Experiences of Japan's Great Earthquake

Aftershocks: Experiences of Japan’s Great Earthquake was on display in the Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library from 1 September 2014 to 8 March 2015, and was accompanied by a public lecture series.

Aftershocks: Experiences of Japan’s Great Earthquake explores the impact of Japan’s deadliest natural disaster on everyday lives through objects from the University of Melbourne’s East Asian Rare Materials Collection. In the 1920s, Tokyo was an economic, administrative and political hub. But at two minutes to noon on 1 September 1923, the city was devastated.

A massive 7.9 magnitude earthquake struck the Kantō region, flattening the cities of Tokyo, and Yokohama, killing approximately 120,000 people and rendering a further 2.5 million homeless, all in one day. This cataclysmic event sent out far-reaching aftershocks that irrevocably altered both the Tokyo skyline and Japanese society. Aftershocks brings together previously unexhibited postcards, diaries and maps with contemporary images and narratives from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami to powerfully communicate the devastating scale and ongoing impact of both natural disasters.

Highlights of this bilingual exhibition include historical commemorative postcards, children’s drawings produced in the aftermath of both disasters and prints of the Japanese god of earthquakes, the giant mythical catfish namazu.

Public lecture program

Exhibiting Disaster: The Great Kantō Earthquake Collection at Melbourne University

Curator Floor Talk: Hannah Gould

Tuesday 2 September 2014, Noel Shaw Gallery, Baillieu Library, 12.00pm–1.00pm

Join Aftershocks curator Hannah Gould as she explores the harrowing tale of the earthquake and fires that destroyed Tokyo on 1 September 1923. Tracing the events of that tragic day, the talk will uncover personal stories of survival behind the objects and address the challenges faced by contemporary curators in telling these stories.

Catastrophe, Opportunism, and Humanitarianism: The Chimerical Nature of Japan's Great Kantō Earthquake

Public Lecture: Professor Charles Schencking

Thursday 11 September 2014, Leigh Scott Room, Baillieu Library, tea/coffee from 11.30am, talk from 12.00pm–1.00pm

On 1 September 1923, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake devastated eastern Japan. It killed over 100,000 people, left more than 2 million homeless, and annihilated large tracts of Tokyo and Yokohama. As moral philosopher Shimamoto Ainosuke described it, the disaster overturned Japan's culture from its very foundation. More than destroy, however, the disaster eventually inspired optimism and unleashed powerful forces of opportunism—it nurtured the belief that the disaster and responses to it could lead to fundamental transformations of society, the built environment, and even within the realm of international relations. Did it?

Charles Schencking, from the University of Hong Kong, will illuminate the catastrophe through a rich array of visual and narrative material and explore the optimistic dreams and contested realities associated with physical reconstruction, moral regeneration, and America's humanitarian response to Japan's greatest natural disaster of the modern era.

Building Resilience: Children, Schools and the Origin of Japan's Disaster Preparedness

Public Lecture: Dr Janet Borland

Friday 12 September 2014, Leigh Scott Room, Baillieu Library, tea/coffee from 11.30am, talk from 12.00pm–1.00pm

Dr Janet Borland from the University of Hong Kong will explore the experiences of children who survived the Great Kantō Earthquake of 1923 and the long-term legacies of the earthquake on Japan's education system. Focusing on the reconstruction of Japan's primary schools following the earthquake in particular, Janet will also explore children's experiences of the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami to put the 1923 earthquake in perspective.

Dear Ella: Japan's Great Earthquake through Tokugawa letters in the Grainger Museum

Public Lecture: Michelle Hall and Monica Syrette

Thursday 25 September 2014, Leigh Scott Room, Baillieu Library, tea/coffee from 11.30am, talk from 12.00pm–1.00pm

In 1923 Iyemasa Tokugawa, the 17th hereditary head of the former Shogunal branch of the Tokugawa clan, was the First Secretary Councillor of the Japanese Embassy in London. When the earthquake struck in Tokyo he was working in Geneva and writing regularly to his mistress, Ella Ström, a Swedish artist and exceptional beauty. Their love affair evolved into a close friendship following her marriage to Percy Grainger in 1928. This presentation will examine Tokugawa's place in history and, through the letters, his personal response to the disaster at home.

The Great East Japan Earthquake: Effects on the People of Japan

Public Lecture: Sue Daniel(Melbourne, Australia) and Jun Maeda (Sapporo, Japan)

Tuesday 7 October 2014, Leigh Scott Room, Baillieu Library, tea/coffee from 4.30pm, talk from 5.00pm–6.00pm

In 2012 Sue Daniel was invited by Jun Maeda, representing the Red Cross, to conduct a grief and loss workshop in the Iwate prefecture - Morioka, headquarters of the Red Cross for the Great East Earthquake effort. This presentation includes pictures taken before and after the Tsunami of 2011 of towns and people, stories of resilience, and explores the effects of this catastrophe on the Japanese people and psyche.

Sue Daniel is a psychodramatist and psychotherapist in private practice, a psychodrama trainer, educator and consulting psychologist working and living in Melbourne. She teaches and lectures in Australia and overseas in communities, universities and was the first foreign Visiting Professor at the Muroran Institute of Technology, Hokkaido, Japan.

Jun Maeda is a certified clinical psychologist and associate professor at the Muroran Institute of Technology in Japan. He has 29 years' experience of psychodrama and is Leader of the Sapporo Psychodrama Association. His notable career includes working on psychosocial support in cooperation with the Red Cross Society at the disaster area in Japan and in many other disaster-effected countries.

Distance in crises: Queer readings of excess in post tsunami Japan

Public Lecture: Dr Claire Maree, Senior Lecturer in Japanese, Asia Institute

Monday 10 November 2014, Leigh Scott Room, Baillieu Library, tea/coffee from 11.30am, talk from 12.00pm-1.00pm

In a crisis, we move towards managing negative outcomes, ensuring safety and survival. Needs that are seen to diverge from the immediate concerns of ensuring safety and survival are quashed. Normative configurations of family, of body, of language take precedence. In crises we are asked to be "normal". The differing needs of differing bodies/families/speakers may be construed as in excess of safety and survival, as excessive, extravagant, or in Japanese as wagamama (selfish). We are propelled to avoid "excess", and stifle extravagance. As part of an on-going collaborative project on queer-reading following the March 2011 (311) earthquake and tsunami in Japan, this presentation by Dr Claire Maree will consider how the privileges of distance may allow for a queer reading of excess in post-311 Japan.

Dr Claire Maree is Senior Lecturer in Japanese at the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. Dr Maree's area of expertise is critical language studies, specifically discourse analysis focusing on critical approaches to language and identity studies, and language education. She is particularly interested in examining the dynamics of gender and sexuality in spoken discourses and contemporary media. Dr Maree is also active in the area of queer theory.

Exhibition sponsors

The University Library gratefully acknowledges the support of the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne; Cultural and Community Relations Advisory Group, University of Melbourne; The Japan Foundation, Sydney and the Consulate-General of Japan, Melbourne.

Japan Foundation LogoAsia Institute LogoUniversity of Melbourne Logo