Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Tsunamis and Japanese Literature

I'm a little late in posting this e-mail from Masashi that he sent last weekend. It includes a lovely story about the way in which tsunamis are part of the narrative and literary history of Japan.

"This time Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima prefectures had devastating damage from the tsunami. Among these three prefectures, Iwate has experienced many tsunami disasters in the past. In 1896, Iwate prefecture had a tsunami disaster that was believed to be the largest tsunami disaster until the latest earthquake happened.

Irish novelist Lafcadio Hearn, very popular in Japan under his Japanese name, Yakumo Koizumi, wrote a short story just after the 1896 tsunami disaster. In this short novel you can see the Japanese way of life and religious beliefs of the old days.

The latter part of the story was written based on an anecdote of another tsunami that happened in Wakayama prefecture in the southern part of Honsyu (biggest) island of Japan. That anecdote was rewritten by a Japanese teacher and adopted as part of a Japanese elementary school textbook before WWII. [The story tells how a village leader saved villagers from a tsunami disaster by sacrificing his rice harvest.]

You can read "A LIVING GOD" written by Lafcadio Hearn via the following link.

I just happened to read this story quite recently. It really shows us how the tsunami is an inevitable part of Japanese history and we need to pass on our experience from generation to generation."

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