Photo/IllutrationThe image and other details of a disaster monument appear when users click on the new icon on GSI's online map. (From the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan website)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

So many natural disasters have occurred in Japan over the years, you could fill a map of the country with them.

To snap people out of their complacency about disaster prevention, the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan (GSI) is doing just that.

The organization developed its first new map symbol in 13 years to represent monuments to disaster victims as a stark reminder of the importance of planning for the worst.

The abstract illustration of the mark unveiled in June symbolizes stone and other monuments that commemorate tsunami, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides and other disasters.

When visitors to the GSI's site click on the new icon, images of disaster monuments appear along with data on death tolls, numbers of homes destroyed, and the locations and years in which the monuments were built.

As of July 31, seven monuments for the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in five municipalities in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures have been registered on the site.

A monument in Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, became the first in the prefecture to be included on the site in July. The town said it will continue applying for registration of its 20 memorials.

However, a town official expected it would be a lengthy process to get them registered because their exact locations, as well as descriptions on them, need to be recorded and presented accurately.

“Having a monument (on GSI's site) is a good reminder for citizens that no place is free from danger,” said an official of Shirakawa, an inland city in Fukushima Prefecture.

Fifteen people were killed in the city in the 2011 quake that measured an upper 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7 in the area.

City officials said landslides on gentle hills, such as those triggered by the quake, had rarely caused so many fatalities.

Municipal governments select landmarks to be registered on the maps based on local historical records and experts’ advice, and send their locations and images to GSI.

An official of GSI’s geographic data processing division said it will ask municipalities to have their monuments registered as it wants to register as many as possible.

GSI said its new symbol representing disaster monuments will also be applied to paper topographic maps from September.