Remembering the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and Remembering

Today is the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami – also known as ‘3/11’. Unsurprisingly, this anniversary has led to many events, news stories and articles about the event – both reflections on what happened on 11 March 2011, the lessons that can be learnt, and also those about what the situation is like now.

Last week, I attended two webinars about the disaster (see also my recent post about disasters). The first of these, organised by the Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation, featured journalists Jon Snow and Richard Lloyd Parry speaking about their experiences reporting on the unfolding disaster back in 2011, with Lloyd Parry also bringing the story more up to date with discussion of aspects of the book, Ghosts of the Tsunami (which is on my list of books to read and I will write a post about in due course), that he has written. It was an excellent webinar and the main webinar (i.e. not the questions and discussion) are available on YouTube.

The second webinar was organised by The Japan Society and in many respects was much more about what happened at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Power Plant and the responses to this. The speakers were Sir David Warren (British Ambassador to Japan in 2011) and Yoichi Funabashi (former Asahi Shimbun Chief Editor). The excellent webinar (including the discussion) is also available on YouTube.

Of course it is absolutely right that we should stop to remember the Great East Japan Disaster and it is no wonder that there is so much attention on the 10th anniversary. My own research about the 1985 JL123 plane crash has pointed to the significance of anniversaries – something I discuss in both my book Dealing with Disaster in Japan and also in my article Developing a Model to Explain Modifications to Public Transportation Accident Memorials which particularly highlighted the significance of anniversaries to the bereavement process.

However, my research on the JL123 crash also pointed to how such high profile disasters play a wider role. There are many other disasters that do not get the same level of coverage as JL123, The Great East Japan Disaster, The Great Hanshin Earthquake, or the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for example. Those who memorialise the JL123 crash have done a wonderful job at bringing together victims (by which I mean also the families of those who lost loved ones) of other tragedies – see the photograph below. Let us not just remember those who died on 3/11 (and subsequent days) but all those whose lives have been cut tragically short.

A large lantern listing some of the other tragedies being remembered during the JL123 memorial events. This photograph appears in my book Dealing with Disaster in Japan and can be found with other photographs in the book on this page.

Returning to discussing webinars, one positive thing that has come out of the COVID-19 pandemic is that there are more webinars that can be accessed by people around the world rather than requiring attendees or speakers to travel to a particular point. Although I hope we will get back to the more physical seminars soon – as there is still much that can be achieved in that format that cannot be done in a webinar – I hope such seminars will maintain an online option too. In relation to webinars on disasters, I gave one for the The Japan Society on 24 April 2021 on Japanese Disaster Narratives: Conservatism and Revisionism.

See also my other posts related to the Great East Japan Disaster, particularly 3/11, Airports and Airlines.

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