Aftershocks: Japanese Earthquake Prints

Aftershocks: Japanese Earthquake Prints
  • Online Experience


When disaster strikes, humour heals.

In 1855, the Ansei Great Earthquake struck and heavily damaged the city of Edo (modern day Tokyo). When it happened, the people of Edo turned to cheaply produced and widely distributed prints — namazu-e (catfish) prints — to help make sense of the disaster.

These firsthand accounts acted as the social media of the day, communicating the extent and immediate aftermath of the earthquake. In circulation for only a very short time, they played — and continue to play — an important role as superb examples of satire in the face of crisis.

Over 45 colourful woodblock prints are presented in an online exhibition that highlights ROM's exceptional collection of namazu-e earthquake prints.

Accessible through three thematic portals: Shaking Foundations, A Spectrum of Emotions, and A Fleeting Hope for Change, discover how these satirical prints helped Edo's inhabitants learn about the impact of the earthquake, make sense of what happened, cope with the resulting loss and social inequalities, and rally as a community to recover and move forward. Using classical satirical methodology and bold artistry, the prints teased sorrow, humour, anger, and ultimately healing from the public who saw them.

Aftershocks: Japanese Earthquake Prints presents a unique platform to explore the legacy of a community's response to disaster, making connections with our own experiences with social media and the resilience of the human and creative spirit in the face of ever-changing dynamics between nature, humans, and societies.

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Aftershocks: Japanese Earthquake Prints learning resoruce thumbnail image

Download the exhibition Educator Resources for discussion points, questions, and activity prompts to aid in discussing Aftershocks with learners.

Japanese print photo

ROM’s Akiko Takesue, curator of Aftershocks: Japanese Earthquake Prints, explores the unique historic and cultural context of these remarkable prints.

Wes Tyrell, president of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists and ROM’s Akiko Takesue examine the use of satire as a powerful and complex communications tool. 

Rollie Williams

Experience how comedy bridges the gap between science and public audiences with ROM’s Soren Brothers and guest Rollie Williams.

Screenshot of Japanese Earthquake Prints

ROM’s newest online exhibition, produced in partnership with The Japan Foundation, Toronto, takes a closer look at an exceptional collected album of earthquake prints – namazue-e (catfish prints) - in the Museum’s permanent collections.

Yuta Niwa art. Courtesy Yuta Niwa.

ROM hosts emerging Japanese artist Yuta Niwa in a keynote presentation in support of the online exhibition, Aftershocks: Japanese Earthquake Prints, that focuses on his reinterpretation of these important historical art forms for contemporary audiences.