Talk given by Ken Mogi at TED Long Beach on 29th February, 2012, 10 days before the 1st anniversary of the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake of 2011.
On March 11th 2011, a massive earthquake hit Eastern Japan. About 30 minutes later, devastating waves of tsunami came ashore across the Tohoku area. It was a natural disaster of a scale unprecedented in the remembered history of Japan. Scientists later confirmed that it had been an event once in a thousand years. Then the nuclear power plant accident at Fukushima followed, casting shadows over people’s lives and hearts. It was a “black swan” event that even experts had failed to predict. The tsunami swept cars, houses, to the utter despair of those looking on in disbelief. Children cried, while their parents could do nothing but to comfort them. Tens of thousands of people lost their loved ones, their cherished homes, and their long-held ways of life.
In memory of the people who lost their lives in the earthquake and tsunami, I would like to dedicate here a moment of silence.
Almost immediately after the disaster, recovery efforts started. People around the world were impressed by the resilience of the Japanese people, who never forgot smiles on their faces, despite the incredible difficulties encountered in the wake of a disaster.
Here I would like to share with you a philosophy behind the resilience of Japanese people. Among Japanese fishermen, there is a saying that “under the board, there is hell.” Once the Mother Nature rages, there is nothing you can do about it. Despite the risks, a fisherman ventures off into the ocean, to do his best to make a living.
This old proverb is true for all of us. As the world becomes small, we are facing newly emerging oceans of contingencies. Just like the Japanese fishermen, we don’t give up. We proceed, with smiles on our faces. In fact, we can even say that risks and uncertainties are the mothers of hope and wisdom.
Here I have a flag, given to me by a fisherman in Kamaishi, who has been personally affected by the tsunami. In order to cheer us up, I swing here the Japanese fisherman’s flag. Under the board, there is hell. That’s why we all hope to build peace and prosperity on our humble boat, through our resilience and hard work. And that’s why we are all here today. Thank you very much.