Images of Post-Quake Japan or How to Stop Bara-Bara

Research output: Chapter in Book/Entry/PoemChapter


Images circulating through post-disaster Japan were of three types: images so extreme and surreal that they would not let go of our eyes; projected visions of a reconstructed society; and, most disturbingly, images of life as if nothing had happened. Some say that after the 2011 earthquake, Japan became bara-bara: broken apart. The country appeared immobilised by the merciless sea and invisible radiation. A sense of equality amongst people was washed away as well. Since WWII, the persistent motto had been ‘ten million people all middle class’ and nearuniversal consumption habits lent an impression of equality. The Japanese expression of being ‘like everyone else’ is synonymous with being a decent person, and the conviction that mimicry could be a powerful method of improving one’s life is widely shared. Architecture had created containers for lives that were ‘like everyone else’s, ' demanding that the world both outside and within Japan recognise the progress and respect the building owners. But the illusion came undone in the quake. Confronted by rampant misinformation regarding radiation levels and widespread economic uncertainty, it is understandable that Japanese would want to live as if nothing happened. However, new and on-going efforts to bridge regional discrepancies have taken hold, and these reconstruction projects and networks hint at ways to imagine alternative spatial planning. So in the face of bara-bara, and after entire towns that produced energy and food for Tokyo were washed away, what is the role of architecture in building lasting equality and solidarity? If solidarity leads to sustainability, can architecture construct not only retroactively but also to show us a way to avoid future calamities? This chapter explores architectural images from pre- and post-Tohoku earthquake and their effects on space planning in Japan.1.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationMonstrous Spaces
Subtitle of host publicationThe Other Frontier
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781848881761
ISBN (Print)9789004373914
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019


  • Architecture
  • Japan
  • Tohoku
  • disaster
  • earthquake
  • image
  • radiation
  • reconstruction
  • solidarity
  • tsunami

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences


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