Organized Panel Session
Nine (9) years have passed since the 9.0 magnitude earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns took the lives of more than 18,400 residents across Japan’s northeastern region. Nearly a quarter million people fled their homes, and to this day some 30,000 are still unable to return near the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant complex. The central government has argued that the 2020 Olympics are a sign that Japan has recovered and moved on. Not all Tohoku residents agree.
Our panel brings together scholars and practitioners from different fields - including law, public policy, regional planning, and cultural anthropology - to challenge standard narratives of recovery and resiliency. Based on 13 months of ethnographic research, Vainio finds that compact city plans threaten social relations, daily life management, and connections with the sea. Matanle and Littler, drawing on engineering and social science, argue that the government incrementally strengthened Tarō’s tsunami infrastructure but did not engage global warming. Lahournat, using extensive fieldwork and interviews, explores the balancing act of living heritage revival as an asset to disaster-affected communities as a process that reconciles the needs of a weakened, often scattered, community and preservation of traditions. Iuchi’s study underscores that the speed of recovery is not the only factor that contributes to local revitalization; places to shop, educate, and leisure are important for driving return.
Taken together these papers push decision makers and scholars to challenge standard definitions of resilience and reconstruction and to extract more nuanced findings from claims about recovery and rebuilding.