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POST GREAT EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: LESSONS LEARNED FOR JAPANESE LOCAL GOVERNMENT

POST GREAT EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: LESSONS LEARNED FOR JAPANESE LOCAL GOVERNMENT

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Key words: Great East Japan Earthquake, Local Government, Regionalism

Term paper prepared for Local Government Course – GSICS, Kobe University.
Key words: Great East Japan Earthquake, Local Government, Regionalism

Term paper prepared for Local Government Course – GSICS, Kobe University.

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Published by: Mizan Bustanul Fuady Bisri on Nov 09, 2012
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12/04/2012

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POST GREAT EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE: LESSONS LEARNED FOR JAPANESELOCAL GOVERNMENT
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 Mizan B. F. BisriGraduate School of International Cooperation StudiesKobe UniversityA. INTRODUCTION: GREAT EAST JAPAN EARTHQUAKE AND CONTEXT OF PAPER
Japan and its people always had been a benchmark for any nations in doing disaster management practices
2
. However, Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (
東日本大震災
,
Higashi Nihon Daishinsai 
) was so severe that it went far beyond the expectation and copingcapacity of the Japanese society (Okada et al, 2011). The earthquake occurred 14:46 JST on11 March 2011. The epicenter is located at 38.322°N and 142.369°E around 77 km off the
eastern coast of Japan’s Honshu
Island. According to the JMA, the magnitude of this quake was9.0 Richter scale.The earthquake thus induced gigantic tsunami which caused massive damage in the north-east coast of Japan with maximum run-up measured 39 m (Mimura et al, 2011). The coverageof total destruction was covering mostly Tohoku and Kanto area, while the most heavilydamaged prefectures are Iwate, Miyagi, and Fukushima. In addition, the official number of deathand missing persons was over 24 thousand people and more than 350 thousand lost their houses. The chain-reaction of the mega disaster became more complicated due to nuclear threat at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants. In sum the total direct economic losses estimated171
 –
183 billion USD, while cost for recovery reaches 122 billion USD
3
.It was not that the event was totally unthinkable because as of February 2011, Governmentof Japan in their document
4
outlined four very plausible major earthquakes to be occurred withinthis century
(that will hit different local government’s area throughout Japan)
; i.e. Tokai-
 
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Term paper prepared for Local Government Course
 –
GSICS, Kobe University
2
As mentioned by World Bank representative at International Recovery Forum, 20 January 2012, Kobe City. Author was attending the forum.
3
4
 
Disaster Management in Japan
, Cabinet Office
 –
Government of Japan, 2011 p. 25
 –
30.
 
 
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Tonankai Earthquake that will highly affecting Kansai and Shikoku area, Chubu
 –
KinkiEarthquake, Tokyo Inland Earthquake, and also the Vicinity of the Japan and ChishimaTrenches in which unfortunately happened the first last year in the form of the Great East JapanEarthquake. The central government through Central Government Disaster ManagementCouncil did prepared for this threats, however the local government, prefectural and municipalitylevel, at each respective area will always be the at the frontline to manage this risk withindecentralized system. Therefore, the main question raised in this paper is simple, what can beimproved by Local Governments in Japan, by taking lessons from the Great East JapanEarthquake?The preceding question will be linked specifically to the discourse of regionalization withinJapanese local government. Mainly the discourse is about to or not to abolished prefecturesystem and replaces it with regional autonomous body covering wider area, not only in thesense of changing the size of local government bodies, but also to bring possibility to haveinfluence in relationship between central and local government (Yokomichi, 2008). It is indeedthat the debate stretched in a long time-span (from pre-war period until present times), coveringprincipal issues such as region as administrative body or autonomous body, choices betweentwo or three tiers system, eight plausible type of regional systems, and so on. However, asYokomichi (2008:21) noted, various developmental issue can be brought about to be addedwithin the discourse. In this sense, Author would like to argue that disaster plausibly one of thereasons to
value that the “region” system, to some extent, might be
needed.The organization of this paper will be as follows, the first part is introduction, about thedisaster and context to the paper. The second part will provide briefly look at the institutionalsetting of disaster management system in Japan. It will be followed by third part which containslessons learned, mostly weakness captured due to the earthquake, and critics given from insideJapan as well as international community. Finally, the fourth part will provide recommendationsas to what extent region system can be beneficial, in which also includes views from abroad.
 
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B. INSTITUTIONAL SETTING OF DISASTER MANAGEMENT IN JAPAN
Disaster management in Japan designates municipality governments and prefectures as thelead agencies for preparedness, mitigation, response, relief and recovery. Local governmentsare the first responders, while the central government supports response resources. In Japan,the Disaster Countermeasures Basic Act mandated local governments to enact their own LocalDisaster Management Plan, based on Basic Disaster Management Plan by central government;that includes mitigation, emergency response, relief, and recovery (Cabinet Office, 2011:11). As a base for the plan, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism provides localgovernments with hazard maps, e.g. tsunami inundation projections. In addition, they also assistlocal governments in hazards determination, guidance on disaster scenarios, and produceddetailed tsunami inundation zone maps. Therefore, local governments are responsible for mitigation; i.e. design and construction of tsunami sea walls, preparedness activities such aslocal public education, evacuation planning, and selection of evacuation areas (Chang, 2011). At the time of disaster, the Japan Meteo
rological Agency (JMA) monitors Japan’s seismic
network, determines tsunami potential for earthquakes, and issues warnings thus estimates of tsunami wave heights. As response, it is the responsibility of local governments to issueevacuation orders and to initiate response and relief efforts. However, the national and localgovernments thus designed to be quickly collect and share disaster and damage information,and secure communications so that they can carry out effective emergency activities. Based onsuch information, local governments set up a disaster management headquarters and relatedorganizations establish their own operations mechanism.The national government collects disaster information hourly each day. By the time a large-scale disaster strikes, an emergency team composed of related ministries and agencies gathersimmediately at the Crisis Management Center located at Prime Minister's Office to analyze thedisaster situation. It thus followed by inter-ministerial meetings at the ministerial level to decide

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