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EDITORIAL | Sharing Lessons with the Next Generation on World Tsunami Awareness Day

Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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November 5 is “World Tsunami Awareness Day (WTAD)” ー a good time for each of us to share our determination to protect human life while sharing life-saving lessons to the next generation. 

 

This special day was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2015 upon Japan’s urging, with 142 countries joining in submission of the joint proposal. The horror of tsunamis must be engraved in our memories, and their stories passed on so as to not let them fade away. 

 

A tsunami following a 7.0-magnitude earthquake swept through cities bordering the Aegean Sea in Turkey and Greece on October 30 this year with enough power to wash away vehicles in its wake. 

 

It has been 9 years and 8 months since the tsunami that took the lives of over 18,000 people in the Great East Japan Earthquake. 

 

Up to 220,000 people were killed in the massive Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004. 

 

 

Why Tsunami Awareness is So Important

 

WTAD derives from a story called Inamura no Hi, which is said to have saved many lives from the tsunami caused by the Ansei Nankai Earthquake that occurred on November 5, 1854 (under the old calendar). 

 

On her birthday in 1999, Empress Emerita Michiko looked back on her childhood and wrote, “When I was a child, there was a story in a school textbook, which I believe was titled, Inamura no Hi, that illustrated evacuation during a tsunami. The story, which left a lasting impression on my mind, was about the horrors of normality destroyed by the power of natural disasters, whether caused by a tsunami or a flood, and the ways of coping with such disasters. I remember it as being one of the more specific examples I learned in school.” 

 

The Empress Emerita’s words sum up the importance of learning and passing on the story, overlapping with the purpose behind “World Tsunami Awareness Day”.

 

The only way to save lives from disasters caused by the power of water, whether in the form of tsunamis, floods or landslides, is to “evacuate”, regardless of the region or era. When the time comes, there can be no hesitation for fear of such risks as contracting COVID-19. 

 

While we are currently unable to foresee the end of the coronavirus pandemic, this is the time to renew our awareness of the critical importance of evacuation without hesitation. 

 

An English language novel by Lafcadio Hearn (also known in Japan as Koizumi Yakumo), introduced the legend of “Inamura no Hi” and the word “TSUNAMI” to the world, inspiring the establishment of World Tsunami Awareness Day. The main character is modeled after the head of a soy sauce company currently known as, Yamasa Shoyu, and the levee which he had built with his private funds in Hirogawa Town, Wakayama Prefecture, protected the town from great tsunami disaster during the Showa Nankai earthquake of 1946. 

 

It is our hope that the importance of tsunami disaster prevention will spread across the world, and that through “Inamura no Hi”, these important lessons will be passed on to future generations. 

 

(Read the story here in its original Japanese.)

 

Author: The Sankei Shimbun