Earthquake Children: Building Resilience from the Ruins of Tokyo

2021 - Shortlisted


Judges' comments

Janet Borland’s Earthquake Children is an archivally rich study of Tokyo’s catastrophic earthquake of 1923. Borland’s lucidly written and accessible work draws on extensive textual and image-based research in Japanese history. This fascinating case study offers many insights for both generalist and specialist readers by seamlessly combining the fields of children’s history, disaster studies, and infrastructure development. 

We learn the generational impacts of this devastating event and its enduring legacy on psychosocial, cultural and national planning. Lessons learned from the 1923 earthquake saw disaster preparedness become embedded into Japanese education, its buildings and its psyche. Borland shows how that cultural and policy change was led by young people and their teachers. From Earthquake Children we learn how Japan became the ‘disaster prepared’ nation it is known to be today, a lesson in how holistic implementation and long-term commitment to public policy can create positive change.