Thursday, April 7, 2011

Ancestral message saved lives in Japan

Residents of tsunami-ravaged towns forgot wisdom left by ancestors

The Toronto Star: Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan's destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day. 'High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,' the stone slab reads. 'Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.'

It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along the northeastern shore.

Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old... The markers don't all indicate where it's safe to build. Some simply stand -- or stood before the tsunami hit -- as daily reminders of the risk. 'If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis,' reads one... One stone marker warned of the danger in the coastal city of Kesennuma: 'Always be prepared for unexpected tsunamis. Choose life over your possessions and valuables.'...

[In] the tightly knit community of Aneyoshi...'Everybody here knows about the markers. We studied them in school,' said Yuto Kimura, 12. 'When the tsunami came, my mom got me from school and then the whole village climbed to higher ground.'... Isamu Aneishi, 69, said his ancestors moved their family-run inn to higher ground more than a hundred years ago. But his three grandchildren were at an elementary school that sat just 150 metres from the water in nearby Chikei. The school and surrounding buildings are in ruins. Their bodies have not been found.
Image source here.