The Power of Culture for Reconstruction

Four years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. In 2014, excavations in conjunction with the relocations of residences to high ground reached a peak, while investigations were also carried out in connection with projects to quarry dirt as fill for areas that experienced land subsidence, and with the construction of highways.


Efforts to streamline excavations

Excavations in conjunction with reconstruction projects were called “barriers to reconstruction” in the immediate aftermath of the earthquake. But to promote understanding for the necessity of excavation, even under circumstances of an unprecedented disaster, the Agency for Cultural Affairs made manifest the policies of (1) bearing the costs of investigation for reconstruction by the national government, (2) dispatching personnel from throughout the country to take part in excavations in the three disaster-stricken prefectures, and (3) streamlining excavations through introduction of the latest equipment; agencies in charge of cultural properties protection have also been working to minimize areas to be excavated, as through avoidance of choosing candidates for high ground relocation projects when they are known to have archaeological sites, so as not to delay reconstruction efforts.

Cultural reconstruction as essential for regional reconstruction

As cultural properties have the power to instill local identity and cultivate love for one’s hometown, the Agency for Cultural Affairs believes that cultural reconstruction is essential for achieving true regional reconstruction. In fact, residents who were victimized in the disaster have been surprised at the results of excavations, and have expressed a desire to preserve the features as historic parks and so forth, and many of them have attended on-site explanations at the investigations. As reconstruction projects are likely to accelerate in the future, we will strive to continue maintaining a balance between reconstruction and buried cultural properties protection.

Herein we introduce some of the excavation results from the past year that have drawn particular attention. (Negita Yoshio)

Adapted from Hakkutsu sareta Nihon rettō 2015 [Excavations in the Japanese Archipelago, 2015] (Bunkachō [Agency for Cultural Affairs], ed., Kyodo News, 2015).