The thought occurred to me, as I was sweating from expending all this energy. How minuscule this was compared with something like, say, the cleanup after 3/11. This was just one tree. Cleanup after 3/11 was beyond inconceivable.

Like all anthologies, there are going to be stories you love and some that you just don’t care for. The collection is much more focused on the after rather than the actual events of March 2011. One thing I’ve always found Japanese writers do so well is making the mundane into something more. It just so happens that the earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear disaster taints this every day life now.

We get two versions of God Bless You 2011, a walk with a bear in the Japanese countryside. One was written in 1993 and the other reworked in 2011 to show the changes of the world after radiation had leaked into the environment from the Fukushima Daiichi disaster. The story takes on a whole new dimension because of it.

Perhaps it’s because I have a friend with a box obsession, but I loved Box Story. When there is a shortage of boxes, someone comes up with the idea of breeding them and citizens are given breeding boxes to care for. In The Charm a woman returns to her home town feeling helpless but with a desire to do something to help. Lulu introduces a dog made of air, created in the minds of children in an evacuation centre, something to make things easier. Ride on Time is told from the perspective of a surfer, anticipating the legendary wave.

It seems telling that the one writer who chooses to detail the actual horror of the day is not Japanese. David Peace’s After the Disaster, Before the Disaster comes at the end of the collection and really drives home what happened. I don’t think the book would have been as enjoyable if this had been the tones throughout but it’s important to acknowledge. It’s all too easy for the rest of the world to forget and this book is a thought-provoking reminder.

Whilst the book is primarily made up of short stories, there is also poetry, manga and a journalistic piece.

Royalties from the sale of March Was Made of Yarn will go to charities involved in the reconstruction of affected areas of Japan. Published by Harvill Secker, it is currently available in paperback and ebook editions. Thanks go to the publisher for providing me with a copy for review.

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