Greetings from the President

Since the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the Japanese Archipelago seems to be in a seismically active period as indicated by earthquakes frequently occurring these days such as the Great East Japan Earthquake and last year’s earthquakes in Kumamoto and Tottori. At the same time, the whole world is now suffering intensification of windstorms and flood damage caused by climate change. In addition, the countdown for the next mega disaster such as a major earthquake in the Nankai Trough and a massive earthquake directly hitting Tokyo seems to have begun.

With this background, the Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st Century Research Institute (Hem21) has been holding the 21st Century Civilization Symposium across Japan with the support of the Asahi Shimbun. We also have been hosting the General Conference of Anti-Disaster Measures for the Local Government in Kobe and other prefecture alternately and hosted together with the Yomiuri Shimbun since last year to disseminate know-how and other useful information on how to be prepared in the age of frequent disasters throughout the country.

President Makoto Iokibe

Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st
Century Research Institute

President Makoto Iokibe

The Hem21 newly established the Research Strategy Center in April this year in order to realize strategic coordination of leading research. The launch of the new research institute now forms the foundation of our research activities together with the two existing institutes: the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institute, a research center that also serves as a museum; and the Institute for Traumatic Stress that is indispensable for a mature society. Harnessing these three institutes, the Hem21 places a high priority in research activities on creating safe and secure communities to contribute toward preparing for a mega disaster that might cause a national crisis. We also conduct research on realizing a society of coexistence in consideration given to changes in the social structure due to an aging and shrinking population. Furthermore, we have launched a compilation project on the history of Hyogo Prefecture under the commission of the prefecture to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2018.

The Hem21 will continue seeking improvements in its various projects such as those aimed at sharing the experience and lessons learned from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, intellectual exchange programs with various research institutes, and human resource development projects. We sincerely look forward to receiving your continued cooperation and support for the Hem21’s activities.

Iokibe Makoto, President, Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st Century Research Institute
Ido Toshizo, Governor, Hyogo Prefecture

It's been 20 years since the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. To mark this milestone, Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st Century Research Institute President Iokibe Makoto talks with Governor Ido Toshizo about the progress that has been made in restoration and reconstruction and the role that Hyogo can play because of its experience with earthquakes. Iokibe Makoto is a former professor of law at Kobe University and president of the National Defense Academy. He served as chairman of the Cabinet Office's Reconstruction Design Council and the Reconstruction Agency's Reconstruction Promotion Committee following the Great East Japan Earthquake. He has been the President of the Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st Century Research Institute since April of 2012.

(Hyogo Prefecture Public Relations Specialist Yoneda Yumi serves as moderator)

Yoneda: Happy New Year. Please tell us what events from last year made an impression on you.

Governor: First would be the landslide damage to Ichijima Town in Tamba City during the heavy rains last August. Since there are many sediment disaster special alert areas in the prefecture, we need to hasten the establishment of countermeasures such as check dams. Another would be the unfortunate incident in Kobe's Nagata ward. We need to further expand the placement of security cameras and security lighting. Third would be the designation of Kansai as a National Strategic Economic Growth Area and City of Yabu as a rural area agricultural reform special zone. As a leading region of Japan, we need to capitalize on these steps. Finally, there was the unfortunate death of my predecessor, former Governor Kaihara Toshitami, in a traffic accident. No doubt he would have regretted dying just as we had almost reached the twentieth anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, but it's also unfortunate for the rest of us. It made me even more determined to do all I can for disaster prevention and mitigation.

Yoneda: What are your thoughts, looking back on the twenty years since the earthquake?

Governor: The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Reconstruction Plan (Hyogo Phoenix Plan) was drawn up six months after the earthquake. The “creative reconstruction” incorporated into that plan sought to not just recover what had been before but to establish a vision of the region that looked forward to a 21st Century society. A three-year priority reconstruction plan was also created for infrastructure, housing, and industry. The theme of reconstruction changes over time, however. The response immediately following the earthquake focused on emergency evacuation measures. Then after a little while emergency measures such as temporary housing became necessary. And once that had calmed down, the focus shifted to measures necessary for stable living such as permanent housing and industrial reconstruction. During the heyday of reconstruction, it became increasingly important to have a comprehensive approach including promoting cultural elements. The Nojigiku Hyogo National Sports Festival and Nojigiku Hyogo National Sports Festival for People with Disabilities held in 2006, eleven years after the earthquake, were symbols of comprehensive reconstruction.

Iokibe: I remember that we spoke of "3-3-10" at the time. Three months of emergency recovery, three years of infrastructure reconstruction, and ten years for the entire effort.

Governor: Yes. The challenges afterwards, once that ten-year period was over, were reconstructing the lives of the victims, returning life to communities, and providing emotional and psychological support. These are issues that are difficult to resolve all at once and ones that we still face. We’ve gotten where we are today groping forward without any model to follow.

Yoneda: The Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st Century Research Institute has been conducting comparative research of the three great earthquakes, right?

Iokibe: 6,437 people died or went missing in the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. In comparison, about 20,000 died or went missing in the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake. Both of these were surpassed by the 105,000 who died in the Great Kanto Earthquake. The reason for the large difference in the number of deaths was fire. The Great Kanto Earthquake struck just before noon, as everyone was at their stoves making lunch, and unfortunately there were gusts of wind blowing that day. That’s why, although 15,000 were killed by the earthquake itself, 90,000 died because they were caught up in fires. The power of the ocean is scary, but fire is something even more frightening: even though Japan's cities are now modern ones, it's difficult for us to predict how much our safety against a firestorm has been improved.

Governor: While the Hanshin and Awaji areas suffered damage over a belt-like zone, damage in eastern Japan is spread over a wide area. The difficulty that the damaged areas of eastern Japan face is how to rebuild places in the middle of nowhere. Therefore they have no choice but to use different methods than we did.

Iokibe: Another difference is that, at the time of the earthquake, Hyogo prefecture had an unusually strong local government. It had prepared plans for various possibilities and was also strong industrially, so it had a high ability to respond. But in the case of eastern Japan on the other hand, there were many sparsely-populated regions spread out over an extremely wide area and the size of each local government was comparatively small. They've shown diverse, widely-different forms of reconstruction.

Governor: Because the damage from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake was centered within the prefecture, the response was a thoroughly locally-focused one. But since the damage from the Great East Japan Earthquake was spread over five or more prefectures, a national organization, the Reconstruction Agency, was created. I have a feeling that being able to respond independently is quite different from working under the guidance of an intermediary like the Reconstruction Agency. Also, in Hyogo, we created the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Reconstruction Fund to aid independent reconstruction efforts. Since interest from the fund went to restoration and reconstruction projects, we were able to undertake things quite freely, in accordance with actual local conditions.

The disaster taught the importance of mutual assistance, or “kyojo”

Governor: A characteristic of the Hanshin-Awaji reconstruction was the way that we were able to respond comprehensively as we rebuilt people’s lives. As we now face an aging society with fewer children, I think it's significant that we formed a system for watching over the elderly with effort of all people in the region. Another characteristic was the volunteers: 1.4 million people came from all over the country to help us. That made us aware of the importance of having intermediate support there, preparing a framework in which the volunteers could easily operate. I think it can be said that basic functions and activities of modern-day volunteers naturally developed at that time.

Yoneda: There were also projects of symbolic importance for the reconstruction.

Governor: Yes. For example, we established a number of organizations related to disaster reduction at HAT Kobe area in Kobe's Chuo ward such as the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution and a UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction office. We also built “disaster reconstruction public housing” and afterwards redeveloped it into residential areas, so there are essentially no vacant lots now in HAT Kobe area. We also built cultural facilities related to the arts such as Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art in HAT Kobe and Hyogo Performing Arts Center in City of Nishinomiya as symbols of reconstruction. Material things alone aren’t enough to help people stand up. You have to maintain the feeling that "we absolutely will rebuild," and the power of arts and culture boosted that. Finally, the Kobe Luminarie, held with the intent of allowing people to experience lights of hope for the future and peace for the dead, continues to cheer people on with the warm brightness of the city at the end of the year.

Iokibe: It's hope that allows people to keep going even amidst the depths of a massive disaster. And in that sense, I think that “creative reconstruction” was a hope that supported people and encouraged them. I'd like to list the three great legacies of the earthquake: the first is HAT Kobe, based around the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution. Museums are occasionally created in memory of a disaster, but the establishment of the Hyogo Earthquake Memorial 21st Century Research Institute, a think tank researching how to "create safe and secure communities" and protect people from disaster, there is something quite unique in history. The second is Awaji Yumebutai with its conference center and hotel. The vacant land where earth had been taken away turned into a beautiful park there. The last is the Hyogo Performing Arts Center. I think we should show great respect for and take pride in the Hanshin-Awaji reconstruction and the way that it didn't lose the will to create something that could be assets for people, both materially and spiritually.

The experience of creative reconstruction lives on in supporting disaster areas

Yoneda: You served as chairman of the Reconstruction Design Council following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Iokibe: I was also a victim of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, having lost my home in Nishinomiya. An acquaintance from Hiroshima took in my wife and daughter and I went to see them when work allowed. My daughter was in elementary school at the time, and the older girls from the neighborhood came to meet her. As I watched them from behind as they happily went to school together, I found myself crying without realizing it. I felt "Kobe isn't alone." "Everyone in the country is warmly supporting us." I took that experience as my starting point as chairman and made "Don't forsake the damaged areas," "We’ll get through this with support from the entire country," and "Do all we can" the fundamental principles of the council. Our goals were to emphasize creative reconstruction in eastern Japan as had been done in Hyogo and to support things so as to create a model for advanced communities.

Yoneda: The experience of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake was useful in providing support for the disaster areas here as well.

Governor: Yes. Since the worse the disaster, the greater the tendency for people, support, and money to become concentrated in one place, the Union of Kansai Governments adopted a counterpart system for dividing up support on a regional basis: Osaka and Wakayama for Iwate; Hyogo, Tottori, and Tokushima for Miyagi; Kyoto and Shiga for Fukushima. I think this made it possible for us to respond in an agile, continuous manner. Even now, there are 208 people from the Union of Kansai Governments, including 142 employees of local Hyogo governments and members of the prefectural police, currently dispatched to and working in affected areas. These include community development groups and consultants, and nurses, musical therapists, and horticultural therapists for emotional and psychological support. There are also almost 300 volunteer buses running, and general volunteers are providing encouragement. As past victims of disaster, we always take getting close to those suffering as a fundamental principle and will continue to support them.

Iokibe: I think that mutual support between local governments will be the new phenomenon that results from the experience in eastern Japan, just as the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake served as a sort of “Year 0” for volunteers, in which it could be said that volunteerism, as we know it today, began then. It was the Union of Kansai Governments that pioneered that approach, and that's why it has become a larger movement. The tendency in Japanese society to wait for requests to be made is a strong one; there's an assumption that you have to wait until an affected area has requested help. But in truly difficult situations, those affected areas can't even get the word out.

Governor: That's right.

Iokibe: In that situation, those who experienced the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake were able to act based upon their own experiences: "We understand even without being told. You'll need this first, then after a while you'll probably need this." This was extremely important.

Governor: The heavier the damage, the less information there is. So rather than waiting for information, you need to go get it. That's a cardinal rule.

To pass their experience on to the next generation

Yoneda: More than 40% of the current population of Kobe, which suffered major damage during the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, didn't experience the disaster.

Iokibe: There are things that make me think that the leaders of Hyogo's affected areas may have foreseen such a situation from the beginning. People gather on January 17 before daylight and light candles, and there's a museum where the children of the next generation can see, feel, and experience what it’s like to try to pull oneself together. It's important to work hard to properly record, communicate, and pass on that great shock to future generations.

Governor: As part of the 20th anniversary of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, we’ve been developing an effort over the period from last April to this March based around what the people of Hyogo would like to communicate on the themes of "sharing lessons learned," "preparing better for disasters," and "implementing innovative solutions"; over 800 projects have been registered. There’s also an event called "Disaster Reduction Koshien" held every year in which junior high and high school students compete in routine disaster reduction activities, with the same intensity that high school baseball teams compete at Koshien Stadium every spring and summer. At Hyogo Prefectural Awaji High School, the first award recipient, the students record the experiences of survivors and, combining them with storyteller functions, call for disaster reduction training in their area. January 17 has also been designated "Hyogo Safety Day" and a variety of events are held with participation by the general public. The top goal is strengthening the power of the citizens. Safety can't be guaranteed unless people assume it’s up to themselves to protect their own lives. It's said that 35,000 people were buried alive during the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, but the majority were saved by their neighbors.

Iokibe: Yes. 80% of those saved were rescued on the day of the disaster; voices faded away every hour. After the earthquake I took on the responsibility of asking those responding what they were doing when the earthquake struck and recording their answers for posterity. The superintendant of education for Nishinomiya at the time said that "there was a clear difference between those areas where there were a large number of people rescued and those where there weren't." Asked what accounted for the difference, he said that "it depended on whether or not they had a local festival." In those places where there was a festival, everyone in the area gathered together every year and got to know one another. So when the earthquake struck, someone would say "I think that old woman was probably in that building" and everyone would go off looking for her. But it was clear that in the big city where few people knew their neighbors, people died without anyone being aware of it.

Governor: Whether relationships of mutual assistance have built within an area or not is important. Following the earthquake, we asked that independent disaster reduction organizations be formed at the neighborhood association and elementary school district level, and now about 95% have one. It's not enough to just organize, however. You need to always be drilling so that when an emergency comes you're able to divide up and make actual use of the organization's strength.

Iokibe: Even during the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, there were examples of leaders who were able to make use of their organizations. There was the dorm for Kobe University of Mercantile Marine (what is now the Faculty of Maritime Sciences at Kobe University) in Higashinada Ward in Kobe, for example. Right after the earthquake, the students saw that the area had suffered catastrophic damage and immediately moved to help. They were stopped by the dorm superintendent, however, who made sure they were well-equipped first. Since they were broken up into teams and given designated areas, the students were able to rescue 100 people in a single day. Even though they weren't able to do much on the first day, the Self-Defense Forces saved 165 people. It shows the importance of people working together with their neighbors in an organized fashion.

Governor: Disaster reduction training is held in the prefecture on a regional basis. It's necessary to prepare through regular drilling so that your body moves naturally when the time comes.

Yoneda: The "miracle of Kamaishi" during the Great East Japan Earthquake shows the importance of preparing for disasters.

Iokibe: In Kamaishi, there were extremely few victims among elementary, junior high, and high school students. That’s because, in that area, they passed on the knowledge they had gained from experience; it was taught at school that "When there's an earthquake, you should run to safety by yourself. And make sure your family understands this."

Towards a safe, secure society prepared for the next disaster

Governor: In June we made the damage projections for an earthquake and tsunami from the Nankai Trough public. They were 29,000 dead and 37,000 buildings completely destroyed if it strikes at noon during the summer. But if earthquake and tsunami countermeasures are followed closely, the number of tsunami victims can be reduced and total number of deaths will be just 400. And if earthquake strengthening progresses by a certain amount, the damage to buildings can be reduced to a third, to about 12,000 destroyed.

Iokibe: There's no limit to disaster reduction. It's important to keep building up specific efforts one by one, endlessly improving our countermeasures.

Yoneda: The Hyogo Mutual Aid System for Housing Reconstruction (Phoenix Mutual Aid System) was expanded as a preparation for housing last year.

Governor: There was a lower 6 magnitude earthquake on Awaji the April before last. Since there were a large number of partially destroyed buildings, about 9,000 of them, we added a special provision for them. The Mutual Aid System for Housing Reconstruction is for being prepared ahead of time for damage from natural disasters like torrential rains and typhoons as well, so I would like everyone to join the system. It can also be thought of as an advance monetary donation in that it helps someone when a disaster happens.

Yoneda: Finally, I'd like to hear your hopes for the New Year.

Iokibe: I want Hyogo to be a pioneer in preparing for the next major disaster. Not just so that we'll be safe, but in a way in which, when something happens, people will say "we sure can count on Hyogo." As for Japan as a whole, it’ll be 70 years since the end of the war. The last twenty years are sometimes referred to as Japan's "lost decades," but I hope this will be year where the energies of renewal are fired up.

Governor: I want this to be the year where we start thinking about how to build a safe and secure society in the years ahead. I want to join with everyone in the prefecture in setting a new post-earthquake goal of "A Safe Hyogo." In terms of economics, we need to make the business recovery a sure thing in a real sense. Also, I hope Hyogo will make a start as a leader in regional creativity: by enhancing safety and welfare, in terms of industrial vibrancy and human development, and by playing a role as a recipient in the correction of the overconcentration of people and business in Tokyo.