Year 2011 was significant for JR Vacation as we commenced our first Japan vacation on that year and have never looked back since. I remembered receiving many worrying comments about the planned vacation as it took place just a few months after The Great East Japan Earthquake. Finally, on our 18th vacation to Japan, we paid a meaningful visit to the 3.11 Memorial Community Center in Sendai – the city that was ravaged by tsunami and earthquake on 11 March 2011.
Fast Facts about The Great East Japan Earthquake:
(source: Sendai 3.11 Memorial Community Center, Booklet: Road to Recovery Sendai)
- Occurred at 14:46 hours on 11 March 2011.
- Magnitude 9.0 Earthquake with epicenter off the Sanriku coast of Miyagi prefecture.
- Triggered massive tremors and huge tsunami that ravaged Sendai City.
- Recorded damage in Sendai: 904 people dead, 27 people missing, 2,275 people injured, 8,110 flooded households, 5,728 residential lots damaged, 30,034 buildings completely collapsed, 27,016 buildings severely damaged, 82,593 buildings partially damaged, 116,046 buildings suffered minor damage.
The Sendai 3.11 Memorial Community Center opened on 13 February 2016. It functions as a communication and exchange point that connects everyone’s experiences and memories of the earthquake and tsunami disaster, and to pass this information to generations beyond. It is also a gateway that allows visitors to understand and learn about the damages caused to Sendai, and visit the affected sites directly.
The memorial center is conveniently located at Arai Station along Sendai Subway Namboku Line. It is only a 13-minute train journey from Sendai Subway Station.
Once you have exited from the control station, turn right toward exit South 2 and exit North 1. You will see the memorial center right at the end, with a tiffany-blue window sticker.
There are 3 levels to the memorial center.
- Level 1: Community Space – for interaction/discussion/video watching.
- Level 2: Gallery and Studio – for exhibits, events and education.
- Level 3: Rooftop Garden
A prominent exhibit at the corner by the entrance, which promotes restoration of ecosystem affected by Great East Japan Earthquake.
Brochures providing information on the disaster. Do note that these brochures are printed in Japanese. For English brochures, please obtain them from the information counter directly.
A huge wall mural at the Community Space.
The marked points are affected sites that you can visit.
An ongoing slideshow screening on another wall of the Community Space, which showcases the changes of some sites after The Great East Japan Earthquake.
A huge landscape exhibit on level 2 Gallery. It depicts a chronological timeline of events in Sendai: from 11 March 2011 (the damages suffered during The Great East Japan Earthquake) through 2016 (the 5 years path of restoration and recovery).
The flooring and top boards of benches in the Gallery was recycled from a dismantled gym floor in Higashi Rokugo Elementary School (one of the damaged sites).
Some images from the Gallery exhibit:
11 March 2011, 16:05 hours: The impact of the tsunami – around Fujita, Wakabayashi Ward moving inland.
11 March 2011, 16:09 hours: People waiting for rescue on rooftop of Arahama Elementary School.
Saving countless lives with round-the-clock rescue activities.
People waiting for rescue on rooftop of Nakano Elementary School.
A fire caused by tsunami broke out at petrochemical complexes around Sendai Port.
Majority of transportation systems (trains and flights) came to a halt. It was also snowing on that evening.
A new academic year commenced in April, 2 weeks after the disaster. Schools that are affected such as Shichigo Junior High School in Wakabayashi Ward set up temporary classrooms, separated by cardboards.
One of the many memorial projects – “HOPE FOR project” at Arahama, Wakabayashi Ward on 11 March 2012. Letting go of colourful balloons symbolising a hopeful future to commemorate the 1-year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
An overview of the full exhibit:
Outside the gallery, you will be greeted by a huge wall illustration map of Sendai coastal, drawn by Mr Junko Sato, an illustrator living in Sendai City.
Visitors are welcomed to leave their words of motivation and encouragement to the Sendai community.
The customer service lady was very kind and helpful to pass me a pack of English reading materials and brochures on the Great East Japan Earthquake. She also highly recommended us to visit Sendai Arahama Elementary School, which is a preserved ruin site that is open to public and is located just a 15 minute bus ride away from Arai Station. Unfortunately, we do not have enough time to visit this site due to our tight schedule.
If you are keen, the information for visiting Sendai Arahama Elementary School is as follows:
Bus schedule to Sendai Arahama Elementary School from Arai Subway station.
Information on Arahama Elementary School, extracted from the brochure.
There is also another Learning Tour for Disaster Risk Reduction organised by Sendai Chuo Taxi Corporation. The assigned taxi driver will pick you up personally and conduct a 60-90 minutes tour around affected areas in Gamou, Arahama and Yuriage. Prior reservation required.
On a positive note, let’s celebrate some of the milestones in recovery and reconstruction from the Great East Japan Earthquake.
It was such an enriching experience visiting the Sendai 3.11 Memorial Community Center as we gained a deeper understanding of the destruction to Sendai city and the city’s reconstruction path toward recovery. No doubt touring the exhibition did evoke moments of sadness and empathy but you will takeaway positive energy of courage and resilience from the Sendai community at the end of your visit.
Sendai 3/11 Memorial Community Center
Located in Arai Subway Station
85-4 Wakabayashi-ku, Arai, Kutsugata
Opening hours: 10:00am to 17:00pm.
Closed on every Monday. (If Monday is a public holiday, it will close on the next day.)
JR Vacation says:
- Do ensure you plan sufficient time if you would like to visit the affected areas on the same day.
- Do obtain English brochures from the Customer Service Counter directly. Only Japanese brochures/handout/information are displayed.
Let’s continue to support Sendai! Spread their knowledge of learning from the Great East Japan Earthquake & contribute to their tourism economy by visiting this strong and resilient city as well as other parts of Tohoku region in Japan.