Thursday, April 21, 2011

The mystic stone at tsunami tide's highest point that saved tiny Japanese village from the deadly wave - 21st Apr 2011

This four-foot high stone may look unremarkable, but it is credited with saving the lives of the population of Aneyoshi when the tsunami struck Japan.

Carved into its weather-worn rock is a warning - 'Do not build your homes below this point!' - because they would be at risk from floods in a tsunami.

The villagers obeyed the ancient warning and the tiny community of just 11 houses and 34 residents were rewarded with survival at a key geographical point.

Aneyoshi, in the mountains of sticken Iwate Prefecture, bears a significant mark of the national natural disaster.

Just 300ft down the hil from where the stone sits is a blue line painted on the road. It marks the point in Japan where the tsunami water reached its hightest point - 127.6 feet.

The previous record height reached by flood waters in Japan was 125.3ft, which was also reached in Iwate Prefecture during a tsunami in 1896.

It is Japan's history of tsunami's that led to these warning stones becoming a familiar sight along the coast of Japan as ancestors tried to warn future generations of the dangers. Some of the stones are 600 years old.

'The tsunami stones are warnings across generations, telling descendants to avoid the same suffering of their ancestors,' Itoko Kitahara, a specialist in natural disasters at Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, told the New York Times.

It was a tsunami in 1896 which killed 22,000 people that first convinced the people of Aneyoshi to move to their hilltop retreat and remain there.

After a period of stability the population renewed itself and slowly began moving back down the hill towards the coast, but a then in 1933 another tsunami struck and left four survivors.

It was after that disaster that the stone was erected and the village credits that with saving the village from a tsunami in 1960. Read More