Book Review: Hotaka by John Heffernan [Through My Eyes: Natural Disaster Zones]


Title: Hotaka

Author: John Heffernan

Rating: 5/5 stars

Release date: March 1st 2017

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Goodreads Synopsis:

A powerful and moving story about one boy caught up in the Japanese earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

When the tsunami strikes the Japanese seaside town of Omori-wan, the effects are utterly devastating. Three years later, much of what happened on that day is still a mystery. As Hotaka sets about convincing local performers to appear at the town’s upcoming Memorial Concert, he finds himself increasingly haunted by memories of best friend, Takeshi, who perished without trace in the tsunami. Then his friend Sakura becomes involved in an anti-seawall movement, and all too quickly the protest gets serious. As the town and its people struggle to rebuild their lives, can Hotaka piece together what happened that day – and let go of the past?


Being a major Japan enthusiast, I was psyched to have receive this in the mail. There were so many Japanese references scattered around in the book, which got me super excited. I taught myself a little bit of Japanese during the summer holidays and am glad I was able to pick up some of the words. It was great being able to learn about the different cultures and values of a country who, nowadays, is better known to have produce advanced technology and machinery. The novel brings about the true beauty of Japan – the people, ethnicity and more.

Loved this. It was such an immersive read. I’ve learned sooo much in a span of 200+ pages. This book not only talks about the horrific disaster that took place in Japan nearly six years ago, but the after effects of it all. The economy was in ruins, corruptions had taken place. All these affected the people of Omori-wan, and ultimately our beloved characters.

The main characters in this story were young and naive. They tend to be immature and make bad decisions, but they were all bloody brilliant for their age – taking on philosophical questions, viewing society in a whole new different perspective – Hotaka and his friends, in a way, were very similar to the golden trio from Harry Potter. Their friendship was what stood out most for me. They overcome problems together by having each other’s backs despite sharing the same emptiness and grief from what had happened three years ago.  We follow these characters and their journey as they grow to learn, teach and  forgive themselves and the people around them. I especially loved Sakura. Her sass and wit just reminds me so much of Hermione. All three characters were very important and relevant to the story.

A poignant coming of age story about overcoming grievance and cherishing the people we have in our life. This book effectively highlights the after effects of a traumatic event and the struggles that came with it. Furthermore, the non-fiction aspect of this story really opened my eyes to what really happened during 3/11 in Japan.

Many thanks to the lovely folks over at Allen & Unwin for sending a copy over in exchange for an honest review! ❤


  1. theportuguesebibliophile

    Your review’s got me super excited to read this book! I’m a Japan enthusiast myself too and pretty much anything related to Japanese culture is really interesting to me. I’m glad to have found this book! (Also, I just recently started learning Japanese at uni and it’s very exciting!)

    Liked by 1 person

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