How do we accept the Eastern Japan Earthquake?

~From the News Letter on November 2012 of the Network for Historical Materials~

Hiroyuki Matsuoka

I have to apologise for the delay in delivering the first news letter of this year. First of all, I would like to express my gratitude to all of you across the whole nation, who donated over 7 million yen to us for the Eastern Japan Earthquake fund. Those contributions have been made good use of rescuing historical materials in Miyagi, Yamagata, Iwate, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Niigata and Nagano prefectures.

On the other hand, last September, Typhoons No.12 and 15 struck the Japan archipelago in succession. Especially the extent of sediment damage caused by Typhoon No.12 was said to be the worst since the end of World War II, and the number of victims and missing reached 94 mainly in Wakayama and Nara prefectures. In Hyogo prefecture, one fell victim and 2 houses were destroyed, and the house inundation above floor level amounted to 1,364 (reported by Fire and Disaster Manegement Agency, as of 2nd November). We extend to the victims and their families our heartfelt condolences. We, the Network for Historical Materials, established the emergent system in the secretariat office, and tried to grasp the conditions in the devastated areas and consulted how to respond to this extraordinary situation. As time passes, people in Wakayama Prefecture organised the Wakayama Network for Preserving Historical Materials, and they have started operations. We sincerely expect their excellent  work.

It is the tradition that the newest member of the steering committee writes this column; I would therefore like to set out my original intention. I myself study Japanese modern history and have been engaged with compiling the local governmental history of Osaka. For this reason, I have been watching the devoted activities of the Network of Historical Materials with my sincere respect. In such days, the special exhibiton titled “The preservation activity for Historical Materials —suggestions  from the devastated area by flood” was held in Osaka Historical Museum. In my impression, this project included the purpose of seeking for the cooperation with other organization in Osaka. I myself also participated in the workshop of urgent measures for waterlogged materials. As I listened to the story of the devastation in Amami Island in Kagoshima Prefecture and Sayo-cho in Hyogo Prefecture , I keenly felt the importance and meaning of the activities by the Network. This was 4 days before the Eastern Japan Earthquake.

Sitting at the end of table of secretariat office, I was overwhelmed by the damage of the Earthquake. However, in the second half of October, when I visited Sendai City in Miyagi Prefecture, people in Sendai worried about us and said ‘Was Osaka safe?’, even though they were sufferers. Now the bad effects of clamorous administrative and financial reform have emerged around me. Even if this is not the case, I have witnessed the historical documents and materials facing danger, which were inherited by the next generation. It is repeatedly said though, this is indeed my problem that how we share the past, present and future with locals and how to establish the preparative system against natural disasters. As I am a resident, a member of the Network for Historical Materials as well, I would honestly like to tackle this issue.

Next month is December. Soon the coldness will be more bitter. Each area has its own problem and the continuous efforts which present a new vision of how to solve them will be required. We appreciate your further support and cooperation.



We would once again deeply appreciate your financial support

We sincerely express our deepest gratitude for the large amount of donations and support you offered our preservation work of historical materials damaged by the East Japan Earthquake whichoccurred on 11th March, 2011.

The donations, as of 10th November, have reached 7,758,527yen in total, and we have sent 5,050,000yen to our sister Networks in each area. Of the total, 1,750,000yen went to the NPO the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials, 900,000yen to the Fukushima Network for Preserving Historical Materials, 700,000yen to the Yamagata Relief Network for Cultural Heritage, 600,000yen to the Ibaraki Network for Preserving Historical Materials, 100,000yen to Iwate Network for Historical & Fork-cultural materials, 200,000yen to the Niigata Relief Network for Historical Materials, and 800,000yen to the Nagano Sakaemura voluntary group for preserving the community’s historical materials.

This financial support made it possible to immediately carry out the preservation of historical materials in Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, where the network system had already been established. As for Ibaraki and Nagano prefectures, they could newly found the preservation network, and conserve many historical materials damaged by the disaster. We really appreciate your kindness.

Additionally, we the Network for Historical Materials also visited the devastated area and engaged in rescue operations by making good use of our experience dealing wit natural disasters. In Iwate Prefecture, we preserved the collections of Rikuzentakada City Museum working together with the Yamagata Relief Network. Simultaneously, in Miyagi Prefecture, we rescued the libraries of Miyagi Prefectural Agricultural High School and supported the activities of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials. Moreover, we carried out the cleaning operation in cooperation with the Yamagata Network, and worked for preservation activities in Nagano with the voluntary group for preserving the community’s historical materials in Sakaemura.

However, the damaged historical materials have climbed to a massive amount, and the location of each material also spread to a broad area. The removal operation of destroyed houses and whitewashed warehouses has progressed in haste, and we are worried about the dissipation and disposal of historical materials. Furthermore, we need the temporary holding spaces for rescued materials and some further restoration of them. The supporting activities for the devastated area have advanced forward to the next stage, and we strongly feel the importance of continuous preservation operation.

Nevertheless, the donations which you had given us are now about to run out. At the same time, No.12 Typhoon hit Wakayama, Nara and Mie prefectures, and extensive damage has occurred in each area. We have to carry out the preservation activities not only for the East Japan Earthquake, but also for this flood damage, by making good use of our experience.

Therefore, we would once again like you to donate to the second stage rescue and preservation activities in the devastated area. Your contribution will be sent to the Network for Historical Materials in each devastated area of the East Japan Earthquake, of the Nagano Hokubu Earthquake, and of the No.12 Typhoon, as to fund their operations.

We genuinely appreciate your further cooperation in order to strengthen the support for each Network in the devastated areas.

Contact Address:
Rekishi Shiryo Network
Address: c/o Faculty of Letters, Kobe University 1-1 Rokkodai-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe 657-8501 Japan
Tel/Fax: 81-78-803-5565 pm1:00-pm5:00 (Tel: Japanese only )
(n.b. Please change ‘@’ to ‘@’.)

Recipient Information:

Beneficiary Bank: Japan Post Bank
Branch Office: 099
Beneficiary Bank Address: 3-2, Kasumigaseki 1-chome, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo 100-8798, Japan
Payee Account Number: 00930-1-53945
Payee Name: rekishishiryonetwork
Payee Address: 1-1 Rokkodai-cho, Nada-ku, Kobe 657-8501 Japan
**Please follow the below link for extra information.
Deposit to Japan Post Bank Account:

The NHM’s News Letter vol.4

~From the postscript of the News Letter on 2nd August, of the Network for Historical Materials~

Atsushi Kawauchi, the chief secretariat officer of the Network for Historical Materials

I’m sending you the NHM’s News Letter vol.4.

The summer season has come, and the heavy rainfall is occurring in each place, which worries us. In the previous issue, we informed you about the extent of the damage by the No.6 typhoon, however, in this issue, we have to relate to you about the “heavy rainfall disasters in Fukushima and Niigata in July’. From 26th to 30th of July, the localised torrential downpours mainly hit Niigata and Fukushima, and there were 4 deaths, 3 remain missing, 18 houses were completely destroyed, 1 house partially destroyed and over 7000 homes were flooded. We extend to the victims and their families our heartfelt condolences, and express our deepest sympathies with those sufferers who are currently struggling in such harsh surroundings. We keenly hope their reconstruction as soon as possible.

At present, we, the Network for Historical Materials are gathering information and are contacting the Fukushima Network for Preserving Historical Materials and Niigata Relief Network for Historical Materials. With regard to the extent of the damage, we would like to update the latest information on our website.

The disaster-stricken areas were the area where the great flooded damage hit 7 years ago. Speaking of the situation 7 years ago, the flood damage occurs frequently in the Japanese Archipelago, and that year was when we had first started the rescue operations against the flooded damage. Moreover, as you already know, Fukushima prefecture was seriously damaged by the East Japan Earthquake and there is still no telling when the accident of nuclear plant will be fully resolved, so we feel sympathy for the situation in Fukushima.

Now we are trying to grasp the present condition from each area’s Network in the devastated areas, and as a necessity, we would like to respond to the sufferers requests by cooperating with each Network and make good use of our experiences which were accumulated over 7 years. If you have some information about the extent of the damage in the devastated area, please contact us or the Network in the field. Additionally, although you have already tackled the operation concerning the East Japan earthquake, we appreciate your continuous support for this flood damage.

In this volume, we introduced you to the activity about the ‘town archives, and the Earthquake Disaster’ in Kobe. We have widely found the movement in which people are trying to keep the records of the East japan Earthquake mainly in digital form such as photos and videos, and we anticipate that those ‘Earthquake Disaster Materials’ will grow exponentially in the devastated area.

There is a famous saying by E. H. Carr stating the answer to “the question ‘what is history’” is “an unending dialogue between the present and the past”. Whilst this disaster continues, I think it is important for us, the people concerned with the history and culture to open the window forward to not only between the ‘present’ and the ‘past’, but also to the ‘future’. Furthermore, we regard that collecting and preserving the ‘Earthquake Disaster Materials’ could be an opportunity for us at ‘present’ to start the dialogue with the ‘future’.

Hereafter, we would like to engage in the issue of the Earthquake Disaster Materials about the East Japan Earthquake by making use of our experiences since the Great Hanshin Earthquake, as we are the institution which has been handling the preservation for the historical materials.    



Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials has opened their English Official Site. If you click on “English”, you can see the mail news, the “Map of the Tsunami Flooded Area” and so on.

In line with this, we would like to let researchers of Japanese History living in English-speaking areas know about their web page. We appreciate your cooperation and long term support.



“The Map of the Tsunami Flooded Area”

The NHM’s News Letter vol.1

~From the postscript of the News Letter on 6th July, of the Network for Historical Materials~

Atsushi Kawauchi, the chief secretariat officer of Network for Historical Materials

 The first re-styled News Letter of the Network for Historical Materials has reached you. Although this is the memorial volume, we had to announce the breaking news of the present condition after the large earthquake occurred in northern Wakayama Prefecture on 5th July .

Since the East Japan Earthquake on 11th March, almost everyday earthquakes occur to a greater or lesser degree in each area of the Japanese archipelago. It seems that this archipelago is entering an active seismic period, therefore we have to advance the establishing of a disaster preservation system for the historical materials and cultural properties.

After the East Japan Earthquake, the rescue activities for the historical materials have been gradually expanded in each area. Networks for preserving materials were established in Iwate, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, and Mie prefectures and rescue operations in Nagano Prefecture have also been instigated, moreover, the symposium considering preservation has been planned in Nara Prefecture.

Nowadays, a huge amount of time and effort will be required to deal with the damage of the East Japan Earthquake. In the devastated areas, the rescue activities are still carried out almost every day even though the shortage of manpower for the operations is gradually being realised and it is becoming a serious issue. We sincerely appreciate your long term support.

I anticipate that the East Japan Earthquake will be recorded as one of the world-historic events in later times. The grave damage along the coastline areas by the great Tsunami and the serious situation at the nuclear plant which there is still no sign of drawing to a close are broadcast to the world through the various media commencing with the Internet. In such a situation, our operation for rescuing and preserving historical materials damaged by the disaster are also dispatched to the world by various media formats based on the support of many people.

Through the sensational broadcasting of the Tsunami and the radiation influence, we heard that the world regards Japan as having sunk into a catastrophic situation though, we would like to let you and people in the world know that our activity for protecting historical materials and cultural heritage are widely carried out in each devastated area in spite of the difficult condition.

4 months passed after the quake, and we are still continuing the preservation activity. We keenly desire that as much historical heritage as possible will be saved from the great disaster, and the identity of each community will be recovered by such heritage, and it will in turn lead to the reconstruction of the sufferers hearts and lives.

How should we regard the East Japan Earthquake?

~From the News Letter on May 27th of the Network for Historical Materials~

Professor Hiroshi Okumura, the representative of the Network for Historical Materials

On March 11th, When the East Japan Earthquake occurred, I was dealing with preserving the historical documents which were about Shoya (庄屋, the chief villager in the Edo Period) and were newly discovered in Sasayama City, Hyogo Prefecture. At that time I didn’t feel the quake and I was informed about the tremendous disaster by the owner of these documents, who had seen a TV broadcast in the Tohoku area. As I listened to the radio stating that the Tsunami warning had been announced, I returned to the university in some confusion and I instructed people concerned to prepare for an emergency. Nearly 3 months has passed since that day.

When I heard that the great earthquake occurred, honestly speaking I myself was consumed with apology and chagrin. Just before the quake, in a study meeting, I questioned why the researchers in Kobe always dwelled on the the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995. However, I didn’t aggressively dispute them, moreover, I flinched a bit at their opinion due to some hesitation. That’s why I felt apologetic.

Up to now, great earthquakes have attacked this country and they will do so again. The extensive natural disasters are continuing to impact on the people and culture, who live in the Japanese archipelago from the past to the present. We, historical researchers who carry the historical culture on our back have to fulfil the independent role in such a Japanese society. I myself have repeatedly appealed this cause to society, however, I still wonder whether I could adequately grasp the true meaning and the depth, and whether I could have enough power to persuade the other researchers and the people.

To be honest, we had planned to integrate the suggestions about the predicted great earthquake, cooperating with historical researchers such as the members of the Miyagi Network for Preserving Historical Materials and other Networks in each prefecture by May, and to present the concrete proposals and offer our opinions to the society. Just before the quake, we had also held the study meeting about it. The fact that the earthquake had come before we could have done anything about it truly mortified us.

After the quake, we had to watch the images of the Tsunami and the heaps of the debris in the destroyed towns which we saw in parallel to the scenes of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. Although I didn’t want to see it, I couldn’t stop watching it. Such distressing days continued every day. As for the preparation for the urgent situation, we could arrange it in our own way, however we still had difficulties in accepting the extent of the disaster and to consider how to clear the way for our activity’s development.

The people who let me assume responsibility were junior members who patiently reacted to the advancing rescue activities as they contacted the Network in the devastated area, the members of the Miyagi and Fukushima Networks who immediately started to carry out the preservation operations although they were in a difficult situation, the members of Yamagata Network who devotedly supported the activities of each Network in the disaster-stricken area, and the members inIbaraki and Chiba, who tried to start the preservation activities. Simultaneously, now we, the Network for Historical Materials received a huge contributions, amounting to approximately 6,000,000 yen so far, and people’s sympathy for the devastated area has encouraged me immensely. In April, the conference which discussed how we should support the study societies and associations for history in the affected area was held on unprecedented scale in the secretariat office of the Historical Science Society in Japan in Tokyo. After that, during the lunch break meeting of the Society’s Congress, the reports about the activities for preserving historical materials were presented one after another, and I could realise that a circle of support for the disaster-stricken area was widening, and it inspired me to a greater effort.

Through that experience I promoted the lunch break meeting, I could feel that the preservation of the historical materials had taken root in Japanese society as the emergency activity when the natural disasters occur throughout the 16 years since the Great Hanshin Earthquake. At the same time, I could consider that we should be proud of our role, in which the Network for Historical Materials has fulfilled establishing such rescue systems, although we are still a flawed institution.

From the experience of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, the preservation activities of the materials damaged by the Tsunami will be important to be undertaken by August. The rescue operation accompanying the demolition of houses or whitewashed warehouses affected by the quake will start soon. It is anticipated that the removal operation will begin in the area where the damage is not so serious, and after that, it will be switched to the places which were destroyed or those houses damaged by the aftershocks. Therefore, the area where was slightly damaged will require urgent measures, moreover, the northern Kanto area will need emergency activities although these areas did not broadcast about the extent of the damage from the quake and the Tsunami.

For reconstructing society after the earthquake, it will require a long time. Observing this situation in which extensive and continuous aftershocks occur and considering the accident at the nuclear plant, the long-term activity will be necessary for a period longer than that of the recovery from the Hanshin Earthquake, and I expect that we have to think about a 20-year period of activity at least. Furthermore, in terms of the earthquake disaster, the aspects about the extent of damage are different between the ruinous earthquake areas and other such areas. Therefore, the reconstruction will gradually advance, and the gaps in the retrieval speed will expand in the near future. I suppose that we need to support the activity for the historical culture accompanying the various situations of each devastated area.

The more important thing is that our support is not a one-way activity from the area which were not damaged by the disaster and those affected. We, the Network for Historical Materials are learning a lot of things through the activities with the Miyagi Network, and we have obtained that the continuous support means to be embodied the issue how to strongly establish the historical culture against the natural disasters in Japanese society.

We appreciate the members and our supporters who participate in our upcoming activities for devastated area and to give us financially support.

The Report of the Rescue Operation for Library ~The Last Part

Reported by Masakazu Matsushita, member of the Network for Historical Materials 

—The activities on April 27th

We started again to carry out the same operation as the previous day, and tried to make (B), (C), and (D) ranked material to attain (A) rank condition as much as we possibly could.

As the (A) ranked materials gradually increased, we began to check those materials with reference to “The List of Antiquarian Book for Miyagi Prefectural Agricultural High School Library” and ‘The List of Japanese and Chinese antiquarian Book for Miyagi Prefectural Agricultural High School” which Mr.Goto had offered us, and grasped the number of rescued books.

Simultaneously, so as to confirm the effects of the deodorising operation, we chose some books bound in the Japanese style as samples and carried out the 3 patterns operations as follows;

1. Washing every page one by one after dismantling

2. Washing the whole books without dismantling

3. Leaving untreated

It must be remembered that this operation was a simple washing method for emergency, and not the usual method for conservation at all.

The rescue process of pattern 1 was as follows; First of all, before unfastening the bound strings, we took photos for every pages in order to avoid confusion, and then undid the knots, and separated into a piece paper (the binding strings were separately preserved). The non-woven fabric on the support medium was moisturised by spraying water, and was wiped with a dried towel, and then reversed documents were put on it and its creases spread out by brush. At that time, we had to watch out if the document was too wet, as it would be hard to spread out. After finishing this operation, another non-woven fabric was laid upon it, and a soaked pallet was passed over the fabric, and then the dirt was washed away. This operation had to be repeated two or three times until the mud was completely removed. As the document was kept between the fabrics, treated with a speed-dry towel, and moisture was soaked up by the absorbent sponge. The upper fabric was removed from the document, and it was naturally dried on the stand. At that time, in order to dry them speedily, we used the electric fan.

As for the rescue process of the pattern 2, firstly, we filled a container box with water and put the old books into water as they were, and then lightly pushing and washing it in water. After confirming that the dirt was washed away, the book was taken from the water and the water was absorbed by towel or absorbent towel. The paper towel was put into one of the pages, and whole book was also wrapped in the paper towel, and then, water was gradually absorbed into the paper towel by pressing our weight on them. We repeated this operation several times.

After passing the memo about the upcoming operation to Mr.Yonemura, we left the Tohoku University of Arts & Design at 4:30pm.


We appreciate the participants of Miyagi Prefectural Agricultural High School, who engaged in the operation and the members of the Miyagi Network and Yamagata Network, who coordinated with the institutions concerned and managed the rescue materials. Also, we are grateful to Mr.Yonemura of the Tohoku University of Arts & design and the students of his seminar who offered us the space for the operation and cooperated with our activities. Finally, we are praying for the reconstruction of the Miyagi Prefectural Agricultural High School as soon as possible.

NB: The photos are all from the homepage of  the Network for Historical Materials. 

1.taking photo by digital camera


2.undoing the knots


3.separating a piece of paper


4.moisturising the non-woven fabric


5.putting a document on the fabric


6.covering fabric upon a document


7.passing pallet over the fabric


8.soaking up by the sponge


9.naturally dried on the stand


10.putting books into the water


11.roughly absorbed by the speed dry towel


12.putting a paper towel into one of the pages