How Telework Can Make Nations Disaster Ready

This January 17th was the 2oth memorial day of Hanshin Great Earthquake that hit Kobe, Japan in 1995.

Sankei News, January 15, 2015

Sankei News, January 15, 2015

Yoko Kawai of Penguin Environmental Design wrote an arctile on the disaster readyness to commemorate the event. The article, titled “Change the Workstyle to Solve Population Over-Concentration into Maga Cities” was published on Sankei News, one of Japanese major news companies,  on January 15th.

Yoko pointed out that the Tohoku Earthquake became the national-scale disaster, because Tokyo, the largest concentration of population and businesses in Japan, was relatively close to Tohoku region.  Unless both the population and businesses are redistributed into the larger areas in Japan, any future earthquake that hits closer to Tokyo or other megacities will make the nation very vulnable. She proposes that telework can help easend the over-concentration in socially sustainable ways. The original article is in Japanese (: see the image), and Yoko intends to translate it soon.


227 Thousand Evacuees After Three and Half Years

Three and a half year passed since the great earthquake hit Tohoku.

According to the most recent goverment report (dated 8/29/14) , two-hundred and twenty-seven thousand people are still at the temporary housing or at their relatives/friends waiting for the permanent place to live in.

Temporary Housing at Rikuzentakata, 2014 (copyright: Think Global School)

Temporary Housing at Rikuzentakata, 2014 (copyright: Think Global School)

Among them, eighty-nine  thousand are in prefabricated container-like housing that was meant to be used only for two years.

Today’s article on Asia and Japan Watch reported the condition here. It claims that a half of the public supported new housing project will not be completed by 2017.

That is six years from the disaster. A child who was a first grader would be graduating from the elementary school. And his entire memory of that valuable time in and around container house? With resources Japan has, we should not allow that to happen.



Delayed and Costly Recovery of Rural Railroads

Shizugawa Station on Kesennuma Line after Tsunami, Photo by ChiefHira shared at Wikicommons

East Japan Railway Company (:JR Higashi Nihon) announced that the restoration of services on Kesennuma line will cost about $700 million. The company is asking $400 million public aid, while it plans to pay the rest.

Kesennuma – Yanaizu portion of Kesennuma line, which is 55.3km long, has been out of service since the great earthquake. Surprising eleven percents of the affected railroads have not been recovered after nearly 3 years after the disaster. They are mostly rural ones that had deficit before the earthquake. Read the rest of this entry »

New Law to Countermeasure Nankai Trough Earthquake

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Act on Special Measures concerning Countermeasure against Nankai Trough Great Earthquake was enacted last November.

The Nankai Trough earthquake is the one that is often forcasted as the next big one. The Cabinet Office estimated that magunitude 9.0 would cause 320,000 death and 2.38 million buildings destroyed. The documentary by NHK presents you serious, if not fearful, numbers and  facts.(Click the image to start “Megaquake- Nankai Trough” by NHK.)

The law was made to prevent what happend in Tohoku. It is to drive the building of evacuation facilities and the relocations of houses and public facilities to the higher grounds. When a municipality is designated as the Area under Intensified Measures against Tsunami Disaster, it must make a project master plan that includes the set completion time for the construction and relocation.

References: Original act in Japanese is here. Related article in the Japan Times here.

Too Many People Still Waiting for Their Homes

The Reconstruction Agency of Japan presented its annual report on the reconstruction after Tohoku Earthquake to the national diet two months ago (Original report in Japanese here:kokkaihoukoku). Almost three years afther the disaster, while we see solid progresses in certain fields of reconstruction such as infrastructure, too many people are still not at their own homes.

Arahama seashore, Sendai, October 2013. The sign expresses the residents’ wish to come back and live here. (c)Tamiyo KONDO

The number of evacuees is now 282,000 (67 in evacuation centers, the rest in temporaly housings). This is 40,000 less than last year, yet still is about 60% of the number immediately after the disaster. Read the rest of this entry »

Tourism as a Resource for Reconstruction

It is one thing to recontruct houses (often with much subsidy), and it is another to sustain them. To do the latter, a community or region needs industry. Otherwise, how can people make their living there?

In case of Oshika Penisula, a group of architects believed that the key industry  must be tourim. Through their research, they unerthed some attractive landscapes and traditional activities for tourists, and proposed some model routes.

An Example of Proposed Tourist Routes (c) ArchiAid

Here is what Professor Chiba of University of Tokyo and Professor Kadowaki of Meiji University said about their projects:

The Oshika Peninsula is full of many different charms. Let alone seafood such as abalone, oyster and sea urchin, you can even get hold of venison, which is where the name of Oshika Peninsula is derived from. The sunset on the sea is grand, the mountains are overflowing with greenery, and you can feel its old history if you take the Kinkasan trail. Above all, Oshika has attractive people. There are not only fishermen that have always lived in this area, but also people who have recently started activities with the hope for Oshika’s reconstruction. At the Peninsula Support Study Meeting Tourism Working Group, discovering these charms of Oshika as tourism resources, and additionally joining these tourism resources as a network are being attempted. Specifically, the tourism information gathered by the universities assigned to each shore was summarized, noted on maps, and used to suggest model Oshika tourist routes for couples, friends, and families. From 2013 , collaboration has started with ISHINOMAKI2 .0 , who continue reconstruction activities in Ishinomaki city, work has started on creating an Oshika tourist map, as well as a tourism business knowledge base for tourism businesses.

 References: For the original article and more images, please go to ArchiAid Annual Rport 2012, page 52

Importance of Memory

When a town lost its physical existence whether by natural disasters or wars, its residents always faces a difficult decision to make: To which extent should they “recreate” the town’s original image?

Model of Kesen-numa by Tanahashi Lab, Kobe University, Photo by T. Ohta, (C) ArchiAid

But the thing is, do you really remember how your town was? Even if you lived in a place for many years, chances are you cannot describe the elements there which carry the important meanings to you.

In Tohoku, hundreds of  architecture students helped the disaster-hit residents just remember how their town were by building their models.

For two years after the great earthquake, 120 models for 33 regions were built. Students also put together  a series of exhibitions to present these models which often accompanied by workshops where the residents were asked about the place by looking at the models.

Osamu Tanahashi of Kobe University explained about this effort as follows:

On March 25 , 2011 , shortly after the disaster, while ArchiAid was still in the preliminary planning phase, a project called “The ‘Lost Homes’ Model Restoration Project” was born from a discussion among students about ways to use the network of architects and universities to help more people get involved with regional reconstruction efforts. This project attempted to reproduce an architectural model of the homes as they were before the disaster on a 1 /500 scale in one square meter increments. So far research labs at 22 universities have participated, and more than 500 architecture students have collaborated on the project. The plan to produce models of 33 areas of the 3 prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima has expanded into 120 models. Initially the models were used as part of an exhibition to allow people from outside the disaster area to get a better understanding of the damage caused by the earthquake.

References: For the original article and more images, please go to ArchiAid Annual Report 2012., page 22-25.

Gender Equality and Reconstruction

In May, Gender Equality Bureau Cabinet Office published “Guidelines for Disaster Prevention and Reconstruction from the Perspective of Gender Equality”. (Its English summary of the earlier draft is here.)

Logo for “Gender Equality Week 2003″ in Japan. It says “One red dot (:only woman in a certain group of people) is not enough!”

Your reaction to this would be “Why do we need to bring the gender equality to the reconstruction?”, and  I did share this sentiment first. Read the rest of this entry »

A Vacant House Turned into the Core of Reconstruction Activities

“Ayukawa no Ie (Ayukawa Launch Pad)” on Oshika Peninsula, Miyagi.
(C) ArchiAid

On Oshika Peninsula in Miyagi prefecture, the reconstruction activities by college students are still going strong.

A vacant house on Ayukawa-hama Beach was renovated by students of architecture from Kanagawa University. They designed the space and built it by themselves during the summer of 2012.

Read the rest of this entry »

Cafe Produced by Ishinomaki High School Students

Reconstruction is a serious matter, but does not always have to be brow-knitting experience. It could mean fun, hope, and dream. I see these happy expressions on the faces of high school students who produced and run Kagikakko Cafe in Ishinomaki, Miyagi.

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Forty-two students got together in June 2012 to start a cafe of their own in Ishinomaki, a port town badly hit by Tsunami. It is only half an hour by commuter train from Sendai, a bustling metropolis, but its recovery has been very slow. I was struck by the contrast between Sendai and Ishinomaki at my last visit. Read the rest of this entry »