Japanese Disaster Narratives of the Early Twenty-First Century: Continuity and Change

While Japan has had a long history of disaster movies, there was a period during the late twentieth century, at a time when the genre had regained popularity in Hollywood, that few were being made. However, from the start of the twenty-first century there has been a new wave of disaster movies. Building upon my previous study (‘Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?‘) that compares the contents of Japanese and English-language disaster narratives, this article provides in-depth analysis of fourteen Japanese disaster narratives and considers the degree to which they include ‘continuity’ and ‘change’. In terms of ‘continuity’ and ‘change’, the paper is concerned first with the way in which conventions found in disaster narratives are used and second with issues such as the portrayal of the protagonists, women, and the way in which some of the narratives handle actual historical events.

The article was originally published in French in Ebisu Études japonaises as « Les récits de catastrophe japonais du début du XXIe siècle : continuité et changement », Ebisu, 59 | 2022, p. 95-123. URL: http://journals.openedition.org/ebisu/6809 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/ebisu.6809

This is a list of narratives studied (with links to posts about them) for the article:

The article contains 10 clips from the narratives studied and one additional clip from another narrative that had been studied as part of ‘Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?

Actual TV footage from 1985 being used in Kuraimāzu Hai (2008)
The Fuji TV Building being hit by a large wave in 252: Seizonsha Ari
Characters based on the real Miyajima family in Shizumanu Taiyō (2009)
Yūki shows his disgust after one of his decisions is over-ruled in Kuraimāzu Hai (2005)
A rare happy ending. Mari to Koinu no Monogatari
Radiation panic in Kibō-no-Kuni
A survivor among dead bodies in Hiroshima
The make-shift morgue in One-No-Kanata-ni
The airline (NAL) logo on display in Shizumanu Taiyō (2009)
The airline (NAL) logo on display in Shizumanu Taiyō (2016)
The Kawaguchi isho being written in Shizumanu Taiyō (2009)


I would like to thank those who have aided with funding the research; Japan Foundation Endowment Committee, Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and Cardiff University.

As well as the article ‘Disaster Narratives by Design: Is Japan Different?‘, the research for the article was developed thanks to an online lecture ‘Japanese Disaster Narratives: Conservatism and Revisionism‘.

See also my book Dealing With Disaster in Japan: Responses to the Flight JL123 Crash