Passing on the wisdom to survive disasters


For centuries, lessons from disasters have been passed down from generation to generation orally through parents to children, or through stone monuments and other means. However, in the affected areas, it was often after several decades that similar disasters occurred again, so not all lessons could be carried on.


By passing on the memories and lessons of natural disasters to the present day, communities can strengthen their ability to prevent disasters. It can also lead to regional development in the disaster-stricken areas.
Since the 1995 Hyogo-ken Nanbu Earthquake, the Internet has become widespread, and lessons learned from disasters and activities in various regions are now widely shared as records and memories.

Japan, a disaster-prone country, has passed on the memory of disasters in various ways, including natural disaster legacy monuments to pass on lessons from past disasters to future generations, the "311 Densho Road," a network of facilities that passed on the Great East Japan Earthquake, and disaster remains, which preserve structures left behind from past natural disasters.
Before the advent of printing technology, the wisdom of surviving disasters was passed down orally or inscribed on stone monuments. Today, with the development of the Internet, lessons learned from various disasters can be transmitted as digitalized information, allowing the wisdom of surviving disasters to be shared more widely. The lessons accumulated in this way are indispensable for future DRR education and the enhancement of disaster preparedness.


Monument of Natural Disaster Tradition

Stone monuments have long been used in Japan to hand down the lessons of disasters because stone is a material that does not decay easily. Comparing monuments in Japan and other countries related to disasters such as tsunamis, while the names of the casualties are often inscribed as memorials or records abroad, in Japan, there is a strong element of conveying lessons learned from the disaster. The lessons learned from these stones have often saved people from damage in later disasters.

According to the database of monuments with natural disaster traditions, the oldest monument is the Matsuzaki monument (Masuda City, Shimane Prefecture), erected in 1814, which is related to the Man-ju Tsunami in 1026. There is also a record of a monument erected in 1380 in Minami Town, Tokushima Prefecture, regarding the 1361 Shohei-Nankai Earthquake Tsunami.

Monument of the 1707 Hoei Earthquake and Tsunami (Saiki City, Oita Prefecture)

Credit: Osamu Murao


The "3.11 Densho Road," a network of facilities that passed on the Great East Japan Earthquake

SINCE 2011

The Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred on March 11, 2011 caused extensive damage to vast areas along the eastern coast of Japan. The reconstruction of towns and cities in the affected areas has progressed over the past 10 years. As a result, various memorial facilities, disaster prevention centers, monuments, information boards, etc. have been established.

The “3.11 Densho Road” aims to enhance the disaster preparedness of local communities and promote regional development in the affected areas by networking such facilities and using them as a platform. The project includes the dissemination of information on earthquake remains, memorial facilities, and the recovery and reconstruction of the affected areas; the development of educational materials and programs to improve disaster preparedness; and support for tourism utilizing memorial facilities of the Great East Japan Earthquake.


Credit: 3.11 Densho Road Promotion Organization (HP)


Tarō Kanko Hotel, Disaster Remains

SINCE 2016

The structures themselves that have been damaged by a disaster have a greater impact in conveying the extent of the damage than any other information such as photos and texts. These damaged structures are called disaster remains. They have been preserved to convey the tragedy of war as well as past disasters, but after the Great East Japan Earthquake, they have been drawing more attention. The Tarō Kanko Hotel is one of the few buildings in the Tarō area that survived the tsunami, which claimed 181 victims. It is the first building in Japan to be designated as a disaster remain certified by the Reconstruction Agency.

Credit: Osamu Murao