Children of the Japanese Tsunami - Primary school resources

Children in Japan are rebuilding their lives after the earthquake and tsunami


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70,000 children lost their homes when an earthquake and tidal wave hit the town of Kesennuma on the north-east coast of Japan in March 2011.

The big wave destroyed everything in its path including houses, schools, shops, cars and bikes.

Many people died and others, like 10-year-old Shotoro, were made homeless.

"I was in a design and technology class when the wave came," Shotoro said.

"We went up to the assembly room on the first floor. My grandma came to the school and we stayed there all night," he said.

Shotoro's house was washed away in the tsunami. He now has to live with his little sister and his mum and dad in a tent in a sports hall.

A lot of other families live in the sports hall too. There is not much room or light.

"It's a bit dark where I live now because we can't use electricity," Shotoro explained.

living in a tent Shotoro has to live in a tent as the clear-up continues

Despite the disaster, children like Shotoro still have to go to school.

This year they will break up for their holidays two weeks later than usual because they missed lessons after the tsunami.

They can't go back to their usual school because it was so badly damaged.

Instead, they have borrowed rooms in a different school which was not affected. It is quite cramped and sometimes they have to do maths right next to a music class.

Most of the pupils were in the school when the tsunami flooded into the building.

It filled the ground floor and they were trapped upstairs all night until the water went away.

The building will probably be knocked down. They are using the grounds to pile up all of the cars destroyed in the tidal wave.

There is a lot of wreckage and it's hoped a lot of it will be recycled but it smells horrible.


Life has changed a lot since the tsunami for ten-year-old Shoto.

Start Quote

Shoto, 10

I lost my TV, games and my books. Many of my toys are gone”

End Quote Shoto, 10

When the tsunami came he sheltered in a car with his grandma.

His family was OK but his house was destroyed and he lost a lot of his favourite things, including his TV, games, books and toys.

"When the earthquake started I was in the computer room," said Shoto.

"The ground started to shake and the lights fell down. I was scared and put on a special earthquake hat," he said.

"I saw the tsunami as it swept through the town. The radish fields were flooded and the supermarket was washed away."


Shoto and his friends have received messages of support from other youngsters all over the world.

Some American children have made a traditional Japanese decoration to cheer them up and school pupils in the UK have written letters to Japanese children to show they care.

lunch time in Japan Children in Japan serve lunch to their classmates

Japanese children have to change into slippers when they arrive at school to keep the floor clean.

At lunch time, pupils have to serve lunch to their classmates. A typical lunch might be soup and beef burgers and the teachers eat it too.

Children in Japan also have to clean their school every day. It takes about half an hour and once it is done they can go home.


A lot of children are lucky that the government has built temporary houses for them.

Misako is four years old and she lives in one of them with her Mum and baby brother. The houses are very small so they have to be tidy.

Misako and her family can stay in the temporary house for two years until real houses can be built.


Shotoro says he made some friends at the sports hall but they have moved out now into the temporary houses.

Start Quote

Ten-year-old Shotoro

I try not to think about the tsunami . Having my TV and games helps to distract me but I want the government to build better defences”

End Quote Shotoro, 10

He says he would like to live in a temporary house, but he also wants his family to build a proper house.

At the sports hall, Shotoro's family are in charge of making sure everyone gets dinner.

There is no kitchen so the families rely on charities for food. They usually eat bento boxes which are like a hot packed lunch and Shotoro has mixed views about the food.

"Sometimes I like the food," he said. "But mostly I don't like it," he admitted.

There is not much to do in the evening. There are some books, toys and a TV but everyone has to share.

"I miss my bike the most - I liked riding round my neighbourhood but it was washed away with the tsunami," Shotoro said.

It's going to take a lot of work and a lot of time to rebuild Kesennuma. At the moment they are still clearing the debris away.

In the future people won't be able to put up houses in places where there is a risk of another tsunami.

It will be many months, if not years, before life really gets back to normal.

Schools World Service is a BBC British Council co-production

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