Next month will mark one year since the people of Japan experienced a devastating series of natural disasters. The earthquake and tsunami that hit parts of Japan on March 11, 2011, resulted in tremendous loss for the Japanese people. Many Japanese lost their lives while survivors lost homes, a sense of stability, and sense of place. Personal items and familiar places tied to memories of home and loved ones were destroyed during the earthquake and tsunami. Places were erased and the ability to recall – to feel at home – disappeared under rubble and waves.
To assist those affected by the disasters in Japan, Google is undertaking a really interesting project. Part of this project is the creation of a collaborative website called Mirai e no Kioku, which gives Japanese people and survivors the opportunity to post and share photographs, videos, and memories related to places as they were prior to the disasters of March 2011 (media and website only available in Japanese). Another interesting aspect that non-Japanese speaking people can participate in is a re-visualization project initiated by Google, which offers users a chance to re-experience places through archived street view footage of affected areas. The site uses Streetview data to populate an archived digital landscape for the user. The interactive map of Japan allows users to choose either a before or after street view of several locations across the country (note some areas are archived more thoroughly than others). In the About section of the website, places such as Ishinomaki, Onagawa, and and Soma are identified as areas that were significantly affected. Users can explore these regions while navigating virtually along roads and highways, slipping back and forth through time with before and after views.