Oct 18
"Here Comes the Sun conveys how with persistence, perseverance and patience, seemingly impossible hurdles in Japan can be overcome." (Stone Bridge Press)

Here Comes the Sun conveys how with persistence, perseverance and patience, seemingly impossible hurdles in Japan can be overcome.” (Stone Bridge Press)

By Rashaad Jorden (Yamagata-ken, 2008-10) for JQ magazine. A former head of the JETAA Philadelphia Sub-Chapter, Rashaad is a graduate of Leeds Beckett University with a master’s degree in responsible tourism management. For more on his life abroad and enthusiasm for taiko drumming, visit his blog at www.gettingpounded.wordpress.com.

“Sometimes, you have to travel a very great distance to find a home within yourself.”

That saying could certainly describe the journey of Leza Lowitz, a Californian who has worked extensively in Japan. She chronicles her path through several eventful periods—such as adolescence during the tumultuous early 1970s, her romance with a Japanese man named Shogo (whom she eventually weds), and her attempts to adopt in Japan in Here Comes the Sun: A Journey to Adoption in 8 Chakras, an autobiographical story that captures the ups and downs of Lowitz’s efforts to carve a niche in Japanese society.

As indicated by the subtitle of the book, Lowitz utilizes the influence of another culture to best integrate herself into Japanese society. But first, you might be asking… what’s a chakra? Derived from the Sanskrit root car (“to move”), a chakra represents a major wheel of energy in the human body, and each chakra contains a particular function. Chakras regulate, distribute and balance the energy and nerve functions of their locations.

Lowitz calls the chapters in Here Comes the Sun “chakras” and each one contains a certain theme. For example, the first chapter in the book is titled Muladhara, derived from the Sanskrit word for “root” or “support.” Some chapters in Here Comes the Sun deal directly with the yoga practices that balance a chakra—Lowitz tells us when the aforementioned primary chakra is balanced, you’ll feel stable and secure while being in a better position to succeed.

Ah, yoga. Lowitz starts practicing yoga while living in Northern California. She falls in love with it and credits yoga sessions with bringing her strength, joy, and peace. Yoga also provides her with the motivation to treat herself better and trust Shogo more.

It’s only natural that when Leza decides to return to Japan with Shogo—and faced with the question of how to make a living in Tokyo—Lowitz decides to open a yoga studio. After surviving the expected struggles of trying to establish a yoga community, she gets an enormous boost when a representative from Nihon Television contacts her, asking if she would like to teach restorative yoga to prominent Japanese comedian Takashi Okamura. Lowitz agrees to do so, and the ensuing television coverage catapults her into fame and popularizes the yoga studio, which she names Sun and Moon Yoga.

However, Lowitz’s calling in life is not to be a yogini—it is to be a mother. She exhausts every effort possible to enhance her ability to conceive a child, including traveling to India to try Ayurveda, which she hopes will increase her fertility. When she realizes that the likelihood of having a child naturally is very low, she and Shogo decide to go the adoption route, which is exhausting and challenging. Eventually, the couple is approved as adoptive parents of a boy named Shinji.

Lowitz excels when she details the arduous adoption process and the hurdles she and Shogo face. Here Comes the Sun paints a picture of Japan being a closed society, especially for those trying to adopt. Adoptions are rare in the country as there is a long-standing stigma about the practice (most adoptions in Japan are kept secret) due to the emphasis Japanese put on bloodlines and koseki (family register), which lists every birth, marriage, and divorce. While reading detailed descriptions of a never-ending, complicated process, you get the sense that Shogo and Leza will become so fed up they’ll abandon their quest to become adoptive parents.

But they don’t, and even after Shogo and Leza succeed in adopting Shinji, Lowitz illuminates some of the struggles a bicultural family in Japan might face. One of which relates to identity: Shinji’s classmates bombard him with questions such as “where are from you?” and “what are you?” In addition, parents in such families often have to ensure that the children feel connected to both sides of their families. Indeed, Leza wants to give Shinji a Western middle name so he can feel a connection to that side of his family, but adding a middle name (a concept that doesn’t exist in Japan) requires a lot more than slapping a name on a certificate. Since Japanese koseki have no space for middle names, Leza and Shogo need a judge’s approval for Shinji to be officially granted his middle name.

Although Lowitz effectively captures how she’s fitting into Japanese society as a parent as Here Comes the Sun concludes, she devotes less space to her yoga studio. Although Sun and Moon Yoga experiences a boom in popularity due to Okamura’s involvement, other than a section in the sixth chakra devoted to a yoga session dedicated to those who are suffering, it’s unclear how life at the yoga studio is going. Also, information about whether yoga is growing in popularity in Japan would have enhanced the story. Lowitz mentions that while planning the yoga studio, a Google search revealed there were only two yoga studios in Tokyo. It is possible that the attention she received might have encouraged more people to try yoga. Furthermore, I wonder how long Lowitz’s fifteen minutes of fame last and if she received any long lasting benefits from being profiled on TV—she does mention that people recognize her on the street and ask her, “Aren’t you that yoga lady?”

In the end, Here Comes the Sun conveys how with persistence, perseverance and patience, seemingly impossible hurdles in Japan can be overcome.

For more JQ magazine book reviews, click here.

one comment so far...

  • Clara Chare Said on October 24th, 2015 at 7:22 pm:

    Great review! Spot on.

    Just want to follow up on the yoga question you mentioned in your review. Lowitz is famous yoga teacher in Japan (who is also known internationally) who teaches yoga and leads teacher trainings and retreats in Tokyo, throughout Japan and abroad. Her studio, Sun and Moon, can definitely be said to have helped to start the “yoga boom” in Japan over a decade ago. Millions of people in Japan practice yoga, and Sun and Moon yoga introduced thousands of people in Japan to many different styles of yoga and meditation and gives so many a haven to this day, including me. Her “fifteen minutes of fame” has lasted at least fifteen years so far, but she probably did not want to go into all that in this book, which is really about finding and making a home wherever you are in the world. Through her yoga studio, she has done that for many others.

    What an inspiration she has been to so many of us, not only through the classes and “off the mat” teachings of yoga, but through her candid sharing of such a deeply personal journey she gifts us in her beautiful book. The influence of such a person can only have far-reaching and positive effects on all those she reaches both through her writing and her studio. If you have time to go to a class at Sun and Moon Studio, I totally recommend it!

    The studio’s website is here: http://www.sunandmoon.jp

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