JDR Vol.16 No.2 pp. 146-156
doi: 10.20965/jdr.2021.p0146

Survey Report:

Disaster Museums in Japan: Telling the Stories of Disasters Before and After 3.11

Elizabeth Maly*,† and Mariko Yamazaki**

*International Research Institute of Disaster Science (IRIDeS), Tohoku University
468-1 Aramaki Aza Aoba, Aoba, Sendai, Miyagi 980-8572, Japan

Corresponding author

**3.11 Densho Road Promotion Organization, Miyagi, Japan

August 31, 2020
October 16, 2020
February 1, 2021
disaster museum, Japan, 3.11, earthquake, tsunami

Japan has an established tradition of museums commemorating its long history of disasters, which memorialize lives lost and convey the scientific mechanisms of natural hazards, disaster history, and people’s experiences during and after disasters. The first part of this paper provides an overview of seven modern disaster museums in Japan established before 3.11, starting from the museum of the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake. These seven museums commemorate disasters of different types, time, and scales of damages. Considering their shared commonalities and individual characteristics, it describes the components and approaches of exhibits that these museums use to convey experiences and stories of disasters, passing on local knowledge toward future disaster risk reduction. The second part of the paper provides an overview of new museums and exhibit facilities established to commemorate the 3.11 Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster of March 11, 2011. The scale of the devastation of 3.11, as well as an explosion of interest and support for activities of memorialization, documentation, and exhibition, has resulted in a variety and decentralization of new museums and exhibit spaces throughout the area affected by the 3.11 disaster. Spanning various combinations and types of exhibit facilities, this paper concludes by considering emergent trends compared to pre-3.11 disaster museums and potential future developments.

Cite this article as:
E. Maly and M. Yamazaki, “Disaster Museums in Japan: Telling the Stories of Disasters Before and After 3.11,” J. Disaster Res., Vol.16 No.2, pp. 146-156, 2021.
Data files:
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Last updated on May. 28, 2024