2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond

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This post contains large images that may compromise slower internet connections.

On the afternoon of Friday, March 11, 2011 an earthquake measuring a 9.0 on the Richter scale struck off the coast of Japan, triggering a tsunami ten metres tall. Tsunami warnings were immediately issued in surrounding countries, and unusually high water levels were reported as far as the Western coasts of North America, even claiming the life of a 25-year-old man from Crescent City, California. The disaster has left over 9,000 dead, over 2,700 injured, and over 13,000 missing. The numbers are still climbing.

Radiation exposure from leaks in several plants have become a cause for national concern and neighbouring countries have begun to brace themselves. However, the people of Japan have not sat around helplessly, even with the amount of foreign aid and relief efforts directed at them. Known for industriousness beneath the surface of a collectivist society, they have proceeded to repair as much of their infrastructure without delay. The amount of concern and vigilance resonating from different corners of the world over their stoic resilience is staggering.

Similarly, a response just as strong is evident among the creative. In an effort to make their own contributions, artists have stepped up to express their reactions in the way they are intimately familiar. Coloured in the language of creativity, a large smattering of posters, prints, surface designs, and photographs have been made and disseminated online, in order to raise both awareness and money for our Japanese brethren.

Japan Earthquake 2011 Posters by Linda Yuki Nakanishi

2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond 2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond

Canadian designer Linda Yuki Nakanishi is the daughter of Japanese immigrants. She still maintains a strong cultural connection to Japan from far away, having the combined benefit of her parents’ culture and an outsider’s perspective as a strong influence on her works. In response to the events that unfolded, Nakanishi created two posters in an effort to raise funds. The series, named “Japan Earthquake 2011”, is a sensitive portrayal of grace in the face of disaster.

The first poster, above left, “Japan Earthquake 2011, No. 1”, views the beauty of the lotus in its entirety. The focal point is the red lotus, which represents love and compassion. From the surface, the lotus appears to be a very delicate creature, seemingly docile with its short-lived blooming time and sweet colouring. However, in the watery depths are sturdy roots firmly gripping the mud that borne it. Nakanishi views the Japanese in a similar way, resilient and equipped with a silent resolve to endure, a value in which her parents have also imparted to her.

The above right, “Japan Earthquake 2011, No. 2”, calls for humility. To get angry is easy, but it’s futile. No one can qualify the meaning of any of these disasters, because we do not have the place nor the power to speak for Mother Nature. To view the disaster as ugly or karmic is a very short-sighted and misplaced notion.

Both designs are also available as stretched canvases, iPhone cases, iPhone skins, and iPod skins. All proceeds of Nakanishi’s project will contribute to the restoration efforts by the following organisation:

Canadian Red Cross (Donate Now!)
Canadian Red Cross National Office
170 Metcalfe Street, Suite 300
Ottawa, ON K2P 2P2
(Toll-free Telephone: 1-800-418-1111)

Help Japan by Luca Molnar

2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond

Hungarian graphic designer and illustrator Luca Molnar designed a poster with a mirrored concept. Two phoenixes face each other in their vibrant glory, with their scarlet feathers falling upon the whited-out vegetation below. Japan has a long history of enduring natural disasters of jaw-dropping proportions, as evidenced by their infrastructure and the preparedness of its residents. With every disaster comes a re-birth, making the legendary bird — and more importantly, its accompanying traits — an apt symbol.

Molnar’s poster is available for download on her website.

Find Hope in Still Waters by Sophie Adams

2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond 2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond

Sophie Adams is a graphic design student currently doing her undergraduate at the Lincoln School of Art and Design. In an effort to raise money for the disaster, she designed a print and screen print for a personal charity project entitled, “Find Hope in Still Waters”. The beauty of those words caught my attention. This project is my personal favourite, especially the above left print. The money collected for this project will go to the following relief charity:

ShelterBox (Donate Now!)
ShelterBox Main Office
Unit 1A Water-Ma-Trout
Helston, Cornwall TR13 0LW
United Kingdom
(Charity Registration Number: 1096479)

Japan Tsunami Disaster Poster by Laurence King

2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond

The cultures of the United States, Germany, and Japan are part of designer Laurence King‘s formative years, so the recent events were particularly poignant. King created a poster that not only inspires reparation and future actions, but intersperses the English and Japanese characters to form a solid message — to help, to heal, to hope — that could be understood in more than one tongue. Below are the logos for three of the affected areas: Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima. Their simplicity against an earthy landscape speaks volumes.

The poster is available for download on King’s website.

Help Japan by Hilda Grahnat

2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond 2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond

2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond 2011 Sendai Disaster: When Creatives Respond

Help Japan” is the charity project of Swedish freelance photographer and graphic design student Hilda Grahnat. Grahnat is selling photo prints she took on her travel to Japan, and postcards that she designed as part of a collaborative project with a friend. All of them capture snippets of this culture in its quiet, unimposing beauty. Proceeds from this shop will be donated to the following organisation:

Japanese Red Cross Society (Donate Now!)
Japanese Red Cross Society National Headquarters
1-1-3 Shiba-Daimon, Minato-ku
Tokyo 105-8521
(Telephone: +81-3-3438-1311)

How You Can Help

If any of you readers know of any charities, organisations, and resources that can help with the rescue and aid efforts but have not yet been mentioned in this post, kindly put them in the comments. I will update the list accordingly.

Global Giving (Donate Now!)
1023 15th Street NW 12th Floor
Washington DC 20005
(Telephone: +6221-799-2325)

Indonesian Red Cross
Jl. Jenderal Gatot Subroto Kav. 96
Jakarta 12790
(Telephone: +6221-799-2325)

IFRC (Donate Now!)
P.O. Box 372
CH-1211 Geneva 19
(Telephone: +41-2-2730-4222)

Save the Children (Donate Now!)
54 Wilton Road
Westport, CT 06880
(Toll-free Telephone: 1-800-728-3843)

World Food Programme (Donate Now!)
Via C. G. Viola 68
Parco dei Medici
00148 Rome RM
(Telephone: +39-06-65131)

How You Can Contribute and Find Information

  1. Google Crisis Response
  2. Google Person Finder: 2011 Japan Earthquake

(All images are credited to their respective owners. Click on any image to go to its source.)


  1. Pingback: 2011 Sendai Disaster: On John Pavlus’ Article | Maria Celina

  2. Abby

    These are gorgeous and so very inspirational. My church has several graphic designers, and they designed beautiful posters in response to the quake, and auctioned them off for Japan. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Krysten

    This artwork is absolutely amazing and thank you for all the information. It was so sad to turn on the TV and to hear about what was going on in Japan. I can’t even imagine what that must be like and I keep everyone that lives there or have friends and family that live there in my thoughts.

  4. Anna

    These are beautiful, Marz! It’s great to see artists and designers helping out in their own creative ways. <3

    I think the whole world just stopped for a minute after hearing about the massive destruction that Japan suffered. It was heartbreaking to see all the photos and videos of houses being washed away, and people being helpless. It's also amazing how well-prepared the Japanese are and how calm and level-headed they were, despite having lost their homes and loved ones. I even saw news of neighborhoods being cleaned and roads being repaired only days after the tragic event. Great to see them be able to stand up right away.

  5. Jannie

    I really like the artwork you featured on your post, Marz. My favorite one is the very first one with the lotus flower in it. I like the concept of the lotus flower emerging from the cracks resulting from the quake. The flower represents new hope as well as a strength and calmness that prevail from the people of Japan.

    I was very sad to hear about the strong earthquake and tsunami two weeks ago. Even though I have lived in Japan as a young girl for only three years, my time there brings back so many special memories. I have really enjoyed the beauty of Japan as well as its richness in culture and the friendliness of its residents.

    I know it’s going to take a while to rebuild and with so many lives lost, it will take a while to grieve. I do believe Japan will be able to rise again.

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