By Regina Sienra on October 30, 2022
“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants. Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”
Sadly, due to its location in the Pacific Rim, Japan is prone to devastating earthquakes and tsunamis. While modern catastrophes usually come to mind, the local population’s knowledge and expertise regarding these events date back centuries. One of the best examples of this is the so-called “tsunami stones”— slabs with inscriptions that warn residents about building their homes on low ground in case a big wave hits.
One of the most chilling stones is located in the village of Aneyoshi. The 10-foot-tall tablet reads: “High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants. Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.” The residents have taken the advice to heart—their homes withstood the tragic 2011 earthquake and tsunami while some neighboring villages experienced terrible losses.
Other stones offer broader yet essential advice. “If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis,” pleads a slab reminding people to take to the higher ground immediately after an earthquake. Locals describe that slabs usually sprout after a deadly tsunami, such as the 1896 one that sadly claimed 22,000 lives. There are also tablets that indicate ground high enough to be safe from a fatal wave.
The slabs dot Japan’s coastline, and some are over 600 years old. While some groups are aware of the threat, others have built communities closer to the ocean.[…]