Yuuki and the Tsunami

Yuki and the Tsunami

 Yuuki and the Tsunami 

Illustrated By: Elizabeth Rocha

Listen to the story while you read along! 

FOR AS LONG AS PEOPLE can remember, the shores of Japan have been swept from time to time by enormous tsunami waves. These sudden risings of the ocean is caused by underwater earthquakes or volcanoes that heave the sea up to 100 feet higher than normal.  Enormous tsunami waves roll over the shoreline, wiping out everything that was there. The story of the boy Yuuki is the story of one such calamity.

Yuuki lived with his family in a village or rice farmers. His grandfather, who had passed away several years before, taught Yuuki much about how to raise rice crops, solve disputes, and a great deal about the ways of the world. His grandfather was the most respected and wealthiest resident of the village - its leader. Yuuki's family cultivated the expansive fields of rice that his grandfather had passed on to them.

Yuuki's village was nestled by the shore below a small mountain. One day, Yuuki was playing on top of the mountain, watching preparations below for a festival that night to celebrate a wonderful rice crop.

Yuki and the Tsunami

All of a sudden, Yuuki felt an earthquake beneath his feet. It wasn't strong enough to frighten anyone, but Yuuki, who had felt dozens of shocks in his life, thought this one was odd - a long, slow, spongy motion.  The houses below, settled by the sea, rocked gently several times, then all became still again. Soon after, Yuuki noticed something even more strange. The sea darkened, then all of a sudden it started to rush backward, toward the horizon. The sea was actually running away from the shore very fast, leaving behind wide stretches of beach that were covered by the ocean only moments before.

The sea darkened, then all of a sudden it started to rush backward, toward the horizon.

With a gasp, Yuuki a memory from Yuuki's grandfather came to life. His grandfather had once told him how his own father's father had told him that just before a terrible tsunami, the sea suddenly darkened and rolled backward.

Yuuki, his breath heavy, ran down the mountainside to warn the people of the impending danger. Already, many had run to the beach to witness a spectacular new stretch of ribbed sand.

Yuki and the Tsunami

"Get back, get back!" shouted the boy. "There is terrible danger!"

"What are you talking about, Yuuki?" laughed one person. "Look at all the great new shells on the beach!"

"No, no! You don't understand!" cried Yuuki. "We must run away! Up the mountain! Everybody, let's go!"

But no one would listen. They all laughed in his face and carried on romping in the glorious beach that was four times larger than it had ever been.

Desperate, Yuuki could think of only thing to do. He lit a pine torch and hurried with it to the fields. There, hundreds of golden rice-stacks stood drying in the sun. He touched the torch to the edge of one, and then another, hurrying as quickly as his legs could carry him.

Yuki and the Tsunami

On contact with the torch, each sun-dried stalk instantly caught fire.  The strengthening sea breeze blew the blaze forward, spreading the fire even faster. Yuuki, terrified, ran after his friends and family calling, "Fire! Fire! Everyone run to the mountain! Quick!"

Like a swarming of ants, the villagers hurried from the beach, though to Yuuki's anxious eyes the moments seemed terribly long. All the while, the sea continued to roll back even further toward the horizon.

"Fire! Fire!  Everyone run to the mountain! Quick!"

The whole village was climbing up the mountain now. The growing multitude, still knowing nothing, looked horrified at the flaming fields below them and at the destruction of their homes and livelihood.

"Yuuki is mad!" cried one of the boys when they had all reached the top. "He set fire to the rice stalks on purpose. I saw him do it!"

"Yuuki, is this true?" said Yuuki's mother and father, frowning deeply.

Yuuki hung his head.

Just then, someone cried, "Look!"

Yuki and the Tsunami

At the edge of the horizon a long dim line like the shadow of a coast where no coast had even been - a line that thickened as they gazed, that broadened in the way a coast-line broadens when one approaches it, yet much more quickly. For that long thin line of darkness was the returning sea, towering like a cliff, and raging swiftly toward them.

"A tsunami!" shrieked the people. Then all shrieks and all sounds and all power to hear sounds were annihilated by a nameless shock heavier than any thunder, as the colossal swell struck the shore with a weight that sent a shudder through the hills, and with a burst of foam like a blaze of sheet lightning. For an instant nothing could be seen but a storm of spray rushing up the slope like a cloud, and the people scattered back in panic from the mere menace of it..

"A tsunsmi!" shrieked the people.

When they looked again, they saw a white horror of sea roaring over the place of their homes. It finally drew back, tearing out the land as it withdrew. Twice, three times, five times, the sea struck the land and ebbed, but each time with surges less strong. Then at last, the sea returned to its normal place and stayed there, though still raging, as the sea will do after a hurricane.  All this the people of Yuuki's village watched with horror.

On the mountain no word was spoken for a long time. All stared speechlessly at the desolation below, at the wreckage and debris that was scattered over what was left of their village.

"I'm sorry that I burned the fields," said Yuuki, his voice trembling.

"Yuuki," said his father softly. "You saved us all."

Yuki and the Tsunami

The villagers swept up Yuuki and raised him into the air. "We were going to celebrate our rice harvest tonight," said one. "Now we'll celebrate that we're all still alive!"

They cheered with relief and admiration at the brave Yuuki, who that day had saved over four hundred lives.




  • What risk did Yuuki take when he burned the rice fields?
  • Tell about a time when you also took a risk and you're glad that you did.
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