Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management (AJEDM)

Volume 2 Number 3 (2010)

Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management 2010 2 3

doi: 10.3850/S1793924011000447

Japanese Experiences of Disaster Risk Reduction

Mikio Ishiwatari
Japan International Cooperation Agency, 5-25, Niban-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 102-8012 Japan.


This special issue of Asian Journal of Environment and Disaster Management is entitled 'Japanese Experiences of Disaster Risk Reduction'. This is the first documentation that holistically reviews the around 40-year history of Japanese international cooperation in disaster management covering governmental initiatives, official development assistance (ODA), civil societies, and academia. This issue explores the practices and lessons of Japanese experiences and challenges currently faced.

As many authors stress the Japanese has supported the efforts of developing countries to mitigate disaster damages based on Japanese experiences for nearly 2,000 years. Satoru Nishikawa reviews that Japan has led international initiatives including creation and implementation of Hyogo Framework for Action. Enormous disasters in Japan such as Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) Earthquake in 1995 were turning points not only for policy change inside Japan but also for the international initiatives.

A key lesson learned from the Kobe Earthquake is that government agencies have limited capacities in saving people, and that communities play a crucial role in disaster management. Hidetomi Oi et al. have led the policy transition of Japanese ODA from engineering-oriented approaches to comprehensive approaches including community-based disaster management. Mikio Ishiwatari points up that JICA added a community-based approach to conventional infrastructural rehabilitation following the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004, and further propose a practical method of disaster rehabilitation under collaboration with communities and NGOs. Yuji Okazaki et al.. argue the importance of strong human relationship created through conducting infrastructure projects of Japanese ODA in Indonesia where Japanese engineers had supported capacity building of Indonesian engineers.

This issue also discusses challenges faced. Hideaki Oda et al.. discuss the Japanese leading role of a High-Level Expert Panel on Water and Disaster, which shows new directions of assistance to decrease disaster damages in the world. Greater precipitation intensity and variability will likely increase the risks of flooding in many areas because of climate change. Kenichi Tsukahara reviews a new Japanese policy on climate change adaptation in water-related disasters focusing on multilayered measures in a river basin, and JICA projects in line with this policy.

Some 80% of human casualties, who were died instantly under collapsed old buildings, would have survived, if their houses had been retrofitted before the Kobe Earthquake. Kimiro Meguro has developed and implemented the low-cost technology of earthquake retrofitting in developing countries. At the Kobe Earthquake voluntary activities by civil societies in disaster management were widely recognized in Japan. Yuko Nakagawa et al.. review cases that Japanese NGO supports developing countries to their efforts in disaster management following the Kobe Earthquake. Kyoko Matsumoto et al.. discuss transboundary environmental impact assessment in the Mekong River.

The Japanese is often criticized because of limited information sharing with other partners. This special issue will help readers to understand Japanese contributions, approaches and challenges in disaster management. This special issue is the result of many collaborating parties. I gratefully acknowledge the assistance and opportunity provided by Dr. Rajib Shaw, Editor-in Chief of AJEDM.

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