The Kumamoto Earthquakes of April 2016 saw an unprecedented situation in Japan—earthquakes that registered as a 7 (the maximum) on the Japan Meteorological Agency's seismic intensity scale struck the same area twice. With more than 2,000 active faults crisscrossing Japan, it is essential for all regions and cities to assume that there is a possibility of being hit by a major earthquake and take steps to mitigate risks. This means the implementation of disaster-prevention measures as well as those that will enable the swift implementation of recovery and reconstruction measures following an earthquake disaster.
NRI has made recommendations to national and local governments in wide-ranging fields, including those related to policies for regional revitalization and disaster prevention. In relation to the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake (1995) and Great East Japan Earthquake (2011), NRI supported the drafting of the reconstruction plans of Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures, in addition to providing other assistance. These experiences are being leveraged to support the disaster-afflicted Kumamoto region in its earthquake reconstruction projects that aim for the implementation of creative regional-development measures.
Support of Reconstruction Projects and Recommendations on Policy Measures Provided to Kumamoto Prefecture and Mashiki Town
Shortly after the occurrence of the Kumamoto Earthquakes of 2016, NRI resolved that it would provide earthquake reconstruction assistance to Kumamoto Prefecture and its afflicted municipalities. Related initiatives and efforts are currently underway. Shingo Konomoto, NRI President & CEO, went to Kumamoto, visiting local authorities and afflicted areas to obtain a grasp of actual circumstances. After carrying out interviews related to reconstruction assistance, he felt certain that NRI's knowledge and experience would prove useful in the promotion of reconstruction projects, and Mr. Konomoto offered NRI's assistance in such matters.
The first assistance provided by NRI was the provision of support towards the formulation of Mashiki Town's basic policy on earthquake disaster reconstruction, and the drafting of its earthquake reconstruction plan. Mashiki Town was the hardest-hit locality in Kumamoto. Following such assistance, the next step will be the provision of support related to the promotion of reconstruction measures in accordance with the established policy and plan. The support provided by NRI will be centered around the aspect of software. Meanwhile, in regards to Kumamoto Prefecture, NRI will cooperate with project planning (regional development, infrastructure, industry, etc.) and support the realization of reconstruction that is based on public- and private-sector collaboration.
In addition to the above, NRI will carry out analysis and consideration of future administrative policies and measures related to disaster prevention and mitigation as well as earthquake proofing, as learned through the Kumamoto Earthquakes. NRI will keep publishing its recommendations to the Japanese government, the local governments of Kyushu, and the local authorities of other parts of Japan.
Provision of NRI's Diverse Expertise and Time-proven Experience
Why did NRI become involved in the provision of reconstruction assistance for the Kumamoto Earthquakes with such extraordinary speed? This was because we wanted to make use of the diverse expertise that NRI has accumulated through its involvement in policymaking in many different fields since the company's inception, especially that in relation to earthquake reconstruction and regional revitalization. Another reason was that NRI knew by experience that there is a need to embark promptly on the formulation of reconstruction plans with a view of an afflicted-area's future.
After the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake and the Great East Japan Earthquake, NRI provided full support for the formulation of the reconstruction plans of Hyogo and Miyagi prefectures. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, NRI immediately launched its Earthquake Reconstruction Assistance Project and made concrete recommendations, many of which were related to energy and industrial development. These are fields in which NRI has accumulated much expertise through its core businesses.
Thorough assistance was provided to Miyagi Prefecture in the formulation of its reconstruction plan. NRI was involved in the development of a 10-year roadmap that indicated the matters in which the prefecture should engage as well as the projects that should be realized for the post-earthquake reconstruction of Miyagi Prefecture. At the same time, NRI supported various endeavors to ensure that reconstruction activities would progress smoothly.
Regional Development Must Be Considered in Reconstruction that Follows a Major Earthquake Disaster
When a major earthquake disaster strikes, it is essential that the scope, seriousness and extent of the damage and resulting issues is swiftly understood. Expertise and knowledge in wide-ranging fields must be mobilized and concrete plans formulated promptly in regards to what will be done toward reconstruction and by when, and what the target future state will be. This is because a delay in initial response will delay reconstruction by that much. Various timespans must also be established in relation to the plan—in other words, decisions need to be made on what should be dealt with in the short-term, and what should be seen from a medium- to long-term perspective.
Another indispensable perspective is that of regional development. There is a need to obtain a grasp of actual local conditions while also understanding the structural issues that the region has had from before the earthquake. The region needs to be recreated in a form that is desirable for the people who live there.
NRI has commenced support for smooth realization of the reconstruction projects that town employees are engaged in by placing two NRI employees full-time in Mashiki Town. The town government is strongly putting forth the development of a reconstruction plan that complies with the views of its residents. To enable this, the opinions of as many residents as possible must continue to be heard in an administrative capacity. Continuing to listen to such opinions will make it possible to hear about not only immediate problems and requests but also draw out resident's thoughts on future regional development. Furthermore, questionnaire surveys of residents tend to bring out only individual opinions from individual perspectives. Therefore, to hear the regional opinion, NRI is supporting the hosting of a forum (regional development council) where residents and the municipal government gather to exchange opinions.
Residents often move homes during the reconstruction process. NRI believes supporting activities that help maintain community spirit and cohesiveness even after people have moved to a new location is important. NRI's supporting activities include the circulation of community notices and inviting people to attend festivals and events.
Proposal of an Innovative Project that Exemplifies the Principle of Creative Reconstruction
Kumamoto Prefecture needs to proceed with swift reconstruction. The focus is on such areas as agriculture and animal farming, which experienced a serious blow to production bases; the manufacturing industry, whose key buildings and equipment sustained heavy damage; and tourism, which lost two highly popular locations as destinations—the Aso area and Kumamoto Castle.
Kumamoto has essentially had economic strength, and considering its geographic location, had been expected to play a role as a disaster-prevention base for the Kyushu region. What is now important is that Kumamoto Prefecture's potential is maximized during the process of reconstruction so that strong regional development—one that makes it a symbol of earthquake reconstruction—is realized.
NRI will integrate its experience in projects that have had the national government, regional governments and private-sector as the target in relation to reconstruction and revitalization. NRI will support the development of epoch-making strategies and projects that will lead the pack in the realization of national measures for Japan's revitalization, including the "Enhancement of Productivity," "Utilization of IoT*1 and AI*2" and "Local Innovation*3" in Kumamoto.
With an understanding of the individual circumstances of local governments and the actual conditions of various industries of the region, NRI is committedly providing support that will lead to the creative reconstruction of Kumamoto. What is more, NRI will continue to communicate and make recommendations based on lessons that can be learned from the Kumamoto Earthquakes. The goal is their utilization throughout Japan in measures for coming face-to-face with earthquake disasters.
- *1 IoT
Abbreviation of Internet of Things. It refers to connecting various "things" to the Internet or to each other to realize information communication systems and services that carry out automatic recognition, automatic control, remote measurement, etc. There are expectations for a wide range of uses, such as in machinery and equipment maintenance, and healthcare data utilization.
- *2 AI
An abbreviation of Artificial Intelligence. It refers to the realization of machines with advanced intelligence like that of humans. The AI becomes able to analyze information, learn and make assessments on its own and is utilized in speech recognition, automated response, etc.
- *3 Local Innovation
The promotion of collaboration between academia, research institutes, private-sector businesses, financial institutions, etc., under a clear monetization strategy. Initiatives that draw out the earning-power of a region through the formation of a Japanese-style innovation ecosystem or provision of assistance to key companies in the region, etc., are carried out.
Nomura Research Institute, Ltd.
Corporate Communications Department