

Lucy Birmingham

David McNeill

David McNeill

From the Publisher

St. Martin's Press

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