Saturday, March 12, 2022

Tomo Anthology 10th Anniversary! Words from Contributors

Believe it or not, the Tomo Anthology has turned 10!

Launch card with Tomo cover with silhouettes by John Shelley and side illustration by Debbie Ridpath Ohi

In the first few weeks after the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, so many writers, illustrators and translators living in or connected to Japan wondered what they could do to help the tsunami- and nuclear disaster-ravaged communities of Tohoku in meaningful ways. I was just one of those individuals. And within a month of the tsunami I'd made two commitments that shifted my way of being in this world. 

One commitment was to join volunteer teams in cleanup efforts in Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture, which resulted in resets of my appreciation of disaster aid, community and the importance of being fully present in our daily lives and in interactions with others. 

The second commitment was to create an anthology of short fiction that would help support teens in Tohoku in the challenging years ahead. And thanks to the heroic efforts of so many talented and dedicated individuals, this commitment resulted in the Tomo Anthology: Friendship Through Fiction--An Anthology of Japan Teen Fiction published by Stone Bridge Press in March 2012. 

Compiling this anthology was a breathless volunteer sprint--36 stories to select, edit, finalize; over 40 contracts to be signed; cover design and illustrations to be finalized; reader's guide to be created; blog site to be built; interviews with contributors to be done; publicity plans to be made. The Tomo Anthology was completed on time thanks to the diligence of the more than forty contributing writers and translators; the generosity and patience of Stone Bridge Press publisher Peter Goodman; the hard work of the Stone Bridge Press editorial, design and publicity team; the intricate cover illustrations (can you match each silhouette to its story?) created by John Shelley; and all the other individuals working in the background to enable this anthology to be imagined, compiled, edited, printed and published in under one year.

While the Tomo Anthology is no longer in print, the Kindle E-book lives on--perfect for middle school and high school libraries and classrooms, reading groups, and gifts to friends. We hope you'll continue to support Tomo. All proceeds from the Tomo Anthology go to programs that support teens in 3/11 impacted Tohoku areas. 

Yesterday marked the eleventh anniversary of the Tohoku triple disaster, and people of the three hardest hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima and throughout Japan paused for a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m. We will not forget. 

Below, for this tenth anniversary of this anthology, we'd like to share some words from the publisher, editor, and some of the many creative contributors to Tomo: Friendship Through Fiction.

             Holly Thompson, Editor   


Peter Goodman, Publisher, Stone Bridge Press: As publisher of the Tomo anthology I am grateful to all the writers and translators and especially to Holly Thompson for entrusting us with the important mission of helping to create a bond among young adult readers in Japan and around the world. People who understand each other are inclined to help each other, and I’m sure the Tomo spirit will endure as many Japanese now step up to provide relief and compassion to others in distant lands.

Holly Thompson, Editor; author of foreword:  Growing this Tomo anthology with all the contributors and Stone Bridge Press has led to lasting friendships, and visits up and down the Tohoku coast. I continue to learn from those I meet in Tohoku--survivors, returnees, volunteers who stayed, newcomers and visitors. My hope is that Tomo will continue to encourage readers of all ages to take their own steps to support communities in need--those nearby, as well as those more distant.

Fumio Takano (高野史緒), author of "Anton and Kiyohime":  Over the past decade, not a day has gone by when I have not thought back on everyone's friendship. Not just the donations the book has generated, but the friendships, too, have been a real source of moral support. Thank you! I love you! 

Hart Larrabee, translator of "Anton and Kiyohime":  In summer 2012, I attended a translation workshop where participants, working with author Hideo Furukawa, collaboratively translated excerpts of his book about returning to his native Tohoku after 3/11. Regarding our rendering of one passage, he challenged us to “convey the essence of a tsunami through a sudden textual assault that leaves an uncanny tranquility in its wake.” The workshop changed the way I think about writing, and about the physicality of language. The essay I wrote about the workshop, the book, and 3/11 for the Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators can be found here on the SWET website.

Katrina Goldsaito, author of "I Hate Harajuku Girls": In these ten years since beloved Tomo, I’ve kept working with the subject of grief: publishing The Sound of Silence, set in Japan, which Maria Popova called "a serenade to the art of listening to your inner voice amid the noise of modern life"; a new book from Little, Brown on the Japanese concept of mono-no-aware; and our new global art experience ReachYou which offers mindfulness in grief. Happy 10th Anniversary, Tomo! What a project to be a part of.

Avery Fischer Udagawa, translator of "House of Trust" by Sachiko KashiwabaSince “House of Trust” appeared in Tomo, Iwate-born and -based author Sachiko Kashiwaba has continued to write spellbinding fiction for children and young adults, often with a touch of folklore, magic, or both. I had the honor of translating her novel Temple Alley Summer, inspired by an antique map of Morioka, for publication in the U.S. in 2021. Recently, her novel Misaki no mayoiga (The House of the Lost on the Cape), first serialized in the Iwate Nippō newspaper’s Nippō Junior Weekly and set in post-3.11 Tōno, has reached new audiences as an award-winning animated film.

Debbie Ridpath Ohi, author of "Kodama"I’ve become a fan of the Uncanny Japan podcast and only recently realized that Thersa Matsuura was a co-contributor to Tomo….what a wonderful coincidence!

Misa Dikengil, translator of "The Dragon and the Poet" by Kenji Miyazawa: Contributing to the Tomo Anthology was in many ways the beginning of my translation career and I am forever honored to be a contributor. The anthology brought together a wonderful group of writers and translators who all share a deep love for Japan. Personally, this project helped me feel like I could contribute in some way to the 3/11 recovery even from the other side of the planet and gave me an opportunity to translate a short story by Kenji Miyazawa, an author whose work greatly shaped how I viewed the natural world as a young adult. May Tomo continue to keep the events of 3/11 in the hearts and minds of all who read it.

Ann Tashi Slater , author of "Aftershocks":  My Tomo story "Aftershocks" was published in Scholastic's SCOPE magazine in February 2020. I'm thrilled that the story was introduced to a wide audience of educators and young readers and that they could learn more about the 3/11 disaster. 

Charles De Wolf (須田狼庵), author of  "Borne by the Wind":  I remember with admiration the response of the Japanese people and the world at large to the earthquake and tsunami of 2011. Even amidst ongoing disasters, caused by both Nature and human folly, one can still find inspiration. I feel most privileged to have been able to contribute to TOMO and to enjoy the work of so many talented writers. I often reach to take the volume off a bookshelf repaired after being shattered eleven years ago and, leafing through it, continue to hope that it will attract ever more readers, young and old.

Suzanne Kamata, author of "Peace on Earth"Recent world events have reminded us of the importance of reaching across borders and helping each other, as well as the solace and kinship that we can find through the written word. I am proud to have been a contributor to this effort through the Tomo Anthology, and I believe that the book’s themes remain as relevant now as they were ten years ago. On a personal level, I have been sustained by stories at the worst of times. The Tomo Anthology is an example of the best that we as writers and translators can do.

Margi Napper, author of "The Lost Property Office":  I’d like to say that I have been traveling in time like the hero of my story in “Tomo”….  Perhaps I have!  I’m back in England now, but I seem to have left a bit of myself in Tokyo. I saw a Shiba-inu yesterday and the owner said that people here didn’t recognize them. But I did and it took me from a path in Cornwall directly back to Tokyo. I was so delighted I spoke to the dog in Japanese. Probably didn’t understand me, but its presence made me wonderfully homesick for a brief moment.

Wendy Tokunaga, author of  "Love Right on the Yesterday":  Since “Tomo” means friend, it's fitting that I connected with many new writer friends by being in Tomo. A writing community is a powerful thing. And literature and friendship can make for a better world. Happy Anniversary!

Sako Ikegami, translator of "Hachiro" by Ryusuke Saito:  Ten years since Tomo publication and now I work at a psychiatric clinic amidst another far-reaching disaster. The pandemic-imposed isolation, drastic societal changes, and the loss of school life have hit teens hard. Kokoro no care (psychological care for the heart and soul) in PTSD, hesitantly introduced after the Great Hanshin Earthquake, was common sense by the aftermath of the Tohoku Earthquake. Then, mental health professionals gathered to care for long lines of people no longer ashamed to admit they were struggling. Today, thankfully, youths can access mental health clinics on their own—Japan’s health insurance services for minors makes it possible.

Deborah Iwabuchi, translator of “The Law of Gravity” by Yuko Katakawa:  In the years since I met her in person at the wonderful Tomo launch event, Yuko Katakawa has finished up veterinary school and is in practice with her husband in Ichinomiya, Aichi. She is still writing novels for young people as well as articles on raising pets. In 2015, my husband and I finally made a trip from Gunma to Miyagi to see with our own eyes what had happened four years previous. I especially wanted to see Onaya, a town we’d visited in 1981 with my parents. Back then we’d arrived on a train that ran up the water’s edge. We’d stayed in a minshuku inn run by a family who used to be whalers. Nothing remained of the coastline or the train. We had no way of knowing what had happened to these lovely people who had fed us seafood so fresh it was still moving on the plate, who handed their own toast and hot coffee to my parents who were struggling through a Japanese-style breakfast.

Louise George Kittaka, author of "Just Wan-derful":  The story I submitted to the Tomo Anthology (Just Wan-derful) was inspired by my own children. They are the same generation as the first readers of Tomo, along with the teenagers whose lives were disrupted by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. All these young people have now reached adulthood and are making their way in the world. As we look back on a decade since the publication of Tomo and Japan breathes in a brand new spring, I wish these resilient, empathetic young people a bright future, and I look forward to seeing their contributions to society.