Japan as Test Case for a New Age: The Importance of Understanding Local Places

Memo #240

By Anthony S. Rausch – asrausch [at] cc.hirosaki-u.ac.jp

Japan faces an aging population and rural out-migration, a sluggish economy and drastic divisions between urban-rural economies, a critical techno-environmental catastrophe and vital debates regarding energy policy. A bleak set of problems, but also a fair representation of some of the issues the… Continue reading

Japan’s Soma City One Year after the Disaster (Video Interview with Dr. David W. Edgington)

Memo #138 – Dr. David Edgington has conducted research on Soma City, Japan, since last year’s earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. Soma City, one of many devastated communities, is a remote agriculture and fishing village along the coast and is a part of the Fukushima prefecture. Continue reading

Social Networks and Japan’s 3/11 Disaster

Memo #137 – Social networks matter. They help us find jobs. They influence whether or not we vote and if we gain weight or get buff. Long before last year’s nuclear disaster in Japan, electric power utilities worked with the central government to place atomic power plants in villages along the coast with weaker social networks. Continue reading

Japan One Month after the Earthquake (Video Interview with David Edgington)

Memo #72 – One month after the March 11, 2011 Japan earthquake, we followed up with Japanese geography expert David Edgington. He characterized the first month with emergency response, learning, and information gathering. He says most of the major infrastructure has been reconstructed. But getting food and essential services to those affected remains a constant challenge. In the second month, the recovery stage will begin. This includes removing massive amounts of rubble and improving the health of survivors. There will also be efforts to build temporary housing to accommodate about 150,000 survivors who are in evacuation centres, including school gymnasiums. Continue reading

Chinese Artist/Activist Ai Weiwei Detained

Memo #71 – Famous artist, tweeter, and critic of the Chinese authorities Ai Weiwei (艾未未) disappeared on April 3rd, 2011. This marks the latest in a series of arrests and detentions of human rights activists, bloggers, and lawyers in the Chinese government’s crackdown in response to fears of a jasmine revolution in China. Yet rather than having links to a ‘colour’ revolution, it is Ai’s self-assigned role as memory-keeper for the child victims of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake and obsessive recorder of state-sanctioned acts of violence and surveillance that has led to his detention. Ai Weiwei has taken on the time-honoured task of Confucian historian, allocating praise or blame or imperial censor critiquing a ruler’s shortcomings. His is a modern take on ancient roles: documenting abuses and criticizing injustices by using the internet and social media. Continue reading

Japanese Buddhism After the Earthquake: Memorials, Spiritual Comfort, and Emergency Response

Memo #69 – On the 7th day after the earthquake, at precisely 2:46 p.m., sirens rang out along Japan’s northeastern coast. Millions paused, placing their palms together and bowing their heads to remember those who were lost. In the Japanese Buddhist funerary cycle, the living perform rites for the dead every 7th day, continuing until the 49th day after death. Spirits of the deceased are believed to spend 49 days traveling to their next rebirth. As communities transition to harsh new realities, Japanese Buddhist groups are hard at work in expected ways, performing memorials for those lost and comforting those displaced. Perhaps unexpectedly, they are also organizing an effective emergency response. Continue reading

Former Canadian Ambassador to Japan on the Crisis (Video Interview)

Memo #66 – In an exclusive interview, Joseph Caron discusses the crisis in Japan. As former Ambassador to Japan and Honorary Professor at the Institute of Asian Research, Caron is in a position to evaluate bilateral relations between Canada and Japan following the recent earthquake, tsunami, and problems at the Fukushima Dai’ichi nuclear power plant. Caron notes that the government of Canada has already offered a great deal of support to Japan and may be asked for their expertise on such things as urbanization and construction codes once rebuilding begins. Moreover, he hopes that Canada and Japan can sustain strong political relations during what may be a period of political uncertainty in Japan. Continue reading

UBC Japanese Geography Expert – Full Video Interview

Memo #65 – UBC Japanese geography expert, Dr. David Edgington, compares the earthquake that struck Japan on March 11, 2011, dubbed the “Sendai Regional Earthquake,” with the Great Hanshin Earthquake of 1995. In his view, the Japanese government’s response to the Sendai Regional Earthquake is a textbook example of emergency response, indicating there have been lessons learned from Kobe. Continue reading

Lessons from Rebuilding Kobe after the 1995 Hanshin Earthquake

Memo #40 – The Great Hanshin earthquake devastated Kobe on January 17, 1995, leading to 6000 deaths and the destruction of over 200,000 homes. Beyond immediate reconstruction and recovery, the book, “Reconstructing Kobe: The Geography of Crisis and Opportunity” examines the long-term planning implications of the disaster. What were the city’s objectives in rebuilding urban areas? How were the hundreds of thousands of displaced people housed? How was Kobe’s urban economy affected? Continue reading