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Educational change in Japan

To reflect on how Japan changed as a result of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

by James Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To reflect on how Japan changed as a result of the earthquake and tsunami of 2011.

Preparation and materials

  • Download some photos of the earthquake and tsunami.
  • James Lamont, the author of this assembly, was working as a language assistant in Japan at the time of writing.


  1. In March 2011 Japan was hit by a terrible natural disaster. An enormous earthquake of magnitude 9.0 rocked the Pacific Ocean off the eastern coast of Japan. It was the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan, a nation which experiences small earthquakes on a daily basis, and has had five of the biggest earthquakes ever recorded.

    Because the epicentre was located in the ocean, the incident sparked a series of tidal waves which reached up to 40 metres in height and penetrated 6 miles inland, causing massive damage to towns and cities on the coast.

    Thousands of people died in the disaster and many more were declared missing. The Prime Minister at the time, Naoto Kan, said that this was the most difficult time for the nation since the Second World War, when Japan was struck by two atomic bombs.
  2. Japan’s recovery from the disaster has been praised across the world, with particular emphasis placed on the civility and law-abiding nature of the citizens. However, this should not be translated as conservatism. The earthquake has changed Japan, and one of the areas where change has been most prevalent is in education.

    Since the earthquake, MEXT, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, has placed a renewed emphasis on instilling in students joy in teaching and learning, and a spiritual attitude to life. The aim is to use education to create well-rounded, international citizens capable of representing their home country abroad and interacting with citizens of their own and other cultures.

    There is a desire to help create a love of education and communication through progressive education policies such as exposure to foreign languages from an early age.
  3. Although terrible things can happen quite unexpectedly and unjustly, there is always an opportunity to develop one’s own life in the face of tragedy. Tragedies are by their nature tragic, and should never be thought of as less than that, but the need for a zest for life, knowledge and spirit will always remain.

Time for reflection


Publication date: July 2012   (Vol.14 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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