When the Tsunami Came to Shore

Culture and Disaster in Japan

Editor: Roy Starrs
Edited by Roy Starrs, this collection of essays by an international group of leading experts on Japanese religion, anthropology, history, literature and music presents new research and thinking on the long and complex relationship between culture and disaster in Japan, one of the most “disaster-prone” countries in the world. Focusing first on responses to the triple disasters of March 2011, the book then puts the topic in a wider historical context by looking at responses to earlier disasters, both natural and man-made, including the great quakes of 1995 and 1923 and the atomic bombings of 1945. This wide-ranging “double structure” enables an in-depth understanding of the complexities of the issues involved that goes well beyond the clichés and the headlines.

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Roy Starrs, Ph.D. (1986), University of British Columbia, teaches at University of Otago, New Zealand. His recent publications include Modernism and Japanese Culture (Palgrave, 2011) and, as editor, Politics and Religion in Modern Japan (Palgrave, 2011) and Rethinking Japanese Modernism (Brill, 2012).
Editor Starrs has put together a comprehensive look at the Japanese cultural response to the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear disasters. The book includes contributions from a diverse array of international scholars of Japanese religion, anthropology, intellectual history, literature, and popular music. The chapters cover a variety of themes, including the idea in many religions that disaster is “heaven’s punishment,” or tembatsu; responses to past disasters, including major earthquakes and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; and the importance of the use of Twitter by some of the most important post-3/11 poets.

--E. L. Hirsch, Providence College
Summing Up: Recommended. Best for advanced students of intellectual and cultural history.
[This review appeared in the March 2015 issue of CHOICE]
Copyright 2015 American Library Association
List of Illustrations

Introduction: Cultural Responses to Disaster in Japan
Roy Starrs, University of Otago


1 Nature’s Blessing, Nature’s Wrath: Shinto Responses to the Disasters of 2011
Aike P. Rots, University of Oslo

2 Gods, Dragons, Catfish, and Godzilla: Fragments for a History of Religious Views on Natural Disasters in Japan
Fabio Rambelli, University of California, Santa Barbara

3 Buddhism: The Perfect Religion for Disasters?
Brian Victoria, International Research Center for Japanese Studies

4 Post-3/11 Literature in Japan
Roman Rosenbaum, University of Sydney

5 These Things Here and Now: Poetry in the Wake of 3/11
Jeffrey Matthew Angles, Western Michigan University

6 ‘Shake, Rattle and Roll’: Responses to 3/11 – Constructing Community Through Music and the Music Industry
Henry Johnson, University of Otago

7 Learning that Emerges in Times of Trouble: a Few Cases from Japan
Joy Hendry, Professor Emerita, Oxford Brookes University

8 Observations on Geomentality in Japan and New Zealand
Ken Henshall, University of Canterbury


9 ‘All Shook Up’: Post-religious Responses to Disaster in Murakami Haruki’s after the quake
Jonathan Dil, Chuo University

10 Disaster and National Identity: The Textual Transformations of Japan Sinks
Rebecca Suter, University of Sydney

11 Belated Arrival in Political Transition: 1950s Films on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Yuko Shibata, University of Otago

12 Hiroshima Rages, Nagasaki Prays: Nagai Takashi’s Catholic Response to the Atomic Bombing
Kevin M. Doak, Georgetown University

13 The Great Tokyo Earthquake of 1923 and Poetry
Leith Morton, Tokyo Institute of Technology

14 Proletarian Writers and the Great Tokyo Earthquake of 1923
Mats Karlsson, University of Sydney

15 The ‘Silenced Nexus’: Female Mediation in Modern Japanese Literature of Disaster
Janice Brown, University of Colorado Boulder
All interested in Japanese culture, religion, literature, history, anthropology, and music, and in the effects of natural and man-made disasters on human culture and civilization.