This paper examines the roles of disaster memorials during the five years that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE). After the collective experience of catastrophe, societies develop various modes of grieving and remembering the tragedies and their victims. One of these strategies consists of the erection of monuments where mourners, survivors, politicians, religious leaders and other visitors may process their sorrows, pay their respects to the dead, express their solidarity with the affected community, and remember the catastrophe. Despite the fact that the grieving process starts immediately after the event, memorials for the dead are paradoxically built years, if not decades, after the events. The reason might be that memorials are often conceived solely as ‘mnemonic devices.’ However, to limit their role as material testimonies of catastrophes is to ignore the functions they hold for communities during the immediate aftermath. In response, this study reports on the practical roles played by memorial monuments for the survivors of the Great East Japan Earthquake. It reflects on the significance of both their tangible (the monument and its surroundings) and intangible dimensions (grief, social bonds, memories). The paper concludes a few of general recommendations based on the idea that memorials compose a matrix of complementary practices of remembrance that together contribute to reducing the impact of the losses suffered by post-disaster communities.
- Disaster impact reduction
- Social recovery