Houses built on hills will bring peace to the children and grandchildren
With the thought of devastation of the great tsunami,
Remember never to build houses below this marker
Both in Meiji 29 and Showa 8, the waves came to this very point
And the entire village was destroyed; only two survived in Meiji 29, and four in Showa 8
No matter how many years may pass, do not forget this warning.
— A stone table
(from Mariko Nagai's essay, The Forgetting Stone)
A stone tablet warns of the height of a historic tsunami in Iwate prefecture; at right, Iwate three months after the quake.
(Wikmedia Commons; AFP/Getty Images)
"Go to the mountain when there's an earthquake, no matter how small, the old people used to tell them, the ones who remembered the tsunami from Showa 8, the ones who remembered what the one who remembered the Meiji tsunami said. They did not remember that this coastline has been plagued with the angry waves as long as written words have existed, each devastation chiseled into stones. It is grief impressed upon the pages and stone tablets that dot the coast of Sanriku area, though the names have changed with time, with the borders shifting along with the new warlords and governments. It is regrets contained in these words, regrets that translate into warnings for the future, for the present. But some had forgotten. So instead, they went home, thinking they have enough time."
(from The Forgetting Stone, by Mariko Nagai)
Foreign Policy has recently published an ebook, Tsunami: Japan's Post-Fukushima Future, which contains essays by some of Japan’s leading writers and thinkers about the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan last March.
If you buy it - for just $4.99 - you will support the Japan Society, which will send all the proceeds to tsunami relief efforts on Japan’s northern coast.
My friend Mariko's beautiful and moving essay is part of the collection, and you can also read it here.