The Modern Tokyo Times

International news and neglected issues

Japan: Elderly people suffered the brunt of the tsunami and history was ignored

Japan: Elderly people suffered the brunt of the tsunami and history was ignored

Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times


According to the Japanese police over 90 per cent of people died from drowning after the violent earthquake unleashed a destructive and deadly tsunami.  This figure was sadly to be expected because images of the tsunami show the destructiveness and speed of the force of nature.  

Another major statistic which was given by the Japanese police is the age factor.  This applies to people being over 6o years of age who were killed after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake unleashed the brutal tsunami.  The numbers of deaths for the over 60 age group in percentage terms is over 65 per cent.

These findings are significant even if most people presumed that drowning would be the highest cause and that the elderly would suffer the most.

In the future, certain measures could be taken from these findings and this applies to greater attention being given to the most vulnerable.  This could apply to early back-up systems being enhanced; emergency transport located in special areas of high density areas where the elderly reside; zones of housing to be further away from the coastline for elderly residents and people who are disabled.

It is important not to become alarmist because the chance of another major tsunami like the March 11 tsunami is remote in Japan in the near future (but not in the distant future).  After all, you do not get many earthquakes with the magnitude of 9 and even when you do get major earthquakes which are high on the scale; then other factors have to come into play and so many other variables, in order for the same destructive accident to happen in the future.

However, history is important and it was reported in the media that one hamlet planned its infrastructure and understood roughly where safety would be.  This hamlet planned this because of powerful tsunamis which hit coastal regions in the distant past.

The hamlet of Aneyoshi heeded history and what the stone slabs stated and unlike the low-lying villages they survived.  One stone slab states “High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants” and another says “Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis.”

Other messages of sound advice apply to stone slabs stating “If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis.” However, this ancient advice, and some stone slabs are over 600 years old, was ignored by many people because after the earthquake struck it was reported that many people went back home to check their homes or collect belongings.

Yotaru Hatamura, a scholar and an individual with great knowledge about the old stone tablets also believes that history was ignored.  Yotaru Hatamura comments that “People had this crucial knowledge, but they were busy with their lives and jobs, and many forgot.”

Therefore, many eye witnesses have come forward and stated that many died because they went back home after the earthquake; the tsunami warnings of past history and recent times was forgotten or ignored. 

Turning back to the high rate of elderly people dying because of the tsunami then it is clear that other factors are involved.  This applies to the younger generation being at work and many will have been out of town because of this reason.  Also, a higher number of younger people will have had their own transport and obviously the mobility factor is a clear advantage and some elderly people will have been alone.

It also must be mentioned that many areas in northeastern Japan have a high elderly rate and this applies to many parts of Japan.  However, many of the younger generation relocate to major cities.  Therefore, you get high clusters of elderly towns and villages.

In the video below this article you can witness the power of the tsunami and during the last minute it becomes apparent that elderly people were caught because of lack of mobility.  Also, you also see a man trying to help a disabled person and the video is harrowing near the end.

With each new day more bodies are found and the Japanese police alongside all people who are involved in the operation are doing a great service to the people of Japan.  The psychological demands are very high and great support also needs to be given to all individuals who are involved in the recovery of dead bodies.

The last few minutes on this earth for around 28,000 people was one of fear, shock, and complete disbelief. They could feel and witness the mayhem around them before being engulfed by the tsunami.   (this video is harrowing in the last few minutes – but it does show how the elderly and disabled were victims of the tsunami)   (please visit)

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