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Mar 30 2011

2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Videos

Written by Nippon Sekai   
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Video archive of earthquake and tsunami clips from the Great Tohoku Earthquake (Updated 2011.06.26)

First of all, I debated on whether or not to do this since it could be considered somewhat insensitive to do so by some. However, I came to quickly realize the value that many of these clips had in dispelling the misunderstanding of what tsunami waves are and how they act depending on where (geography/topology wise) they strike. As such, I've done my best to annotate them (albeit limited to 1024 characters since that is all Picasa Web Albums allow) and also included their approximate map locations (which is the reason why I'm using PWA as opposed to YouTube). Then there is also the matter of this being a historic event (devastating but still important from a historical perspective). Since this is a Japan-related site, ignoring that aspect is difficult to do. I have the original NHK (Japanese) footage from just before the early emergency warning kicked in as well as the NHK World (English) feed and will be getting those up.

The majority of these are video which hasn't been looped continuously by the mainstream broadcasters like Fuji, Tokyo Broadcasting, TV Asahi, and NHK. Some of them are shot from different angles of related footage which were continually used on air while a few others have never been aired before. And other clips are higher resolution versions of what previously existed. As time goes on, new video is slowly but surely surfacing from those survivors who managed to record the event as they make their way out of shelters and/or have regained access to power/network service.

A few of the relatively unseen tsunami clips managed to capture the unfolding disaster in fairly dramatic fashion: some are only meters away from what at first seems to be a very slow rise in the sea level only to see a rapidly approaching torrent/wall of water filled with debris which has those individuals running for their lives; others show the approaching tsunami as onlookers yell and try to get the attention of people and motorists on lower ground to get away.

It is an understatement to say how well and vividly documented this historic event has been in terms of high quality video such that it can be easy to become desensitized to the actual scale of what was being witnessed. Still, there are extremely valuable lessons which can be gleaned from these footage so as a result, they should also be considered useful reference/educational material. Humans have constantly shown how quickly they forget the past as the memory of events such as these fade with the passing of time. These videos need to be continually preserved so that they can serve as an important reminder of what took place and why those who live in seismically active areas need to be prepared to evacuate at a moments notice by heeding the warnings and/or knowing what action to take in the absence of any official announcements.

WARNING! Some of these videos can induce anxiety due to their intensity. Viewer discretion is therefore advised.

NHK World (English) 720p broadcast on March 11, 2011 (1 hour coverage beginning around 3:15pm) and NHK-G (domestic Japanese) 1080p broadcast (5 hour coverage beginning around 2:46pm just before the early warning kicked in)

Earthquake as it is happening in the parking lot of the AEON Tagajo store in Miyagi Prefecture

Tsunami engulfing the area around the AEON Tagajo department store

Video taken from Tagajo in Miyagi Prefecture of the rapidly approaching tsunami

Tsunami making its way up a river in Iwaki City and overflowing the banks onto the surrounding area washing away parked vehicles

Clip from a roof top outside the Dream Messe convention hall in Tagajo, Sendai showing people trying to warn off motorists below of the approaching tsunami

Longer clip from outside the Dream Messe convention center in Tagajo, Sendai taken by another person - shows the few minutes before people began trying to warn drivers below and then shows the tsunami inundating the area

Video taken and posted on March 9, 2011 from Kamaishi of the tsunami warning from the M7.2 foreshock that preceded the March 11th quake

Nearly 15 minute clip which shows the tsunami making its way into the bay and then inundating the town. Evacuees initially do not realize how bad it is until they see the river about to overflow and they begin to frantically yell at those still below to hurry

Widely broadcasted clip from NHK showing the city of Kamaishi being inundated as the tsunami tops the 10 meter high sea wall

Kesennuma City is quickly submerged as the tsunami overflows the harbor

Recorded from another roof top vantage point, Kesennuma is quickly inundated

Highest quality capture so far of the tsunami inundating Kesennuma

Widely broadcasted low level recording of the tsunami inundating Kesennuma

Firefighters recording the incoming tsunami must quickly flee as it begins to build in height and intensity

The person taking this video in Ofunato was initially doing so from the port but had to quickly jump into his vehicle and flee to higher ground as the water quickly rose

Tsunami hitting the coast and harbor of Kuji City in Iwate Prefecture

Video taken far inland from Kuji City of Kuji Harbor being battered by massive tsunami waves

Several people in a building just across the highway from the oceanfront watch as the tsunami rolls in to Kitaibaraki, Ibaraki Prefecture. When the videographer sees the waves overrunning the wall, only then do they flee the building in panic.

Tsunami waves arriving and then hitting Iioka Fishing Harbor in Asahi City, Chiba Prefecture

A later set of tsunami waves inundate Iioka Fishing Harbor in Asahi City, Chiba Prefecture. Take note of the person watching from the harbor front having to make a quick run for their life

Tsunami waves approach the coast of Sanmu in Chiba Prefecture and then inundate far in-land

Stabilized clip of the Nomura Building in Shinjuku swaying during the earthquake

Stabilized clip of the Century Southern Tower Hotel in Shinjuku swaying during the earthquake

Clip of the bent broadcasting antenna atop Tokyo Tower

Stabilized footage of the earthquake near the Sumida River in Asakusa, Tokyo

Taken from a classroom on the 7th floor at Miraikan on Odaiba in Tokyo as the earthquake occurred

Taken from the exhibit hall on the 7th floor of Miraikan on Odaiba in Tokyo during the earthquake

Taken in Shin-Urayasu, Chiba Prefecture during an aftershock immediately following the main temblor. The ground movement and water percolating from the ground are the result of soil liquefaction

Video taken from around Shin-Urayasu in Chiba Prefecture showing the damage caused by soil liquefaction where the ground sank and sandy water percolated to the surface

Video taken from around Shin-Urayasu in Chiba Prefecture showing significant amounts of damage as a result of soil liquefaction

Longer clip of the video taken from Shizugawa High School in Minami Sanriku as the tsunami rolled in

Cameraman/reporter makes crucial decision to escape on foot, saving the lives of those who also decide to heed his advice to leave their vehicles. The tsunami eventually inundates the Wakabayashi district of Sendai

New footage of Kamaishi City being inundated

Tsunami hitting a hotel (宝来館 Houraikan) in Otsuchi which had been designated a tsunami evacuation center. The first floor was completely inundated. The madam and several guests were also in the parking lot fleeing and barely got up the hill in the back of the hotel before the tsunami quickly engulfed the parking lot.

Tsunami rolling in to the outer water break at the entrance of Kamaishi Bay. This is an 18+ minute long video which is shot before the first waves even hit water break. From this vantage point, the tsunami does not look like much even as it slowly overruns the break water (though you can tell just how much the sea has risen by looking at the outcropping of land further out). This video is a perfect example of how deceptive a tsunami can look. But all of that water filled Kamaishi Bay and eventually overran the sea walls further inside the bay where Kamaishi City is located.

Kamaishi City sea wall being overrun (this is an HD version of the clip which was shown on NHK)

Kamaishi City, Iwate-ken (this is an HD version of the clip shown by the media)

Kamaishi City (new footage of the tsunami overrunning the sea wall shot from a different vantage point)

Tsunami rolling into Kuji Harbor - Kuji City, Iwate-ken

Tsunami hitting the coast off of Noda Village, Iwate-ken

Kuji River, Kuji City, Iwate-ken. Shot from around 2 kilometers inland, the tsunami flows up river.


Shiogama City, Miyagi-ken - taken from the Marine Gate Shiogama (マリンゲート塩釜) building near the ferry dock

Shiogama City, Miyagi-ken. Taken from the サンチュエル本塩釜 apartment building

Shiogama City, Miyagi-ken

Shizugawa High School - Minamisanriku

This is another first person video also taken from the area near the high school. This particular video however has a clearer view of the tsunami rolling over the town and also zooms in on the people at the end. Word of caution, near the end of this clip, a man in a blue jacket rushes down to help pull people up the hill but gets caught by the swirling debris and is swept away. Everyone else however gets away (and survives according to the eyewitness who recorded this).


Shizugawa Junior High School. Minamisanriku

Taken from a vantage point on the roadway leading up to the junior high school (the other videos were recorded from the high school across from this hill).


Ofunato earthquake - recorded by the president of Saito Seika (a confectionary maker known for its Kamome no Tamago cakes). The president quickly and smartly warns everyone to evacuate to higher ground because he feels the quake is strong enough to generate a tsunami.

Ofunato tsunami - recorded by the president of Saito Seiko (a confectionary maker known for its Kamome no Tamago cakes).

He records his main building with dark aqua marine roof (seen at the 4m28s mark) being inundated (the contents of his factory next door come flooding out at the 5 minute mark). His quick decision to have everyone evacuate during the earthquake proved to be smart as the tsunami nearly reached the roof of his two story building. The company has several other buildings in the area (one near the port was completely swept away and the other suffered major damage). One of his factories higher up suffered from some damage but he re-opened it for limited production). The president was planning on retiring but decided to put that off in order to rebuild the company and help support the reconstruction efforts of the area. He came to that decision after salvaging some of their cakes and taking it to an evacuation shelter in Rikuzentakata where evacuees enjoyed them


Recorded in the vicinity of the port of Sendai (no audio)

Taken from the Teizan canal near the Arahama district of Sendai, Miyagi-ken

Aftermath of the quake and then the tsunami inundation at Tagajo, Miyagi-ken (no audio)

CCTV video of the tsunami inundating Sendai Airport (this was shown often by the media)

TBS/JNN footage of the tsunami inundating Sendai Airport (no audio)

Arahama district of Sendai being hit by the tsunami - recorded from the residential area, many people were unaware that a huge wall of water was heading inland and only began running at the last minute. What was initially just a churning torrent of water turned into the large wall seen at around 2m35s as the waves in the back pushed the ones in the front up and over the shoreline. Notice that even at the 3m20s mark, some people are just casually walking (probably under the wrong assumption that the water was not going to surge this far inland). The ones inside this building were trying to open the window to yell at the those still on the street but weren't able to.

Miyako City, Iwate-ken (this is the well played footage but in HD)

Video taken from Koganji in Miyako City showing people evacuating to higher ground before the tsunami inundated the port.

Tsunami rolling into Inubousaki, Chiba-ken

Hachinohe, Aomori-ken

Tsunami inundating the port of Hachinohe, Aomori-ken

Tsunami inundating Kesennuma City - taken from a building rooftop by a very scared woman (Hitomi Yamamoto) who is saying stop it and that she does not want to die. What is striking is that even though she is scared out of her mind, she continues video recording.

Warning: you may want to turn the volume down


Aftermath of the tsunami in Kesennuma City - taken from a building rooftop by a very scared woman (Hitomi Yamamoto). What is striking is that even though she is scared out of her mind, she continues video recording.

Warning: you may want to turn the volume down


Kesennuma City - this is another first person recording and it shows the balls of steel television cameraman (in the white helmet) who shot the other well run footage just a meter away from the flow.

Full raw video footage of the video taken by firefighters at Rikuzentakata which was shown on television.

Yamada, Iwate-ken. This area this was recorded from the inlet land area between Yamada Bay (to the North) and Funakoshi Bay (to the South)

Tsunami taken from a pedestrian overpass in Shiogama, Miyagi-ken

Tsunami inundating an industrial area of Iwanuma in Miyagi-ken (updated on 2011.05.03 to higher resolution version)

Tsunami inundating and then receding at Kamaishi City.

Japan Coast Guard releases footage of Sendai Airport being hit by the tsunami

Japan Coast Guard patrol boat does an emergency departure from a port near Kamaishi during the tsunami

Japan Coast Guard releases footage of the tsunami inundating and then receding at Kamaishi City

Japan Coast Guard releases footage of the tsunami hitting and inundating the port of Kesennuma as well as later footage showing the raging fires which consumed the city

Japan Coast Guard releases aerial footage of the tsunami hitting the Tohoku coast and the aftermath

Tsunami inundating the town of Onagawa in Miyagi

Later tsunami waves hitting Otsuchi.

The first waves had already done major damage washing over and destroying the anti-tsunami walls. The end of the video shows a 200-ton sightseeing tour boat named Hamayuri which was placed atop a former guest house.

The boat was undergoing maintenance inspection 400 meters away at the dockyard. Requests to have this preserved as a reminder of the power of tsunamis were rejected by the Iwate Prefectural Government mainly due to the maintenance costs involved in preserving both the guesthouse and boat. The boat which was virtually unscathed is scheduled to be taken apart and removed.


Tsunami hitting the coast of Iwate Prefecture.

This short but incredibly high resolution video was shown on television.

The video was shot from a road on a hillside and shows the bay below with its bottom nearly exposed with the initial tidal surge preceding the first wave from the tsunami rolling back in. What is shown next is fascinating; the sea begins pouring into the bay.

This video also shows how narrow bays like this one (likely somewhere on the Sanriku or Kosode coast) amplifies the height of the tsunami as it funnels into a shallower and narrow area. The last part is extremely unreal as the incoming wall of water near the center of the bay is further amplified by the tsunami waves that have been reflected back from hitting the sides of the bay.


Aftermath of the initial tsunami waves which inundated Ofunato

Tsunami flowing upstream in the Sunaoshi River in Tagajo, Miyagi-ken

Higher resolution (720p) version of the video taken from Tagajo, Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture of the rapidly approaching tsunami. People who have taken refuge atop a building adjacent to the AEON Tagajo department store try to yell futile warnings to those still driving around or on lower ground to hurry up and get away from the oncoming tsunami.

Tsunami taken from Odaira-cho in Kamaishi City at around 3:20PM


Tsunami taken from Odaira-cho in Kamaishi City at around 3:29PM

The tsunami is flowing out from the area during this clip.



Tsunami taken from Odaira-cho in Kamaishi City at around 4:22PM

The tsunami (probably the 3rd and later wave) is flowing out from the area during this clip.


Tsunami taken from Tadakoe-cho in Kamaishi City at around the time the of the arrival of the first wave.

Tsunami taken from above the Kamaishi By-pass in Tadakoe-cho, Kamaishi City at around the time of the third and later wave.

Recorded from a roof top of a aviation school near Sendai Airport

The tsunami eventually tops the sea walls fronting the bay front in Miyako, Iwate-ken and inundates the area

Later set of tsunami waves rolling into Miyako Bay

This video shows the debris filled tsunami flowing up the Oh-gawa (Oh River) in Kesennuma. The footage was shot from the roof of the Marinside Kesennuma Hotel.


Aerial video taken by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (2nd anti-tank helicopter squadron stationed in Hachinohe, Aomori) at around 3:30pm.

They capture the first wave of the tsunami rolling into Kuji Harbor and hitting Kuji City.


Mobile phone footage of the tsunami over running a sea wall in Kamaishi.

Tsunami hitting Minami-Soma in Fukushima

One of the few tsunami videos made public of Ishinomaki. This is recorded from the port area as the tsunami begins inundating the city.

Tsunami inundation of Sendai Airport as recorded from inside the terminal


March 11th earthquake as it is happening. Recorded at the Akasaka Biz Tower in Tokyo.



Ground level footage of the tsunami pouring over the sea wall in Miyako.

Oirase-machi, Aomori

Tsunami inundation as seen from the Minami-Gamou Wastewater Treatment Center in Sendai.

Earthquake as it is happening outside a MaxValu (マックスバリュ) store in Izumi-ku, Sendai City.

Earthquake as it happened in Aoba-ku, Sendai City

Tsunami destroying structures in the lower lying areas of Ishinomaki

Tsunami inundating a neighborhood in Watanoha-ku in Ishinomaki

Tsunami overflowing the Kitakami River. Shot from a hill near Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki.

Tsunami inundating the area near the Rinkuu Industrial Park in Iwanuma. There is a man clinging on to debris and caught in the receding flood calling out for help.

Intense street level view as the tsunami inundates Kamaishi City.


Tsunami inundation taken near the Utatatsu By-pass in Minami-sanriku

Cameraman records the port of Ofunato being inundated and then the powerful backwash rapidly pulling the debris back out

Kesennuma port inundation

Footage shot showing ground water flooding up in advance of the tsunami

Footage shows an entire building being moved off its foundation by the force of the water

Port of Otsuchi inundation

Otsuchi tsunami devastation

Port of Ofunato being demolished

Ryoshi Village in Kamaishi - recording begins several minutes before the tsunami begins to flood in

Ryoshi Village in Kamaishi - the tsunami quickly destroys the village

Ryoshi Village in Kamaishi - next set of tsunami waves flood back in

Captured by a professor at Tohoku Gakuin University who escaped to a pedestrian bridge on Route 45 in Tagajo

2nd tsunami wave hitting the bay in Shichigahama Town

Tsunami overflows the bank of the Sunaoshi River flooding into a neighborhood street in Tagajo

Shot from the Maiya Honten in Ofunato

Port of Ofunato flooded from the first wave

Machimae neighborhood in Tagajo being inundated

Machimae neighborhood in Tagajo being inundated

People in a building yell at those still on the ground to run quickly as the tsunami inundates this area of Ishinomaki

The person who was swept up in the flood can be seen floating amidst the debris for a short moment

Shot from a hill in Kesennuma

Tsunami striking the coast near Naraha-machi in Fukushima

Flooding caused by the tsunami near Naraha-machi in Fukushima

Tsunami flooding into the Iwako District of Soma in Fukushima

Shot by the Japan Coast Guard from their office in Miyako

Tsunami inundating Minami-Sanriku

Raging torrent inundates this neighborhood in Ishinomaki

Taken from near Sendai Airport in Natori City

The cresting tsunami can be seen striking the coastline and then rapidly moving inland near Yamamoto Town in Miyagi

Successively larger second and third tsunami waves are captured as they crest and then slam the coast of Yamamoto Town in Miyagi

The tsunami is captured by a cameraman from inside of a vehicle in Tagajo as they are stuck in traffic

Tsunami inundating an unknown neighborhood

Tsunami inundating an area in Iwaki City, Fukushima

Leading edge of the tsunami flowing up the Oh River in Kesennuma

What initially started as a slow flood moving up the Oh River in Kesennuma turns into a raging torrent

The videographer recording the Oh River overflowing is forced to take refuge on a large boulder on the grounds of the elementary school

Start of the tsunami inundating a neighborhood in Ishinomaki

Powerful backwash at Ogatsu-cho in Ishinomaki

Tsunami churning inside of Matsukawa-ura Bay in Fukushima




3.26 Copyright (C) 2008 / Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved."

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