Abstract This paper describes the building damage incurred during the 2011 off the Pacific coast of Tohoku Earthquake in relation to ground motion characteristics. First, with regard to the long-duration ground motion, the damage of a base-isolation building is described. The damage to the 8–9-story buildings in the Aobayama campus of Tohoku University, in a hilly zone, is also described in relation to site-specific ground motion amplification. As specific building damage, pile foundation damage is described. The ceiling board drop damage is also presented as an example of non-structural element damage. Finally, the lessons learnt from the earthquake in terms of building damage are summarized.