Show Less
Restricted access

Japan Copes with Calamity

Ethnographies of the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disasters of March 2011

Edited By Tom Gill, Brigitte Steger and David H. Slater

This book is the first collection of ethnographies in English on the Japanese communities affected by the giant Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011 and the ensuing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It brings together studies by experienced researchers of Japan from field sites around the disaster zone. The contributors present the survivors’ struggles in their own words: from enduring life in shelters and temporary housing, through re-creating the fishing industry, to rebuilding life-ways and relationships bruised by bereavement. They contrast the sudden brutal loss of life from the tsunami with the protracted anxiety about exposure to radiation and study the battle to protect children, family and a way of life from the effects of destruction, displacement and discrimination. The local communities’ encounters with volunteers and journalists who poured into Tohoku after the disaster and the campaign to win compensation from the state and nuclear industry are also explored. This volume offers insights into the social fabric of rural communities in north-eastern Japan and suggests how the human response to disaster may be improved in the future.
Show Summary Details
Restricted access

Preface and Acknowledgements to the First Edition


This collection of ethnographic studies explores how people experienced the aftermath of the tsunami and nuclear disasters that afflicted Japan on 11 March 2011. By focusing on the period between the initial chaos caused by large-scale and sudden destruction and the formation of a recognizable trajectory of rebuilding, it aims to enhance our understanding of 3.11 and more generally of the human consequences of disaster. This was the period when outsiders, be they from nearby Sendai, from Tokyo or Osaka, or from abroad, ventured into the areas of north-eastern Japan where the tsunami had hit to provide aid and relief. New sets of relationships were being forged or negotiated in evacuation shelters and temporary housing. People were frantically trying to assess the effects of becquerels and millisieverts on human health while the search for bodies under the debris was still going on. Communities were hatching relocation plans and imagining possible futures, even as rituals for the dead were being performed. It was a period when people struggled to find narratives that could explain what had happened, but nevertheless had to sort out how to move ahead.

It is impossible to make overarching scholarly or even systematic generalizations about this important, complex and chaotic phase. The contributors to this volume have thus looked at specific issues in specific locations to explore the uneven fits and starts of relief and recovery, the tentative, incomplete, sometimes misguided attempts to recover community and lost social relations, and the efforts to...

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

This site requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals.

Do you have any questions? Contact us.

Or login to access all content.