New Zealand Asia Institute

About the conference

Here you will find an overview of the International Conference: Japanese Responses to Social Crisis and Disaster 1995 and 2011.

The two-year anniversary of Japan’s triple disaster—earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi plant—was marked by memorial services across the country for the almost 19,000 people who died on 11 March 2011.

The nation is still coming to terms with the scale of the disaster and struggling to find a way forward. Less than two decades ago Japan was similarly shaken by the double disaster of 1995—the Hanshin earthquake on 17 January, which resulted in more than 5,000 deaths and caused major damage in the city of Kobe and surrounding areas, and the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway system by members of Aum Shinrikyō on 20 March, which killed 12 people and injured more than 6,000.

The scale of the 1995 disaster pales in comparison with the triple disaster of 2011. Nevertheless, these two years of major disasters generated a similar sense of social crisis and raised serious public concern about established institutions.

What can we learn about Japan through the diverse responses to these two critical moments in post-war history? In cooperation with Sophia University’s Institute of Comparative Culture in Tokyo, NZAI’s Japan Studies Centre is bringing together a multidisciplinary team of scholars to engage this question and to explore the diverse responses by the national and local governments, political leaders, citizen activists, religious organisations, literary figures and public intellectuals.

Given the recent earthquake in Christchurch and decades of public debate regarding nuclear energy, we anticipate a fruitful discussion and exchange
 of ideas relevant to the New Zealand context as well.


The New Zealand Asia Institute at The University of Auckland would like to express appreciation to the Japan Foundation for their generous financial support and gratefully acknowledges the cooperation of Sophia University’s Institute of Comparative Culture in planning this conference.