July 19(Tuesday)

Please read this! Recommendations from the Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake


On June 25, recommendations from the Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake were compiled and presented to Prime Minister Kan by Council Chair Makoto Iokibe.  These recommendations were compiled through a total of 12 council sessions beginning on April 14 upon the conclusion of very intensive discussions among the council members which at times lasted more than five hours.  Have you already read these recommendations?

Photo 1:  Council Chair Iokibe presenting the report containing the recommendations to Prime Minister Kan


The recent great earthquake disaster did more than inflict great damage upon the people in the disaster-struck areas; it was an event that fundamentally changed for all Japanese the values upon which they have relied until now.  The recommendations call for the importance of mutual assistance, taking up the word tsunagu- meaning "connecting" or "linking"- as a key word.  It argues that through linking the disaster areas with other areas and the current generation with future generations, the recovery and reconstruction of the disaster areas will come to be perceived as an issue for all people of this era living in this world.


The passion and hard-hitting debates of the council members who assisted with the formulation of the recommendations

Most of all, it was the passion of council members that produced these recommendations.  I have heard that one member even went so far as to state, "If my remarks cannot be accommodated, I will resign my position on the council."  Council members with impassioned ideas to connect the council with the people of the disaster areas, who were overwhelmed with worry and bewildered in the disaster zones, exchanged their sincere thoughts in a straightforward manner.  All throughout, the work to compile a single set of recommendations was not a result of preestablished harmony by any means, but rather the result of hard-hitting debates each time they meet.


Photo 2:  Atmosphere of the discussions of the Reconstruction Design Council


"Hope in the midst of tragedy"- An overview of the recommendations

The destruction came all of a sudden, The time was 2:46 pm (5:46 am GMT) on March 11, 2011. The ground shook, the seas rose and people fled in confusion.... After the instant of horror that was the earthquake and tsunami came a further terror, which we had no means to control. This was the genesis of an unprecedented situation. Thus it was that the certain "something" that has sustained Japan throughout the post-war years came crashing down around our ears....


From this kind of prologue, the recommendations begin, with the subsequent main section listing various issues faced by the disaster areas and Japan, as well as future directions for forthcoming efforts.


The recommendations incorporate in a comprehensive way, first, blueprints for revitalizing daily life, including approaches to regional development and community revitalization and the future course of the regional economy and of industry, all grounded in this disaster, then efforts towards reconstruction from the nuclear disaster and associated issues, and then thoughts regarding "open reconstruction," discussing each of these in a concrete and easy to understand manner.


Let us look concretely speaking at major points indicated within the recommendations.


Point #1:  In disasters involving enormous tsunamis, the approach of "disaster reduction," which minimizes the damage at the time of the disaster, is important.


The recent earthquake dramatically changed our awareness towards disaster management that we had considered common sense.  It is impossible to provide protection against enormous tsunamis of the type that occurred in the recent disaster through frontline defense alone, focused on tsunami breakwaters, coastal dikes and tide barriers. The recommendations point out the importance of "disaster reduction," in which even if there is impact from a disaster, human lives are saved and the economic impacts are reduced as much as possible, with damage minimized.  Moreover, it argues that it is important to undertake an all-out mobilization of various types of policies and measures, including among other aspects "hard" infrastructure that facilitates evacuation and also regulations regarding land use, while also emphasizing "soft" countermeasures such as disaster prevention education based on the fundamental concept of "escape".


Figure 1:  Image of policies and measures related to the development of areas and communities undertaking tsunami disaster prevention


Point #2:  The disaster-affected regions vary in their topographical, industrial, and other circumstances.  Key points for reconstruction-related policies and measures have been presented for each of the five representative area models.


The essential points of reconstruction-related policies and measures to be pursued for each of the five types are indicated below.


Type 1:  Regions with urban functions located in low-lying areas that were almost entirely affected by the tsunami
 → While the goal is to transfer to higher ground, in light of the critical nature of fisheries and other industrial activities, it is also necessary to utilize level ground.



Type 2:  Regions where low-lying areas were affected and areas on high ground escaped damage
 → While a concentration towards, and effective utilization of, the urban areas situated on higher ground should be the priority, since the transfer of everything is extremely difficult, it is necessary to utilize low-lying areas after enhancing its safety.



Type 3:  Regions built on hills running down to the coast with few low-lying areas and settlements
 → The fundamental principle is the transfer of residences and so on to higher ground.  Low-lying areas should be sited only for industrial functions, with land use regulations introduced to restrict the construction of residences there.



Type 4:  Coastal plains
 → Rather than preparing enormous storm surge barriers along the coast, combine the new preparation of dykes both along the coast and in inland areas (having the function of dual lines of embankments) together with regulations regarding land use



Type 5:  Inland areas and regions that were damaged due to liquefaction
 → In addition to advancing "countermeasures to prevent disaster reoccurrence" for disaster-impacted housing and land for residential use, move forward with assistance for recovery of land for residential use and so on


Point #3:  In order to draw out to the greatest possible extent the capabilities of the municipalities, the "special zone" measures should be employed, established for a limited geographical area and time period.


For example, there is a recommendation that with regard to fisheries, which are important from the perspectives of regional economies and employment, fishery operators should on their own initiative collaborate with private enterprises and, insofar as utilizing the funds and the wisdom of the private sector is also effective in the revitalization of the fishing industry, a special zone should be utilized in order to create a mechanism that has its basis in an understanding of the region and enables corporate fishery operators from the local area to acquire fishing rights which are not subordinate to fisheries cooperatives.
In addition, the recommendations state that it is necessary to have a mechanism for easy-to-use block grants having a high degree of freedom under which it is possible to develop various types of policies and measures necessary for reconstruction.


Figure 2:  Image of the "special zone" measures


Point #4:  As for fiscal resources for recovery and reconstruction, the burden should not be passed on to the next generation.  The matter should be examined from various dimensions as a temporary tax increase, centered on core taxes.


Regarding fiscal resources for reconstruction, the recommendations say that the generations alive today should act in solidarity and line up resources through burden sharing, rather than passing the burden on to the next generation. On that basis, the recommendations indicate that, as a measure for temporary tax increases during the period when demand for reconstruction is high, a multifaceted examination should be conducted in a prompt manner, centered on core taxes, with concrete measures to be taken.


Point #5:  The nuclear accident should be brought under stable control at the earliest possible time, under the responsibility of the national government.


As for the nuclear disaster, the recommendations state that, under the responsibility of the national government, Japan should bring the nuclear accident to a stable condition at the earliest possible time and undertake in a thoroughgoing manner a full accounting of the causes of this incident and verification of the appropriateness of the response, in order to gain international confidence.  Moreover, through accurate information provision and continual information disclosure, Japan should bestow peace of mind and trust upon the people of Fukushima Prefecture and the Japanese people as a whole while restoring international trust towards Japan.


Urging responses towards Japanese food products and other goods that are grounded in a scientific basis

Photo 3:  Japan-China-ROK Trilateral Summit Meeting (May 21-22)


Point #6:  It is important that reconstruction be "open reconstruction"


Reconstruction of the disaster-stricken areas does not stop at the disaster areas themselves; instead, the disaster areas' creative acts will spread throughout Japan and furthermore to countries around the world.  The recommendations appeal for reconstruction to be "open reconstruction" of this nature.
For example, the recommendations indicate that by bringing about a sustainable, environmentally advanced region in Tohoku in a manner that leads the world, Japan will stand at the very forefront in the resolution of environmental issues and should constitute a model among mature advanced economies for the disaster reconstruction process.


Figure 3:  Image of a sustainable, environmentally advanced region (a "smart community")


Transitioning the recommendations into implementation, without neglecting a single word or line

... These "recommendations" have been conceptualized with the wish that the people in the disaster-affected regions will join together, united by tragedy, and, supported by nationwide unity and assistance, will shine the light of "hope" on the disaster-affected regions.  We strongly urge the government to take these "recommendations" with the utmost seriousness and to implement them conscientiously and expeditiously.


The recommendations close with the two sentences above.  The government will work to the best of its ability to bring about the contents of these recommendations.


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