Disaster museums in Japan: Telling the stories of disasters before and after 3.11

Elizabeth Maly, Mariko Yamazaki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Japan has an established tradition of museums com-memorating its long history of disasters, which memo-rialize 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, start-ing from the museum of the 1923 Great Kanto Earth-quake. These seven museums commemorate disasters of different types, time, and scales of damages. Considering their shared commonalities and individ-ual 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 memorializa-tion, 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)146-156
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Disaster Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • 3.11
  • Earthquake
  • Japan
  • Tsunami disaster museum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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