The Great East Japan Disaster: Marking the 10 Year Anniversary

On the 11th of March 2011 at 14:46, exactly ten years ago today, a massive magnitude 9 earthquake occurred off the east coast of Japan. It was the biggest recorded earthquake in Japan and shifted the island of Honshu by a whole 2.4m. The earthquake triggered a powerful tsunami that struck East Japan, surging up to 10km inland and leaving destruction in its wake. However, the disaster was not over yet, the tsunami damaged the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant, the reactor cores could not cool down resulting in nuclear meltdown and hydrogen explosions, that released radiation into the surrounding area. This triple disaster was a tragedy that claimed the lives of more than 18,500 people and many more remain still unaccounted for. This month has seen many events marking the ten year anniversary of the Great East Japan Disaster – reflecting on what occurred, remembering the lives lost, questioning what was learnt and what is still to be learnt from the disaster and considering the numerous projects, both past and present, that are striving towards the future.

Anniversaries that mark terrible events, such as this one, must be approached with the utmost sensitivity because numerous lives where lost in the triple disaster and many people remain deeply affected by it. Anniversaries provide an opportunity to collectively remember the lives lost as well as those who continue to be effected. They bring the issues raised, around tsunami defence and the safety of nuclear power, to the foremost of the public’s and government’s minds and ensure that lessons are learnt from the experience. Below is a list of interviews and articles that I watched/read, and recommend, that consider the legacy of the Great East Japan Disaster. They provide multiple different perspectives on the legacy, considering the lasting psychological impact, the consequences for government policy and international relations as well as the effect on cultural heritage.


Interviews conducted by the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures (SISJAC) about the recovery of cultural properties after the Great East Japan Disaster with Professor Kouzuma Yousei 高妻洋成教授 (Cultural Heritage Disaster Risk Management Centre, Japan) and Dr Shoda Shinya 庄田慎矢氏 (Nara National Research Institute for Cultural Properties), Professor Kikuchi Yoshio 菊地芳朗教授 (Fukushima University), Aki Sahoko 安芸早穂子氏 (Professional illustrator for archaeology) and Professor Akasaka Norio 赤坂憲雄教授 (Gakushuin University). 

Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation webinar with British journalists Jon Snow (Channel 4 News presenter) and Richard Lloyd Parry (Asia Editor of The Times) regarding their experiences of the impact of the Great East Japan Disaster.

Japan Society webinar with Yoichi Funabashi (former Editor-in-Chief of Asahi Shimbun who set up the Rebuild Japan Initiative Foundation) and David Warren (UK ambassador to Tokyo in 2011) about what has and has not changed as a result of the Great East Japan Disaster and what effect it had on international relations.

Kaner, Simon. “Archaeology in a nuclear exclusion zone: Visiting Fukushima.” British Archaeology 141 (2015): 46-51.

Kaner, Simon. “Tidal Wave: The day Japan shook.” Current World Archaeology 49 (2011): 22-29.

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