3.11 Two Years Later: The Info-map-ic

(Students Rebuild)

In February 2013, I flew to Tohoku, Japan, site of the devastating 3.11 earthquake and tsunami, on behalf of Students Rebuild to track the progress on reconstruction in the region, and the impact of the Paper Cranes for Japan Challenge that funneled support and 100,000 cranes to the region as a symbol of solidarity. The cranes became a touring sculpture, and galvanized young students with a sense of international compassion that has since inspired them to reach out to their own neighborhoods to help out.

The 10-day voyage was nothing short of incredible. While I traveled with the Crew of Architecture for Humanity’s Ishinomaki office “MakiBiz,” visiting completed projects and speaking with communities getting back on their feet, witnessing mind-boggling developments in the coal coastal mountains, I began to realize telling this story would come as a difficulty – especially considering the complexity of the region, and its obscurity from most of the world (including most of Japan).

Once back in San Francisco, arranging the stories to tell on the Students Rebuild blog, I realized a subjective map would be needed to index the blogs and lace the whole region together. This “info-map-ic” was drawn by hand with a quill pen and India ink, scanned and colorized digitally, and presented online as an interactive navigation that, I hope, captures the spirit and challenges of Tohoku’s tsunami recovery two years later. Enjoy!









Here’s how the coverage breaks down – geographically


Karl and Hiromi prepare for Karl’s trip with very basic orientation, event planning, and intimidation

Japanese Preparations: The Mission, in which Karl gets travel advice (2.04)
Cribs & Gaijin Pass, in which Hiromi explains why Karl can do just about anything in Japan (2.05)
All Chinese to Me, in which light is shed on Japan’s three alphabets, and cartography (2.07)
Gathering No Moss, in which yurukyara are described, but not explained (2.08)
[Re]Setting the Course, in which Hiromi corrects Karl (2.10)
I ♥ Ishinomaki: Travel Guide for you and Karl, transit, sites and eats off the beaten path by Miss Tabei (2.12)
Think Outside the Frame, in which Hiromi explains Ishinomaki’s infatuation with Manga (2.14)
Final Prep, and Charrettes, in which AFH_HQ receives a invitation to get Mini Mini (2.20)
A Very Long Day, in which Karl goes East (via going West), in a Time Warp (2.23)
In Japan, in which Karl explains the first culture shocking hours of Tokyo and Sendai (2.25)


The northernmost limits of our explorations, with a huge landlocked ship in the background

New & Old Tourism, in which a beached ship draws the masses (3.30)
Off Season, in which judo, soccer and ramen evade the Crew (4.16)


Tucked in amongst verdant mountains, Utatsu harbors many surprises

Voyage of Veneer, in which Professor Kobayashi introduces an innovative construction system for Tohoku (2.18)
Prototypes in Minami Sanriku
, in which University students raise a community house (2.21)
Rebuilding in Context, in which Karl discusses sea walls (3.05)
Off Season, in which the Crew discovers the hidden innards of a hibernating dinosaur (4.16)


Encapsulates the signs and necessities of a transitional recovery

Rebuilding in Context, a day-long tour in which oyster “banyas,” mom’s cooking, and container malls sate the Crew’s hunger (for knowledge), and Karl attempts to fit in a prefabricated kit home. (3.05)


Home of the “We Are One” Market and Youth Center, and a grassroots effort to re-assemble a community

The snow road, in which Karl and Aki discuss masks, and diplomatic relations with China – you know, the uszhe (2.26)
High Shrines & a Lucky Rock
, in which a cultural landmark is visited and crows are “caught on tape” (2.26)
Three schools – at least
, in which a tragedy is recounted (2.27)
One Morning in Kitakami, in which dump trucks chirp in the silent snow, and a Youth Center effortlessly stays warm (3.02)
How to hold a Mini Mini Kitakami charrette, in which a process is introduced (3.03)
Elementary Students Imagine a Rebuilt VIllage, in which the Crew attends the launch of the Center’s first Saturday art workshop (3.05)
Kitakami “Cribs,”
in which Sato-san guides us on a tour of the Market and Youth Center (3.09)
New & Old Tourism, in which God splits a rock over a whale (3.30)

Ishinomaki Uptown

Adventures into domestic Tohoku

The snow road, in which Aki explains the sprawling new commercial district (2.26)
What’s for dinner Shogo?
, in which Shogo and Karl visit the produce (and meat) market (3.01)
 in which Shogo whips up an awesome meal (3.02)
Mission: Gyudon, in which Karl & Miku narrowly save a sick Shogo from almost certain hunger (5.14)

Oshika Oceanside

Recovery on the “front line” of the tsunami surge

Rebuilding in Context, in which Onagawa struggles with being nearly completely swept away (3.05)
Maeami-hama fishing village’s new house
, in which Prof. Kobayashi relates a tale of rebuilding, between chuckles  (2.26)
Winters on Maeami Beach, in which a fishing village celebrates perseverance with friends (3.14)
Drift / Returning, in which a superhero saves a village, and a rogue boat crosses an ocean (4.25)

Ishinomaki Downtown

The downtown of this Tohoku port city struggles to stay relevant post-tsunami

Meet Shogo, and MakiBiz, in which a regional manager opens shop and whets appetites (2.26)
“Fish”inomaki, in which a hunt for ramen gets entangled (3.07)
Den of fish…and other sea things, in which sashimi is consumed (3.08)
River to…MANGATTAN, in which a downtown restaurant is patronized, and a space dome resists forces of nature (3.27)
By the book, in which Hiromi explains gov’t released status and plans for regional rebuilding  (5.31)

Oshika Bayside

Historic center of the Japanese whaling industry and harbor of many worldly things

Bento no hosomichi, in which a 17th Century poet-traveler once stopped for a box lunch. Probably. (3.09)
New & Old Tourism, in which Karl discusses Spanish galleons and WHALELAND (3.30)


The largest city in Tohoku is home to uncharacteristic compassion, and local delicacies

The snow road, in which Aki picks up Karl and drives them under cities and mountains (2.26)
Letters from Tsutsujigaoka
, in which hundreds of letters of thanks for the Crane Sculpture are viewed (3.09)
The Cranekeepers, in which the Crew meets a warm reception (3.10)
Lunch songs, in which a ritual daily tribute to lunchladies goes atonic (3.10)
Discovering Student Rebuilders in Sendai, in which Karl is escorted to a gynasium of changemakers (3.11)
Program 6: Jonson-san’s remarks, in which Karl stammers a Thank You in two languages (3.13)
Reflections on Youth in Action, in which the Crew bears witness to an exclusive award ceremony (3.21)
The Journalists, in which a Gaijin is interviewed (3.22)
Cultural takeaways: Ohio, Mottainai & Pigmon, in which three critical elements of Japanese culture are explained (3.25)
Ito & Eating – Part 1
, in which the Crew saunters into a famously twisted mediathèque (4.03); Part 2, in which beef tongue is rapturously consumed (4.05)
Brave New Worldview
, in which Karl contemplates info-map-ics (4.08)


Karl spends a weekend wandering the mega-est Megacity – and discovers how a place so peopled remains personable

30 miles in Tokyo – miles 1 – 17, in which Karl begins a walking tour of the world’s largest city (6.19)
30 miles in Tokyo – miles 18 – 30, in which Karl survives a second day of walking and is whisked back West (6.20)


One thought on “3.11 Two Years Later: The Info-map-ic

  1. Pingback: Seven More Days in Port-au-Prince | kbobblog

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