The End of the World 2011

11.03.2021 - 20.06.2021

Curators: Hiroyasu Yamauchi, Monika Pawłowska Coordination: Yoshiko Yoshino Exhibition design: Monika Pawłowska
A series of earthquakes of unexpected magnitude.
Tsunami waves as high as 20 meters.
Glass skyscrapers falling apart.
People wounded by tons of broken glass.
Twelve thousand tons of heavy oil spilled into the sea, causing a series of fires that take 12 days to extinguish.
Serious damage to a nuclear power plant.
Phones don’t work. 
The roads are closed.

Wherever you look you see debris – the only trace of the life once lived.

Unfortunately, these are not scenes out of a post-apocalyptic movie. These are images of actual events that afflicted Japan on March 11, 2011.

Even though 10 years have passed since that dramatic manifestation of the power of the elements and much has been successfully rebuilt, some traces left by the disaster are still here.

Nearly 15,000 people lost their lives and more than 2,000 are still missing. Some 400,00 people were evacuated from the endangered areas. The total financial loss has been estimated at 16.9 trillion yen (590 billion zlotys), of which 62% corresponds to the value of the destroyed buildings.

This balance does not include the losses relating to the Fukushima power plant disaster.

However, the figures alone cannot reveal the full magnitude of that catastrophe. While the material losses can be assessed, the emotional losses are incalculable. A lot of people lost all of their belongings and their loved ones in this tragic event. The loss of the roof over their heads put an end to the world that they had lived in.

To each of them, it was a personal end of the world.

The tenth anniversary of this terrible event additionally coincides with the unique and difficult time that is the ongoing SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic.

For a year we have been experiencing first hand how important mutual care and help – both received and extended – are at such times.

While this is not a good time, it doubtlessly activates the sense of empathy in us. When viewing the photographs taken 10 years ago, let us direct our attention to the landscape of the tragedy that must not be forgotten but let us not plunge into the blackest melancholy: after all, every end promises a new beginning.

Monika Pawłowska


Dear Friends,

On behalf of the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, I would like to thank all those who have contributed to organizing an exhibition about this event at the Manggha Museum in the faraway city of Kraków, Poland, and that at a difficult time of pandemic.

Ten years have passed since the earthquake and tsunami in the eastern part of our country.

A lot of things have been lost or passed away during this decade – but then a lot have also been created or accumulated. They still call for our attention and time, to reexamine their meaning and value. Japan is said to have risen again from the great earthquake and tsunami, to have come out of them. And yet, from our perspective – that of people still living in a region affected by the disaster – the experience is far from closure.

We are grateful to you for sharing with us your reflection on what happened, and what shall always remain a part of us. We believe that a time will come when we will be able to meet.

Hiroyasu Yamauchi
Deputy Director/Curator, Rias Ark Museum of Art

What is the Rias Ark Museum of Art?

It is a large public museum opened in October 1994. The construction of the facility was funded by Miyagi Prefecture; the museum is administered by the local authorities of the City of Kesennuma and the town of Minamisanriku. Sited on a hill in Kesennuma; the building resembles an ark that has survived a flood, as conceived by the architect.

The Rias Ark Museum of Art holds a permanent exhibition on local history and folklore. Our mission is to showcase the region’s lifestyle and culture, in addition to contemporary art, and also to conduct research and create exhibitions focusing on the art of Tohoku and Hokkaido.

Since 2006, we have been involved in the study and popularization of cultural history; that includes the history of the tsunami phenomenon. In 2011 our museum was gravely affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The subsequent renovation took two years, and upon its completion, in April 2013, we resumed operations by inaugurating a new permanent exhibition: Records of the Great East Japan Earthquake and the History of the Tsunami Disaster.
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