Panel I: Disaster Risk Reduction Strategy
Japan leads the world in disaster risk reduction including preparedness and management (prevention and mitigation), as both the result and accident of its geographical and geological situation. Painful and costly lessons in the past have driven Japan to create one of the best funded, highly regarded and internationally connected research and development programmes in the world. This panel will look at how the country prepares for the worst and how it helps other countries with similar vulnerabilities. Disaster risk reduction and the nurturing of resilience is therefore contextualised as part of a wider global human security concern.
Preparation for disasters through legislation and regulation is important, but similarly strong governance, direction and oversight is needed to ensure that once a disaster hits, proper lines of communication and command crucial to saving lives. This is an area that is enormously difficult to get right all the time, but Japan through continuous improvement, has learned some hard lessons, and now shares these best practices internationally.
Natural Disasters have enormous human security implications, especially in developing countries which lack the infrastructure and resources of Japan. Experience in the rebuilding and reconstruction of devastated areas hit makes Japan an expert in the transferable skills required in post-conflict as well as post-disaster reconstruction.
Predicting natural disasters and early warning systems allow precious time for evacuation, and Japan has the world’s most advanced systems in place, technology that it is exporting to other countries which experience similar problems. This will look at technical achievements of disaster prevention and mitigation in Riken R-CCS.
Traditional wooden structures have survived some of the most vicious earthquakes but have always been vulnerable to fire. The emphasis on quantity and speed of construction in the post-war period has given way to a technology-driven concentration on quality, especially after the Kobe Earthquake of 1995. Better regulation and advances in materials have allowed Japan to develop structures that are strong, flexible, and fireproof.
Panel II: Resilience and Society
A country does not choose its geographical location, anymore than people choose their place of birth. Both are shaped by their surroundings, and this session will take a contrastive look at the development of belief systems and structures, as well as psychological coping mechanisms in societies where disasters are woven into the fabric of their lives. This panel will discuss the cultivation of resilience in individuals, institutions and society in Japan, with contrastive and comparative examples and how it is working with partners across the world to share its experience and best practices.
Both strength and transience are emphasised in Japanese society’s approaches to dealing with the surrounding environment that has consistently punctuated lives with natural disasters in Japan and around the world, looking at how people have developed an outlook on life that allows them to cope with crises.
Resilience is not just some innate quality, and while it may often be the outcome of trauma, it can be intentionally cultivated through education, and preparation.
In 1995, Kobe was among the busiest ports on earth when it was hit by a massive earthquake which caused extensive damage and loss of life. Despite this, Kobe recovered quickly to pragmatically concentrate on “creative reconstruction”, not only rebuilding to the pre-1995 state, but instead ambitiously using the disaster as a catalyst and opportunity for urban regeneration in much the same way that Tokyo, nearly 60 years before in 1923 had been rebuilt as a major global city. 24 years after the earthquake in the mid-nineties, the city has not only recovered but is now both greener, more attractive, and safer. Examples of redevelopment include the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, designed by Tadao Ando and which now stands as testament to regeneration, renewal and resilience. Many challenges still exist after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in the Tohoku area and efforts to overcome such challenges are underway.
Japanese businesses and the public sector have already been forced to adapt to the changing demographic situation. While Japan has not been without its well-publicised cultural problems for foreigners working in the country, reassuring that natural disasters should not be a major impediment to living and working in Japan is also an important challenge. This is especially so for universities that are responsible for the tens of thousands of international students studying in Japan.
While many advanced economies around the world are experiencing population slowdown both declining birth rates and an aging population, Japan is the first to experience population decline in the modern period. Its economy has shown resilience in the face of this existential threat. This has lead to an enormous amount of investment, research and development both in terms of artificial intelligence and robotics to be able to help make up the manpower shortfall in both work and in caring for the elderly.
Panel III: Resilience and the Globalising Economy
Japan boasts the world’s finest infrastructure and is known for the reliability, punctuality and safety of the transport and logistical systems that move people and goods around the country. As the world’s third largest economy, and home to the world’s first, third and fifth largest urban economic areas, the potential for economic disruption is enormous. However, this infrastructure has proven remarkably resilient in recovering from disasters. Now, long term demographic change is an ongoing issue which requires determination and resilience. In recent years, a new challenge to the Japanese economy has emerged; long term demographic change. Adapting to this new challenge will, again, demonstrate the resilience of Japan.
Businesses have shown themselves remarkably resilient to natural disasters. Supply chains can be disrupted in the short term, but long term efficiencies outweigh the potential for disruption, and in the long term Japan is a secure and stable place to do business.
Kansai markets itself as Japan’s gateway to Asia, and might also be considered Asia’s gateway to Japan. Over the past decade, inbound tourism has risen steadily as ASEAN countries and China have developed economically. This has helped Japan grow as a tourist destination and has had the positive effect of normalising relations in bigger cities between Japanese and foreign visitors. The country is predicted to see a continued growth in visitors from now until the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
Special Keynote Presentation: Tadao Ando
Tadao Ando is one of the most widely celebrated architects in the world. Among his many remarkable designs is the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, which Mr Ando designed in the aftermath of the Kobe earthquake of 1995. In addition to its beautiful, original design, the museum stands as a symbol of the resilience of Kobe, the Kansai region, and the Japanese people. Mr Ando endeavored to create not just a building to replace the wreckage of an earthquake, but a work of art to showcase other works of art, putting behind us the tragedies, and in front of us the beauties. In this special event, Mr Ando will share his thoughts on resilience, art, and his legendary career. This session will be moderated by his longtime friend and the Director of the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art, Dr Yutaka Mino.