Iwate Tsunami Memorial Museum artifacts
Asia,  Japan,  Travel Chronicles: Summer 2023

Iwate Tsunami Memorial Museum Experience

This is day 9 of my Travel Chronicles: Summer 2023 series, working in Japan as a teen travel counselor during the first 14 days (out of 53 days) in Asia. Check out the previous day’s blog post What to do in Tōno in Iwate Prefecture! Today, we spent most of the day at the Iwate Tsunami Memorial Museum learning about the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and Tsunami, a museum is dedicated to spreading the knowledge from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami to protect and overcome natural disasters located in Takatamatsubara Memorial Park in Rikuzentakata City, Iwate prefecture.

The car ride to Iwate Tsunami Memorial Museum from Tōno was about an hour and most of us spent that time looking outside admiring the outskirts of Iwate prefecture as we got to Rikuzentakata, an area that got hit tremendously during the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. We had a city government official who was with us on the bus and as we got closer to the museum, he was explaining the areas that got affected from the tsunami as we passed them.

Takatamatsubara Memorial Park in Rikuzentakata
Takatamatsubara Memorial Park in Rikuzentakata

We arrived at Iwate Tsunami Memorial Museum and at the entrance, a museum guide welcomed us and navigated us through the museum in English. There were also local Japanese children who were attending here as a field trip. Some areas of the museum were prohibited from taking photos, and there were clear signs to let us know where they were.

The Iwate Tsunami Memorial Museum was divided into 4 different zones that made it easy to understand and navigate around. Zone 1 is about tracing history, and the tsunami disasters were told from historical and scientific perspectives. We were able to examine the knowledge, techniques, and culture that have been fostered since ancient times and how to use that to rethink how to live together with nature.

zone 2 is learning the facts. we looked at the facts of the great East Japan earthquake and tsunami Through actual objects that were damaged, photos of damaged sites, and The voices and memories of the victims. This was where the theatre was and has a screenings every 20 minutes.

Iwate Tsunami Memorial Museum artifacts
Items that got damaged due to the tsunami

Zone 3 is focused on learning and sharing the lessons that were learned and how to protect lives by showcasing people who escaped, helped, and provided support. The final Zone 4, is about moving towards reconstruction together, how to overcome and move past the great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.

Iwate Tsunami Memorial Museum exhibitions
Iwate Tsunami Memorial Museum exhibitions

The museum was truly moving and really conveyed the feelings of the people who suffered. The area surrounding the museum was breathtaking with serene views, located in Takatamatsubara Memorial Park, a memorial park dedicated to the recovery effort. The beach here is where the tsunami came from There is a famous pine tree, now called the miracle pine tree due to the area before the tsunami having over 70,000 trees but only this single pine tree remained, and is now preserved as an official monument. Nearby the beach, they have an enormous pine tree farm that uses a part of the original miracle pine tree.

Beach area at Takatamatsubara Memorial Park
The beach area at Takatamatsubara Memorial Park

The visit to the Iwate Tsunami Memorial was meaningful and connected me to the pain and recovery process caused by the 2011 Great East Japan earthquake and Tsunami. I thought that it was amazing that the museum really stressed how we can work with nature and co-habit in order to prevent natural disasters like this from happening again. Although it is away from popular cities like Tokyo, if you are ever in Iwate Prefecture, this is a great place to educate and learn more about Japanese history, earthquakes and tsunamis.


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