People of every era, I suspect, tend to believe that their experiences are new and unique. But this often isn't the case. It particularly isn't the case when it comes to natural disasters in a county as natural disaster prone as Japan.
This animated clip, from the great, great series Manga Nippon Mukashibanashi (Animated Japanese Fairy Tales), was produced in the 1970s. The fairy tale upon which it is based is hundreds of years old.
In it, a young mother and child from the island of Kessenuma Oshima happen across a statue called the michibiki jizo -- the guiding bodhisattva. According to local legend, the soul of a person that is about to die appears before this particular jizo the day before they pass away. The mother and child are shocked to see a whole parade of spirits appear before the statue -- male and female, old and young.
When they return home, the father laughs it off as a figment of their imaginations. But the very next day, when the family is fishing at the seashore, the tide pulls out and doesn't come back in. Minutes later, a massive tsunami wipes out the entire town as the mother, son, and father watch escape to a hilltop. They are the only survivors.
Given the fact that Kessenuma is in the headlines today for the very same reason, there is no doubt that this "fairy tale" is based on a true story. It's particularly haunting in light of the ancient stone markers that dot the Japanese coastline warning of tsunami from times of old, a literal message to future generations from ancestors long since shuffled off this mortal coil.
History repeats. In this era of science and technology it is tempting to brush off myth and legend as superstition. Sometimes, however, they're more than just stories.