Book Announcement: 3.11 as History: a book (E/J)

51GSgFUZaIL._SS500_Published on 3.11 by staff members of Tohoku Gakuin University, Sendai.

The title of the book is 『歴史としての東日本大震災 口碑伝承をおろそかにするなかれ』(岩本由輝編、刀水書房、2013年). It contains 5 articles, written by faculty member living either in the Sendai region, or in Soma City, Fukushima.

The first article by Iwamoto introduces the historical record for the Jogan tsunami of 869, and then proceeds to review the historical evidence for the Keicho Tsunami of 1611, and furthermore, oral historical evidence for the latter. Iwamoto then goes on to demonstrate how official writing on the evidence for past earthquakes and tsunami was altered so the evidence for the tsunami of 1611 was systematically belittled and removed from official academic literature on the history of natural disasters in Japan. Iwamoto returns to examine this theme in detail in chapter 5, the last essay in the series. His essay demonstrates that we should have know that Fukushima was also prone to cyclical large-scale tsunami, and that the very words that we have used to designate the location of disaster prone areas has blinded our perceptions and ability ot approach open-mindedly evidence which contradicts our preconceptions (especially if on the payroll of Tepco etc). The second essay is written by a seismologist who had investigated historical and archaeological evidence for the Jogan tsunami of 869, and had reached the conclusion that a tsunami of the scale of the 869 on came about every 1,000 years, and that it was already over 1,000 years since 869… His warnings were ignored by government, local and national, and we are living with the results of that. The third essay is on how the pinetree plantations along the coastline were created during the Edo Period, and their role in enabling the draining of the swamps that used to lie along the coastal plain, these swamps themselves probably being vestiges of the Jogan Tsunami. Chapter four is written by a 36 year old volunteer fireman who went into the Gamo region at the mouth of the Nanakita River, flowing roughly between Sendai City and Tagajo. According to the writer, this small area suffered the highest death toll. I have not had the time to read his essay analytically and in full. My first impressions are that is it confused and structurally possibly a mess, but on the other hand, if you want to know what it feels like to recover your first corpse from the wreakage, what if feels like to be in a fire engine heading into the disaster area to look for the living and to only find the dead, read a collection of statements from the heads of the various Chonaikai (neighbourhood associations) within Gamo, was there really no crime nor looting in the disaster area, then this piece is incomparable, .

This is not your usual detached and analytical book. The writers are angry, frustrated, emotionally hurt, but write from their various viewpoints and provide information which raises many questions, such as what constitutes scientific proof, how academic research can provide life-saving information, and how this information can be ignored and distorted. The writers do not provide an analytical framework for the many deep and disturbing questions that this book raises. At the distance that they stand from the disaster, this is asking too much. If you are looking for information of the issues that this book touches upon, then I would recommend it highly. Please be forewarned that it is a book about the area around Sendai, and Soma City. People not familiar with the geography of the region will probably find this aspect off-putting. Using Google Earth, and the maps provided in Kikuchi Keiko’s essay in Chapter 3 should help people not familiar with the locality to get their directions.

John Morris

Miyagi Gakuin Women’s University, Sendai.

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of graduate life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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