On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0-9.1 earthquake struck off the coast of Touhoku, Japan. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves, which together with the earthquake itself wiped out much of the region’s infrastructure. The disaster caused nearly 16,000 deaths, over 6,000 injuries, approximately 2,500 missing persons, and hundreds of thousands of displaced residents, ranking it as the most powerful earthquake on record in Japan and the most devastating disaster to strike Japan since World War II. The region continues to recover and rebuild, including from the nuclear crises that resulted from the accident at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The Japan Disasters Archive (JDA), a project from the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies at Harvard University, seeks to archive websites, news articles, video, images, and other media related to the March 11 disaster and its aftereffects in the time since. The archive links out to materials in partner projects, allowing users to contribute new materials as time goes on. Through the JDA interface, users can search for materials by relevant keywords, item date, language, and media type, making it an excellent resource for studying the ongoing development of Japan’s response to the March 11 disaster.
There are many different ways to capture the experience of a disaster. In this series of visualizations, one subset of media from the JDA — a collection of testimonials about individuals’ experiences of the disaster — is mapped and annotated. The testimonials portrayed here are responses to the question, What were you doing at the time the disaster struck?