Saturday, April 9, 2016


March 11 is the anniversary day of the Great East Japan Earthquake. The Hidenori Watanave Laboratory at Tokyo Metropolitan University (in April 2018, the laboratory transferred to The University of Tokyo) and Iwate Nippo Newspaper worked together to create a digital archive of those who lost their lives in the disaster, mapping their evacuation efforts from when the earthquake struck until the tsunami arrived. This project is entitled: We Shall Never Forget - Last Movements of Tsunami Disaster Victims.

We interviewed the surviving family members of those who lost their lives in the earthquake and collected data on their whereabouts at 2:46 P.M. on March 11, 2011, and when the tsunami arrived.

This project is a combination of three-dimensional aerial photos and maps which visually represent how people attempted to evacuate based on the detailed locations of 1,326 victims. The families of 687 of the victims consented to showing their loved ones’ names and where they went on that day. The aerial photo layers directly after the disaster and from 1974 to 1978 use tile data from the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan.

Iwate Nippo Newspaper has preserved the names of each and every victim of the disaster in print in their Wasurenai (We Shall Never Forget) project, and the Tendenko-Mirai-E (A Future Where You Look Out For Yourself) series that provides information for preventing loss of life in future disasters. This project analyzes the detailed actions victims took as they attempted to escape, providing a visual representation and summary of the Iwate Nippo Newspaper projects and articles. This visualization gives these silent victims a voice, serving as a lesson for future generations in times of disaster so that we may never lose even a single precious life.

The pluralistic digital archives technology used to create this project was developed for other projects at the Hidenori Watanave Laboratory, such as the Hiroshima Archive, Nagasaki Archive, Great East Japan Earthquake Archive, and the Battle of Okinawa Digital Archive. It uses open source software and can be viewed on computers, smartphones, and tablets.

Evacuation attempts in printed archives have also been analyzed to be combined with digital technology, expanding the possibilities of print media by urging people not to put too much confidence in evacuation shelters, but to get to higher ground whenever possible.

MapData: © OpenStreetMap contributors