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Guides to the Digital Archive of Japan's 2011 Disasters: Search by Media

A navigation and reference guide to the Japan Disaster Archive, a digital collection documenting the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011

About this Guide

The archive allows users to search across different digital media formats, or limit the media they are searching for (See navigational guide  “Searching the Archive”). While the digital format makes the material fairly accessible and searchable, this also means that a vast quantity of diverse material is made available through a single interface. In addition, materials’ source and authorship is not always clear. It is important that the individual user evaluate the reliability, quality, and nature of information for each item. 

Of course, this does not mean that less “reliable” or accurate information is any less valuable. Personal testimonials, for instance, simply offer a different perspective and a different set of advantages and limitations from institutional websites.

This page suggests methods of searching and evaluating different media formats. 

Media Types

Images  |  Video  |  Audio  |  Tweets  | Documents  | Websites  |  News |  Testimonials  | Broadcasts  |  Collections | Maps


Images are primarily collected through the Yahoo!Japan photograph archive and Michinoku Shinrokuden digital archive at Tohoku University. As the photographs are currently described and tagged in Japanese, a Japanese keyword search is recommended. Using the map feature,  however, it is possible to search for images by geographic location or time rather than keyword.

Due to the influence of strong publicity rights in Japan, images of people cannot be searched through the JDA’s image collections.  Alternatively, images of people can also be found in Tweets, documents, and websites. 

Images can also be searched at the NDL Great East Japan Earthquake Archive


Videos and audio have been collected and produced by the Sendai Mediatheque, as well as the NPO Sakura On Project.  Although tags are provided in both English and Japanese, the material is largely in Japanese. As a community media center located in the City of Sendai, the material by Sendai Mediatheque provides an intimate look into local perspectives on the disaster. 

Videos and audio files can also be searched at the NDL Great East Japan Earthquake Archive


Tweets are 140-character messages that are uploaded by individual users on the social media platform, Twitter. They provide a minute-by-minute account of immediate reactions during and after the disaster. They also provide links to other Tweets, websites, and images, and can be searched by hashtags (the symbol #, used to mark keywords or topics in a tweet) or full text. This source can be useful for pursuing personal, individual-level perspectives on the disaster.  


Documents are largely collected in PDF format, and include the following:

Newspapers (Newspapers written by local communities and schools)
Government reports (Reports outlining the scale of damage, financial aid, reconstruction procedures)
Institutional reports (Reports by non-profit organizations,cultural organizations)
Academic research (Scientific data/analysis, academic journal articles and reports) 
Guides and manuals (Guides for refugees written by health centers and legal associations)

Documents can also be searched at the NDL Great East Japan Earthquake Archive.


Websites have been collected through the Internet Archive using Archive-It.  Sites related to the disaster are either automatically collected, submitted by archive staff and volunteers, or submitted by archive users through the “Add to the Archive” > “Website” function. The broadest category of media formats in the JDA, websites include digital pages created by by individuals, news agencies, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, commercial institutions,and the Japanese government. In addition to keyword, searching for institution or location names will produce more specific results. 

Websites include the following:

Government websites

English-language material can be accessed through e-Gov, a website put together by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. It contains links to archived websites of Japanese government agencies, local governments, foreign embassies in Japan, international organizations, and the mass media, as well as public transportation, communication, and utility company websites. 

Check for link addresses that end with “” or “.gov,” which indicates that the website is run by a national organization. 

Academic and research institution websites

Check for link addresses that end with “” or “.edu,” which indicates that the website is run by an academic institution. This does not always indicate the academic institution is responsible for the information - students can also use the domain to create personal or student organization websites.

Academic journal articles 

Enter a specific journal name, or keywords “PDF” “research paper.” The articles cannot always be searched by author name through the archive.

For journals that do not allow free access to their articles, the JDA may have been able to collect their abstracts. Include keywords “research paper” “abstract” in your search.

Commercial Companies

Check for link addresses that end with “” or “.com,” which indicates that the website is run by a commercial company. 

Personal blogs

Blog entries are typically arranged  in chronological order, with tags indicating the subject of the entry. Individuals and organizations have used blogs to provide updates on their activities, voice opinions, consider the implications of the disaster, and anything else you may write in a public diary.

NPO websites

Limit the media to documents or websites, then include the search terms “NGO” and “NPO” with your keyword. Non-profit organizations may offer first-hand accounts of disaster relief work, damage assessment, reconstruction progress reports, as well as requests/reports on donations and volunteers.


*** It is important to keep in mind that the JDA collects snapshots of websites from a certain moment in time, rather than linking directly to the live website. To search for timely, updated material, try accessing the website via the live link.

1) Click on the Link icon on the item page, then paste the address into your browser address bar.


2) Once you get to the item page, click on the link to jump to the current website (if it is still live). 


*** Another way to access the live link, along with previous versions of the archived web page, is through the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

1) First, click on "View Source" on the item page.



2) The next page which take you to an archived version of the website.  Click on the link "See all versions of this archived page" on the top to see the current website or its past versions.  

3) The link 
will take you to a list of all versions of the website that were captured by Internet Archive. Click on the link labeled 1. for access to the current website (which may not be live anymore), and 2. for past versions from different dates. 


Websites can also be searched at the NDL Great East Japan Earthquake Archive. 

News Articles and Headlines

News Articles

The full text of articles from Asahi Asia & Japan Watch can be accessed through the JDA. The earliest article is from March 11, 2011, the most recent from December 31, 2012. As the articles have been deleted from the source website they can only be accessed within the JDA interface, and the "View Source" button will not link to the articles in their original format. When referencing the articles, cite the item URL in the archive, which can be accessed via the "link" button:




The archive contains hundreds of thousands of news headlines from the 311 Memories project, updated weekly, which include the headline, source, and date. At present, the full text of the articles must be accessed through the individual archives of the news agencies. The JDA continues to add to this category with more headlines from additional sources as well as full-text articles, coming in the spring of 2013.



Written testimonials were directly submitted by individuals to the JDA, through the “Add to Archive” > “Add Testimonial” function. They provide a window into personal memories on experiences before, during, and after the disaster. There is no word limit, allowing for  freely structured, in-depth narrative of their experiences. Testimonials have also been submitted through the Tokyo Foundation, which runs the website, 被災地の聞き書き101 (Hisaichi no Kikigaki 101)Project participants interviewed 101 people from different professions who were affected by the disaster, asking for both their memories and hopes for the future. All interviews were conducted in Japanese - to find these interviews through the JDA, you will need to search in Japanese. 


News reports and interviews conducted by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), collected in their Digital Archive of the East Japan Great Earthquake and Disasters, can also be accessed through the JDA. Disaster-related news from March 11, 2011 to April 1, 2012 is currently available, as well as testimonials aired on the あの日私は (Anohi Watashiwa) program. All programs and interviews are in Japanese, and must be searched in Japanese as well.  


Collections have been created by JDA users to thematically rearrange archived material, using the “My Collection” function. By drawing connections between the fragments of information, they offer new insights and perspectives into the disaster. In addition to browsing through Collections that others have made, curating your own Collection would help you draw connections between the diverse items, and create points of emphasis among the archived material. This process offers potential educational uses for teachers and students in academic institutions.


It is possible to search for maps in the collection by including the keywords "map" or "地図" in your search. They include animated, interactive, and still-image maps. Below are two collections with a non-exhaustive list of archived maps.

Earthquake/Tsunami Maps

A collection of maps visualizing the effects of the earthquake and tsunami, and documenting locations of temporary shelters, relief efforts, and reconstruction progress. Includes hazard maps and before/after imagery. 

Fukushima Radiation Maps

A collection of maps tracking the spread of radioactive material from the Fukushima Nuclear Plant accident. 

Evaluating Web Resources

Often the domain suffix (the letters after the last period in the URL) reveals the nature of the web material you are working with.  Below is a list of common suffixes and what they suggest about the author of the digital resource. 

.org - Non-profit Organizations

.net - Networks

.com - Commercial organizations

Japan - Japanese Government entities

.pref.(prefecturename).jp- Prefectural Government - Government of Tokyo Metropolis

.city.(cityname).jp - Cities designated by government ordinance

.city.(cityname).(prefecturename).jp: reserved for non-designated cities, as well as wards and cities within Tokyo

.town.(townname).(prefecturename).jp - Towns

.vill.(villagename).(prefecturename).jp - Villages - Japanese academic institutions - Companies with a physical address in Japan

.gov - U.S. Government entities

.edu - U.S. academic institutions. Contact information is generally available if you need to verify information. This does not always indicate the academic institution is responsible for the information - students can also use the domain to create personal or student organization websites.  


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