On March 11, 2011, the Tohoku earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck eastern Japan, emanating from its offshore epicenter in the Pacific Ocean. More than ten thousand lives and much property were lost. Weeks after the disaster, many victims displaced from their homes are still living in evacuation centers. Prepared in late March of 2011, this abstract provides the most current information on what is known about the damage to cultural property and what is being done to save it. The poster presented at the AIC Annual Meeting will provide the most recent information on this dire situation, the circumstances of which will continue to develop in the months and years to come.
Promptly following the disaster, governmental and civic organizations began the necessary efforts to begin the recovery. Because cultural properties are an important source of local identity and national pride, projects that work to restore cultural heritage can be important symbols of hope. MEXT (Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology), the governmental organization responsible for the protection of cultural properties, reported that 417 reports of damage had been filed as of March 31. This total includes three national treasures: Zuigan Temple, Miyagi prefecture; Osaki HachimanguShrine, Miyagi prefecture; and Shiramizu Amidado of Ganjo Temple, Fukushima prefecture. Though the number of damage reports may seem low, much of the damage has not yet been reported. As the recovery efforts proceed, the tremendous scope of the damage to cultural heritage will gradually become clear.
In cooperation with MEXT, which issued the basic action policy and established a rescue committee for cultural properties, newly-established support groups and existing organizations are ready to take action. The nonprofit Network for Historical Materials continuously sends updated reports on the damage in Miyagi, Fukushima, and Ibaraki prefectures along with urgent appeals for aid. Their report, in English, is available on their homepage at http://rekishishiryonet.wordpress.com/. They are calling on municipalities and owners of historic materials to preserve them if they are muddy or water-damaged. Recently, it was announced that the Network was ready to begin rescue efforts once working shelters are provided. The Consortium for Earthquake-Damaged Cultural Heritage, a voluntary network of archaeologists and related professionals, uses social media applications to collect, discuss, and analyze the data and information on the earthquake and tsunami damage. For example, a member of the Board of Education of Ushiku City, Ibaraki prefecture, provided two photographs showing damage to the Gorinto stone towers at two temples. The Japan Society for the Conservation of Cultural Property has just started its recovery efforts with the initiation of a special committee for disaster countermeasures.
There are many organizations that are able to aid in the recovery, restoration, and reconstruction of damaged cultural heritage. At the same time, many Japanese people, corporations, and organizations are making donations for the reconstruction. However, the cost will be huge and the work will take years to complete because the scope of destruction is the largest ever experienced since the dawn of Japanese history.