Decision-Making, Policy Choices and Community Rebuilding after the Tohoku Disaster

Junko Mochizuki


The long-term reconstruction following the 2011 tsunami disaster has required extensive deliberation at all levels of government that is now redefining and redrawing the future of the region. Based on semi-structured interviews conducted with municipal government officials and community leaders in the cities of Miyako and Kesennuma in January 2013, this study identifies the ways in which local communities have defined, prioritized and adopted a set of objectives and measures for long-term reconstruction, and how these will likely to affect the disaster risk and community rebuilding in the coming years. Particular attention is paid to the debate surrounding tsunami defense measures, including the rebuilding of sea walls, the relocation of communities, and other land-use adjustments, and how multi-layered governance plays out in balancing the need for swift recovery, optimal resource allocation, and future disaster risk reduction. Since the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake, the national recovery policy has stressed the need to build ‘tsunami-resilient’ communities, envisioning the construction of multi-buffer tsunami defense systems characterized by coastal land-use restrictions based on nationally determined guidelines of relatively frequent to extreme rare tsunamis. While this hands-on approach by the national government has contributed to streamlining the reconstruction processes, limited opportunities for citizen participation have contributed to tensions among stakeholders, calling into question the community ownership of decision-making following a disaster.


Reconstruction Land-use Planning Tohoku Tsunami

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