All About Japan

A Beacon of Light Shines at Arahama Elementary

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Here at AAJ, we try to cover a wide range of topics on our site, doing our best to show the world the beauty, joy, rich history and pure kawaii cuteness of Japan. However, sometimes we find the most beautiful rainbows after the rain. And one such situation is Arahama Elementary School in Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture. Following the devastating earthquake and tsunami that caused massive destruction along the Tohoku Pacific Coast, tragic news that spread all throughout the world, the entire coast was in distress. Stories of painful tragedies and, even more so, the strength of the people affected as they fought to hold their lives and families together, were being told across the globe.

There were several comparisons with Japan and my home state of Louisiana, which was rocked by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, as people had to deal with both loss of life and property along with inefficiencies in government at all levels. However, while several people in both regions were brought to their knees in the wake of the respective disasters, there were also examples of hope for the future. And one such situation occurred at Arahama.

When the earthquake struck at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, 2011, the second year students were about to make their way home. Along with all the buildings in the city, just 180 kilometers (80 miles) from the epicenter of the 9.0 magnitude quake, the elementary school shook violently but managed to hold together. Acting fast, the administrators gathered the students in the building. Calmly following the tsunami drills that were revised in 2010, making the rooftop of the school the evacuation point, students, teachers and nearby locals braced for the wall of water headed their way. As the waves crashed down 70 minutes later, everything in the vicinity washed away like leaves drifting down a river. Except for Arahama.

In what was a sobering moment, there was also a glimmer of hope as these young students were saved thanks to being well prepared. The leadership that was shown by the principal, the school staff and the students who exemplified remarkable bravery is a reminder of the necessity of preparedness. Arahama stands as a shining symbol of survival and hope and will surely encourage future generations in Japan and abroad to consider just how important it is to be ready for any situation.

The video above offers a tour of the school with the principal who acted quickly and saved many lives. It's definitely worth it to educate yourself about that fateful day and reflect on the lessons we all learned.

(English subtitles are provided with the video. Make sure to click the "CC" button if they aren't automatically loaded with the video)