Awaji Conference Statement 2011

Awaji Conference Statement
12th Asia Pacific Forum, Awaji Conference Japan
Saturday, August 6, 2011

The 12th Asia Pacific Forum – Awaji Conference Japan was held at Awaji Yumebutai on August 5 and 6, 2011 with reports and active discussions under the main theme of "21st Century Renewal Strategy – Making Japanese Society Safe, Secure and Energetic."

Because of the sudden occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, issues related to disaster preparedness and reconstruction were looked at closely, in addition to the planned topics concerning welfare for an aging society, industry and culture that had been scheduled for the program from the very beginning. As such, a "double feature" of heated debates -- so to speak -- unfolded at the conference.

The point to make in any case is that Japan has made great strides in its history because of national crises. In 663, the Yamato Dynasty sent 28,000 soldiers to the Korean Peninsula to the aid of friend and ally the Paekche Kingdom, which was under attack by the Tang Dynasty and Silla Kingdom, only to be completely defeated. The news brought great shock on the home front and stirred fears of an imminent invasion by the joint forces of the Tang and Silla armies. Gripped by a sense of crisis, the Yamato Dynasty stationed troupes from the Tohoku area to Kyushu and Tsushima regions, built numerous forts and established a vast signaling system based on beacon fires. This sense of crisis spurred the creation of domestic structures inherent to a united nation.

But, more important than this were the harsh lessons learned Tang Civilization in the year following that heartening defeat. Having lost in battle, Japan realized just how superior the Tang Civilization was. This was after the fall of the Roman Empire, thus the Tang was, at the time, the highest level civilization in the world. Therefore, for the ensuing 50 years, Japan ardently learned from the Tang and eventually, in 710, built the Heijo-kyo Palace in the Nara Basin, as a miniature of the Tang capital, under the Ritsuryo Code. That fact showed Japan almost on par with the Tang Civilization. From that point forward, there was never a time when Japan was greatly inferior to the leading civilizations of the ancient world.

"The Tale of Genji," which is renown as one of greatest literary works of mankind, was written during the apex of Japanese culture of the Heian Period. Soon thereafter would come the Onin War and a tragic period of civil wars where blood was washed with blood. During this "Age of Provincial Wars" debuted a locally made matchlock gun known as the "Tanegashima" and, in just the 50 years that followed, Japan became the biggest producer and owner of guns in the world.

Despite the long years of war and non-governance, stabilizing forces came to the forefront as Japan was reunited under the rule of warlords Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu. During the peace of the Tokugawa Years, social rule, technologies, social policies, culture and literacy remained equal to the Western world.

Nevertheless, during its period of self-imposed isolation from the world, Japan fell behind the modern civilization of the West, which was progressing on the Industrial Revolution started in England. So, after the arrival of American warships, Japan struggled to learn the ways of the West while the isolationists and exclusionists amongst the populace pushed for independence via the barbaric practices that assaulted Westerners. After some 50 years of learning, Japan emerged victorious in the Russo-Japanese War. This marked modern Japan as the first non-Western society to have achieved a level similar to the West. Thus, Japan has always used national crises, whether they be external threats or natural disasters, to remake itself.

Having been embraced by a rich natural environment throughout time, the inhabitants of the Japanese islands have long made a living by farming and fishing. However, at times, this wondrous and plentiful environment has revealed its inner soul and unleashed havoc on the land. It is in times like these that the Japanese people have hunkered down to survive, and, once the typhoon or tsunami passed, right from the very next day, joined forces with diligence, while the sound of hammering being heard, repeatedly rebuilt the same homes from the trees, reeds and soil on the same places.

There have been exceptions to this pattern, however. After the Sanriku Tsunami of 1896, the mayor of a devastated town ordered "homes to be rebuilt on higher ground" as they "should not be built in low lying areas that were inundated." That order saved the descendants of those people from the most recent tsunami, but made residents pay dearly over the years in terms of convenience. Today, new housing developments can be seen on hilltops all across Japan and are a far cry from the inconvenience of the Meiji Era.

Things today suggest that we are about to make history again. There is little more that anyone can do in the face of a tsunami than to "flee." So, besides each individual fleeing to save him or herself, entire towns should be fleeing. Not only new compact residential districts need to be built on hilltops overlooking the sea but also schools, senior citizen homes, hospitals and general care centers. But, alas, that takes money. Though it is a delicate issue of whether massive amounts of money should be spent or not, in our report of the Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake, We have proposed moving to a hill as the most-desirable first line. But it is unable the large and various types of affected areas to integrate together. So we have proposed five lines and as a third approach "multiple lines of defense" that, in as far as geographical conditions would be permit it, instead of the plan of moving to hills in the same place, combine a variety of mitigation measures (seawalls, embankments, secondary levees, etc., with the relocation of residential homes inside the secondary levee system).

The following point was noted. "In the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, many of the victims worked for large corporations, which looked out for their employees' safety besides paying them a salary, therefore the only real problem one had was a place to live. However, in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, many of the victims worked in the primary, farming or fishing industries or were self-employed, so work was more of an issue than a place to live. Homes are obviously important, but rebuilding jobs is more important."

Looking back on the history of natural disasters, the unlucky trend has been to prepare for one type of disaster only to be struck by another type of disaster. In the realm of international relations, they say that "generals are always fighting the last war and diplomats negotiating the last peace conference." Focusing on one thing only is a sure recipe for failed expectations. In the commemorative lecture, Executive President Kaihara talked about Japan's big three disasters: the Great Kanto Earthquake, Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. If we compare and analyze these three disasters, there is much to be discovered.

The Great Kanto Earthquake began as an M7.9 quake with an epicenter in Sagami Bay. Tokyo was then rocked by a chain of three shallow earthquakes that sparked fires and spawned a complex disaster. Because of the earthquake, 10,000 people were crushed to death by collapsed structures, while another 90,000 perished in the fires, whose flames were fanned by strong winds. In the reconstruction process, a master plan to creatively build a capital worthy of the "Empire of Japan" was hammered out under the strong leadership of Shinpei Goto. Japan, which had been currently striving to learn from the modern world of the West, saw this as an opportunity to build a capital second-to-none of the leading nations of the West. Goto's plan was politically torn apart, but even in its greatly downsized version, the master plan for the capital area, housing complexes, urban planning, parks adjacent to elementary schools and many other points survived and became the foundation for a magnificent Tokyo and a model for cities all across the country.

In the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, 6,434 people died, some 90% of which were crushed to death when their homes collapsed. It was a very simple disaster in terms of character, as the earthquake was shallow and did not develop into a complex disaster. Perhaps had the wind been blowing strong, fires might have grown to the point of a complex disaster with burn victims as well. Had it struck later in the day, it may have evolved into a complex disaster with the Shinkansen and other trains falling from their elevated tracks. Or, had the active fault of the Arima-Takatsuki Tectonic Line been coupled in the shaking, the devastation may have been worse, but luckily it ended as a simple near-field earthquake.

In the aftermath, President Kaihara, who was the Governor of Hyogo Prefecture when the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake hit, called upon Hyogo Prefecture to look beyond Japan's year of high economic growth in order to creatively rebuild the area as a model for leading an economically advanced Japan where the population was aging. However, the central government did not share that idea and, though they would pay for restoration, they would not approve the use of national expenditures for anything more than rebuilding the stricken area back to the way it was. That stance assumes to beblamed for stripping Japan of its creativity and vitality that get birth to the "lost two decades." Though the central government did not support rebuilding the area better than it was before, Hyogo Prefecture turned to local efforts to found Awaji Yumebutai, HAT Kobe, the Kobe Medical Industry Zone, the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, the Hyogo Performing Arts Center in Nishinomiya and other initiatives that have become major assets to the area.

In the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, Kurihara City in Miyagi Prefecture was hit by a M7 earthquake, but no one died. This shows how strong Japan has become against earthquakes. Not only was the calm and disciplined behavior of the victims exemplar, but no one perished despite the M7 scale of the earthquake. Moreover, the earthquake early warning system was triggered and all ten of the bullet trains crossing through the three prefectures of Tohoku stopped without incident. How residents and communities reacted proved to be exceptional, but the ensuing tsunamis took the lives of more than 20,000 people and triggered a nuclear accident that spun the situation into a major complex disaster.

Japan's Self-Defense Forces, which sadly were late to mobilize in the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, fulfilled a vital role in rescuing people, clearing roads and transporting supplies in the initial moments, whilst transportation and communication systems were interrupted.

The Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake has been dubbed the "inaugural year of the volunteer" as some 1.3 million volunteers descended upon Kobe to help in whatever capacity they could. However, in the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, not even half of that number showed, largely because of fears over radiation, in addition to the geographical remoteness of some stricken areas. Nevertheless, the response was deemed more advanced than that available at the time of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, what with an NPO support system based out of Tono City, businesses and universities systematically sending volunteers, and wide-area coordination and support from local governments, which was spearheaded by Hyogo Prefecture.

Moreover, the Japanese government manfully welcomed aid from foreign countries, which it had hesitated to accept in the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, and rescue teams came from 28 countries. The US Armed Forces provided assistance, which proved to be key, through "Operation Tomodachi" with 20,000 soldiers. Australia's Armed Forces also provided transport support. Japan found itself in an awkward position of accepting help when, for years, it had been providing aid to foreign countries via ODA. Japan took a step forward by getting beyond the customary reaction of refusing help because it troubles the giving party.

If, however, like in the aftermath of the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, the central government had just funded the area's restoration only and let themselves fund the area's recovery, a pitiful result would have been waiting for the Tohoku Region. The Reconstruction Design Council in Response to the Great East Japan Earthquake felt that the nation and all of its people should do whatever they could. "Solidarity and sharing" are the fundamental principles of mulling support and preventing the people from abandoning the stricken areas. Nevertheless, if raising taxes is considered as a means to fund efforts, the government will all of sudden act slowly as is generally the case. This plan goes beyond that to explain to the people of Japan that survival starts by helping one another. It is hoped that those words and efforts will add to the rebirth of Japan as a whole.

Whether said to be "the lost decade" or "lost two decades," Japan is in a gradual state of decline. We, therefore, want to look at this very unfortunate disaster as an opportunity to end this scenario of a slow demise and jump-start the country on a path of vitality and success. We are seeking a scenario that will save the individual Japanese, as the whole population remains engaged and wanting to help the victims.

An important task of this Awaji Conference was to examine welfare for an aged society and ways to animate a welfare-heavy state. Japan is running head-long into an aged society. The same can be said of Korea, China and other Asian countries. Given the circumstances, building a welfare society model appropriate to Japan's situation could serve as a very useful reference for other nations.

As was pointed out in the keynote proposal, it was common in Japan up through the 1960s to die at home, but since the 1970s, people have been placing a great deal of faith in hospitals because of the care they receive. Because of the technological innovations in organ treatment, the belief is that one can get help by going to the hospital. It is now common practice to live out one's life and then breathe one's last breath under the watchful eye of doctors and nurses in a hospital environment. It is questionable, however, whether that is what people really want. What is important above and beyond hospital care is to lead a healthy rewarding life that places emphasis on disease prevention and maintaining one's health through good eating habits, exercise and care at home and in the community. It has even been suggested to, if at all possible, think about an active healthy life rather than a quick pain-free death that so many seem to cherish. This kind of community-based care is inseparable from efforts to form human networks.

For this type of new society, the welfare industry must be developed both in terms of hardware and software. Innovation is needed with both the hard and soft aspects. It has been argued that demand for the welfare industry could stimulate the economy and lead to an energetic welfare society. And, though it is generally accepted that a welfare state with a heavy welfare burden inevitably looses its growth potential, that has not been the case with Sweden and other examples in Scandinavia. Thus, the new argument is that progression to a welfare-heavy state is a precursor to high GDP and growth potential when handled properly.

A dwindling birthrate, which is the other face of an aging society, is a very serious issue in Japan's case, and requires a society that enables women to balance work and child-rearing. The way Japanese society is today, it can even be said prohibitive to raise two or more children, but a decision to shape society to support this kind of balance must somehow, somewhere be made. One factor that cannot be ignored in the case of Sweden's success is the healthy state of internationally competitive export industries, best represented by Volvo and Nokia. Industries such as these and strong internal demand for welfare are both elements that support an energetic society.

Since the population is rapidly aging, Japan does not have time to spare. Moreover, it remains a question whether, amidst this national crisis, Japanese society and politics can do something and whether the politicians can convince the people to bear that burden. This conference emphasized that, alongside public sector support, the problem lies with political will. It pointed to the importance of internal emotions and culture.

In the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, a flood of donations poured in, but the fact that musician and athletes staged event after event sent a very powerful message. The victims in the stricken areas have been encouraged by this. If Nadeshiko Japan (the Women's National Soccer Team) can win the World Cup, then the people in the stricken areas can also cry for joy. If that kind of empathy and emotion can be evoked, something inside can switch from OFF to ON and rejuvenate a person (or country). It was reported at the conference how young people will make a difference going forward since those who seemed so defensive and negative in the past changed and volunteered to help. People change. They are not closed up; they are connected to others, committed and upbeat. Happiness and salvation are in the heart. Society must be animated and teeming with those kind of feelings.

Japan has rich cultural traditions. In fact, the country ranks second behind Sweden in creativity index, which spans multiple fields including the arts, sports and scientific technologies. These wholesome traditions are key to turning ON new vitality in Japan. In short, this two-day conference taught us that this is a problem facing all of mankind. Modern-man -- and Japan for that matter – is a model of what it means to be obsessed with science and technology, but though we have thrown our support behind – for example – how Western medicine has pushed forward with organ treatment and prolonged lives as a result, we want to bring back the society that was patient-centric, centered on people and cared for the entire person including his/her soul. We newly recognized the importance of a convivial society that fully appreciates the entire person without detracting from our material and institutional foundations. It was pointed out that, to achieve this across all of society, the role of connecting various ideas has to be set in motion. Valuable suggestions were also presented on national systems that would encourage participation in society. In a nutshell, the conference discussed very serious issues concerning mankind and society, and presented a number of profoundly deep insights.

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