Ancient Stone Markers Tsunamis. Ancient writings on stone are markers for tsunamis warning. In fact, there are instructions on the tablet informing their descendants not to build on certain points on the land.
As modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan’s destructive tsunami last month, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day.
“High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants,” the stone slab reads. “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point.”
It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan’s northeastern shore.
Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old. Collectively they form a crude warning system for Japan, whose long coasts along major fault lines have made it a repeated target of earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries.
The markers don’t all indicate where it’s safe to build. Some simply stand – or stood, washed away by the tsunami – as daily reminders of the risk. “If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis,” reads one. In the bustle of modern life, many forgot.
More than 12,000 have been confirmed dead and officials fear the death toll could rise to 25,000 from the March 11 disaster. More than 100,000 are still sheltering in schools and other buildings, almost a month later. A few lucky individuals may move into the first completed units of temporary housing this weekend.
Workers at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power complex finally halted a leak of radioactive water into the Pacific on Wednesday, but it may take months to bring the overheating reactors under control.