From Kobe to Tohoku: Civic Responses to Disasters in Japan

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The Japan Foundation is pleased to present this special public seminar to mark the second anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

In our first talk, Dr Simon Avenell (Australian National University) will examine the role played by volunteers following the triple disaster. In particular, he will trace the evolution of disaster volunteering since the Kobe Earthquake of 1995, looking closely at the ways state and civic organizations have helped to build a robust and responsive disaster volunteer infrastructure. The presentation addresses three central issues. First, how did volunteering unfold in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake? Second, what did government officials and civic activists learn, and how did disaster volunteering develop in the years thereafter? And third, how did such learning and experience inform the post-3.11 response and what new trends emerged? Despite the substantial differences in scale and logistical complexity of the 2011 disaster compared to other recent natural calamities in Japan, evidence suggests that the volunteering experience of Kobe, coupled with intervening disaster preparation, proved crucial for government officials and civic activists who cooperated to organize a swift and efficient volunteering response after 3.11.

Following this, architect Dr Osamu Tsukihashi (Kobe University) will introduce his Lost Homes Project – an initiative through which local communities in the affected areas have collected and recorded memories of places lost to the tsunami so that they may be passed on to the next generation. Tsukihashi will explain how people’s memories give towns a special sense of place, and that it is this sense of place living on through memory that has become a source of psychological support to those in the affected areas. Tsukihashi will also explain how the act of recording and passing on collective memories of places destroyed by the tsunami is an indispensable part of the process of creating new living environments.

This event will be chaired by Dr Geoff O’Brien from the Disaster and Development Centre, Northumbria University.

Date: 29 March 2013 from 2.30pm
Venue: The Japan Foundation, London

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