Background An earthquake and tsunami hit the east coast of Japan on March 11, 2011. Nurses were actively involved in the health response to this disaster and, subsequently, many authors have reported on the role nurses played in these efforts in Japanese nursing professional journals. Aim To describe the role of nurses who assisted in the 2011 Great East Earthquake of Japan by reviewing Japanese literature and reporting the findings in English. Method This research used an integrative literature review methodology. Manuscripts were obtained from the Japanese database Ichushi Ver. 5 (Japan Medical Abstracts Society, Tokyo, Japan). A total of 44 manuscripts were identified and included in a thematic analysis. Results Three main themes were identified: (1) nursing roles, (2) specialized nursing roles, and (3) preparedness education. Nurses fulfilled different roles in the period after the disaster (ie, as a clinician, a communicator, a leader, and a provider of psychosocial support). Additionally, the specialized nurse role was identified, along with the need for preparedness education to support the nurse's role in a disaster. Conclusion The understanding of the role of nurses in disasters is expanding. There is a need to further explore the roles of specialized nurses in disasters. Further disaster education opportunities should be available as a part of continuing education for all nurses. Radiation aspects of disaster assistance should be included in disaster education programs where there are radio-nuclear hazards present in the environment.