Children of the Japanese Tsunami - Secondary school resources

Thousands of children lost their homes when an earthquake and tidal wave engulfed the town of Kesennuma

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Schools World Service meets some of the children who survived the Japanese tsunami.

people lost everything in the tsunami People lost everything in the tsunami

Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes when an earthquake and tidal wave engulfed the town of Kesennuma on the north-east coast of Japan in March 2011.

The town has tsunami warning sirens but for a lot of people they came too late.

Many children lost their lives, while thousands were made homeless after most of the town was washed away.

People are trying to carry on with their lives and rebuild their town but they have to live amongst the damage the disaster caused.


Hyoto is 14 years old. His house was washed away in the tsunami and he now has to live, sleep and do his homework in his school gym.

Hyoto lives, sleeps and does his homework in the school gym Hyoto, 14, does his homework on the floor of the school gym where he lives

It has taken Hyoto some time to adjust to his new surroundings and the place he now has to call home.

"It was really uncomfortable in the first few days. There was no gas or electricity and there were big aftershocks happening all the time so I was worried, " Hyoto said.

"There are lots of insects here but I have met some people here who are coaching me at tennis," he said.

Hyoto says he is slowly getting used to the changes.

"It's better than it was at first, but I'm hoping we'll move to a temporary house and I'm looking forward to that," he said.

Start Quote

I want to repay all that people have done for us ”

End Quote Hyoto, 14

The government has built makeshift villages for survivors. They are very small though, so people must be tidy.

Kikuta is 14 and grateful that she survived and has somewhere temporary to live. She was setting up for the school's graduation when the earthquake happened and went up to the second floor to escape the water.

Kikuta's grandparents died in the tsunami and her house was washed away.

"I live in a temporary shelter in another school. My living space is much smaller now but at least I have a space and I'm fine," she said.


Despite the disaster, children still have to go to school. It is hard because some pupils have lost members of their family, friends from their class and their homes in the disaster.

Many houses were washed away

Start Quote

The earthquake and tsunami happened the day before graduation. I was helping to prepare for it. I went up to the second floor. My house was washed away”

End Quote Hyoto, 14

The clear up will take many months. The debris smells horrible and there is still a lot of work to be done. It is hoped that cars which were destroyed in the disaster can be recycled.

There is some positive news amongst the sadness in Kesennuma.

The town is famous for fish. In fact it relies on the fishing industry and the local fish market is now open again.

It gives people jobs and represents hope for the future.

"Kesennuma is a fishing town so I hope the fishing business gets back to how it was," Kikuta said.

However the town of Rikuzentakata, which is a short distance further north of Kesennuma, was not so fortunate. Most of it was washed away and all that is left is rubble.

In the town some children play baseball amongst the debris. The sport is very popular in Japan and matches are shown on television. But some teams lost players in the tsunami and training facilities were damaged.


When children have time off from class they think a lot about the future.

Kikuta currently works as a volunteer to help other survivors and serves food to them.

Kikuta, 14

Start Quote

I'm helping to support other evacuees. I serve all their food. It takes things off my mind”

End Quote Kikuta, 14

She says it makes her feel better and she wants to dedicate herself to voluntary work when she is older.

Hyoto says he wants to help others when he is grown up.

"I want a job which means I can help other people. Maybe volunteer or work in the army," he said.

Since the disaster he has seen how kind members of the public can be.

He says he wants to do something for all of the people who have helped him and other victims of the tsunami.

"I want to repay all that people have done for us," he said.

It is hoped cars destroyed in the tsunami will be recycled It will take a long time for life to return to normal in north east Japan

Schools World Service is a BBC British Council co-production.

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