Publication Details

Brown, A. & Mackie, V. (2015). Introduction: Art and Activism in Post-Disaster Japan. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, 13 (6), 1-5.

Link to publisher version (URL)

The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus


On 11 March 2011, the northeastern area of Japan, known as Tōhoku, was hit by an unprecedented earthquake and tsunami. The disaster damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, one of a number of such facilities located in what was already an economically disadvantaged region.2 This led to a series of explosions and meltdowns and to the leakage of contaminated water and radioactive fallout into the surrounding area. Around 20,000 people were reported dead or missing, with a disproportionate number from the aged population of the region. Nearly four years later, hundreds of thousands of people are still displaced: evacuated to other areas, living in temporary accommodations, or living in makeshift shelters in former public buildings. There has been despoliation of the environment and contamination of food, air and water. Primary industries like fishing and dairy have been curtailed. Livestock have suffered excruciating deaths due to injury, radiation sickness and starvation, or have had to be “put down”. The nuclear power industry in Japan is effectively shut down, and people are enjoined to save electricity (setsuden) in order to cope with the reduced capacity for power generation. This multiple disaster has reverberated on a number of scales – in the local communities immediately affected, in civil society groups who have sent volunteers to the region, in more distant places which have welcomed refugees from the disaster, in the responses of local and national governments, and in international expressions of solidarity and concern.