Google’s Street View shows Japan before and after tsunami


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Laptop explorers, prepare to take a sobering visit to Japan.

Google has digitally archived the areas of northeastern Japan that were hit hardest by the massive earthquake and devastating tsunami that struck the region in March.

The images are available through Street View in Google Maps, but they are more easily accessed via Google’s Memories for the Future website, which easily allows you to toggle between before and after images of the same area.


Sometimes the difference is minimal. But sometimes, as shown in the before and after image above, the difference is striking.

Confession: We toggled back and forth at least 10 times to make sure that something wasn’t wrong with Google’s data. It’s so hard to imagine--all those structures, just gone.

Google says it drove more than 44,000 kilometers through effected areas of Japan in order to take 360 degree panoramic imagery of the areas that were hardest hit. In a write up about the project on the company’s Lat Long Blog, Google says that if you start inland and venture out toward the coast, you’ll see the countryside change dramatically ‘becoming cluttered with mountains of debris as you get closer to the ocean.’

The best way to explore the before and after of the tsunami is to grab the little orange man from the left hand of the screen and drag him to the different areas marked in blue on the map. That will take you directly to the street view and then you can toggle back and forth to see what was once there, and what the earthquake and tsunami destroyed.


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--Deborah Netburn

Images: Top image: A view of a street in Japan photographed in July 2008, before the March 11 tsunami and earthquake. Bottom image: The same street photographed July 2011, after the March 11 tsunami and earthquake. Courtesy of Google Street View.