Mika Shimizu of Sophia University has an interesting article on the gaps in the Japanese disaster response process in the East-West Center Asia Policy Bulletin:

Prime Minister Naoto Kan speaking at the Headquarters for Emergency Disaster Response for the Great Tohoku Earthquake

Prime Minister Naoto Kan speaking at the Headquarters for Emergency Disaster Response for the Great Tohoku Earthquake (Source: Kantei)

However, the foremost policy lesson from this tripartite disaster centers on “social resilience,” which is the ability of local communities to maintain social cohesion and coordinate self-help initiatives in times of great upheaval. While individuals and communities, with assistance from volunteers and grass-root groups, were resilient amidst tremendous hardship, this disaster has demonstrated the lack of consideration for social resilience within Japanese public policies. Whereas Japan is known as a country well-prepared for disasters with strict building codes and the best technologies in the world, her traditional ad-hoc post-disaster response and “stovepipe” approach, in this case, prevented effective disaster management. Although the Prime Minister’s office has established more than twenty new offices to respond to the disaster since the earthquake, a pre-event well-understood, resilience-based and focused coordination plan would have helped manage a more effective post-disaster response. The critical lesson from this disaster for Japanese policy makers is that traditional disaster management plans are not adequate to deal with the emerging complex disaster risks that Japan faces today.

It makes for an interesting (and concise) read, so check it out.

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A former contributor to World Intelligence (Japan Military Review), James Simpson joined Japan Security Watch in 2011, migrating with his blog Defending Japan. He has a Masters in Security Studies from Aberystwyth University and is currently living in Kawasaki, Japan. His primary interests include the so-called 'normalization' of Japanese security (i.e. militarization), and the political impact of the abduction issue with North Korea.
James Simpson has 254 post(s) on Japan Security Watch