The Kamaishi Miracle– Bob Stilger’s Notes from Japan #43 ~ December 10th

You’ll find a lot of references if you Google “The Kamaishi Miracle,” so I’ll keep this really short.  It’s just an important story to remember.

Kamaishi is a costal town in Iwate Prefecture.  The most northern province affected by last year’s triple disaster.  Fewer school children died there than in other coastal towns. Why?

The teachers in Kamaishi decided that they ways in which the government taught about disaster preparedness wasn’t good enough.  They came up with their own approach — which itself is a bit of a miracle.  They drilled students with three principles and one teaching from ancient wisdom.  Simple.  Direct.  Easily remembered.

The principles were:

  • Don’t make any assumptions
  • Do your best
  • Go as quickly as you can

The ancient wisdom was don’t look for your family.

Don’t make any assumptions means among other things, don’t believe what you hear: use your own eyes and senses.  Do your best is a reminder to keep going.  Children made their way up away from the ocean with each other.  Pausing to look and to talk with each other about whether they had gone far enough.  Three times they paused, and then kept going.  And they went quickly.

The ancient wisdom is a hard one.  What’s been learned over centuries is that people die because they go looking for their family.  What’s essential is that everyone trust that everyone else will follow the three principles as well

Principles and ancient wisdom help us organize to do what’s needed when we confront any situation.  They sure helped in Kamaishi!

And here is a recent  YouTube Video  with the story



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3 thoughts on “The Kamaishi Miracle– Bob Stilger’s Notes from Japan #43 ~ December 10th”

  1. Bob,
    Thank you for sharing this story. I love the simplicity of this disaster preparedness method. When you tell about the children pausing and talking to one another about wheher they’d gone far enough, I’m reminded of the “Hurrican Evacuation Route” signs I’ve seen in the coastal regions of the U.S. They extend what I consider to be a long distance from the coast!
    However, I’m guessing there weren’t such signs in this case. And apparently, no need, as the teachers had prepared the children so well. And most imporantly, taught them to trust temselves, their families, and each other.

    1. Yes, I love the directness and simplicity as well. I think without those qualities, it would be almost impossible to follow these principles and wisdom, especially in Japan. In many ways it seems to goes against the norm of first looking to the needs of the collective.

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