By Sako Ikegami, Kobe
A short story by children’s author Ryusuke Saito, set in Akita Prefecture in Tohoku, vividly illustrates the long relationship between northeastern Japan and tsunamis.
Hachiro is a huge mountain youth who grows larger and larger with each passing day. His head is so high up in the clouds, that birds build their nests in his hair. One day, he notices a small village boy crying. The village is regularly flooded by the sea and the boy’s parents and other villagers are desperate to save their farm from this year’s attack. Hachiro uses his enormous strength to throw a mountain into the sea, hoping to stop the waves. The mountain prevents the sea from washing over the village and the villagers rejoice, but their joy is short-lived. Before long, the sea regroups and comes back with even higher waves and more water than before. Hachiro realizes that this must be why he’s grown so large–so that he can save his fellow villagers from the waves. He stomps into the ocean, keeping it from reaching the shore by barring the way with his very chest and arms. Eventually, he disappears under the water, but he has become the barrier that protects the village from further threats of the sea. Hachiro-gata, a lake in Akita, is said to have been created by Hachiro’s great sacrifice.
This is one story that, at present, may be more instructive for adults than healing for children.