Before looking at the nearly 100 photographs that make up “In the Wake: Japanese Photographers Respond to 3/11,” a visitor to the Museum of Fine Arts should go to the television monitor by the Museum Road side of the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery.
The monitor shows real-time aerial footage that the Japanese network NHK broadcast in the immediate aftermath of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Those two events caused the deaths of more than 18,000 people and displacement of another 400,000. In a country the size of the United States, that would translate to nearly 50,000 deaths and over a million people displaced. But even those numbers don’t give a true approximation of the impact in a country so much smaller geographically, and so much more homogeneous culturally. The footage is at once mesmerizing and ghastly. Debris-filled water rushes over the land, carrying all before it: cars, trucks, houses, barrier walls.