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Feature: Five Years After 3/11

Knowledge and lessons from Japan have been used for supporting disaster recovery and disaster risk reduction in developing countries

Five years has passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011. Five years ago, JICA overseas and national offices received more than 3,000 warm messages from around the world.

JICA has been seamlessly supporting the recovery and reconstruction of affected areas, with the help of former JICA volunteers such as Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers. Immediately thereafter, support was centered on direct activities such as providing shelters for affected people to respond to urgent needs. And now, JICA has been making efforts on gathering reconstruction lessons, and spreading them at international conferences.

To repay supported countries' kindness of five years ago, Japan's experiences and lessons have been used at disaster recovery and reconstruction sites around the world. JICA also will continue making efforts on support based on the "build back better" concept.

Here we present JICA's efforts on the following:

  • reconstruction
  • support for the reconstruction of affected areas in the Philippines and Indonesia with the cooperation of Higashimatsushima, Miyagi prefecture, an area affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake
  • efforts at the UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, held in March 2015
  • support for disaster risk reduction through an invitation program for media representatives

We also present a message from JICA Tohoku, which is proceeding with support for recovery and reconstruction as a nodal point between affected areas of Japan and developing countries. 

1. JICA Tohoku

1-1 Message from JICA Tohoku

Since the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, JICA has found relevance between "Japan's recovery and reconstruction process" and "international cooperation." Now, it is gradually expanding its activities because of a basic principle of JICA placing importance on relationships.

Beginning with accommodating affected people in JICA's facilities in the Tohoku region and giving support to aid organizations from around the world, JICA's activities have been gradually gaining the understanding of local governments and residents, especially through the dispatching of Japan Overseas Cooperation Volunteers to affected areas, and the deploying of reconstruction facilitators to the Civic Center in Higashimatsushima.

This relationship of trust has now expanded to include receiving participants from around the world in the affected areas as part of a Knowledge Co-Creation Program, as well as activities between local governments of disaster affected areas in such places as the Philippines and Indonesia.

Five years have passed, and soft aspects have greater importance for reconstruction, not only hard infrastructure such as roads, rails and houses. Many activities including education and social welfare are still being carried out with civic collaboration to regain a normal daily life for affected people.

JICA Tohoku will think together with local governments and their residents to find ways to contribute to Tohoku and to the world, and to take steps toward the future.

March 2016

Tatsuya Murase, Director General, JICA Tohoku


1-2 Sharing lessons of affected areas around the world, and efforts on 'Build Back Better'

JICA Tohoku has published an English-language pamphlet highlighting how the region is leveraging synergy between its residents and those of developing countries to build more disaster-resilient societies in both places.

2. Aiming for 'Mutual Reconstruction' with Banda Aceh, Indonesia, an area affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami

Banda Aceh, Indonesia, is the area most affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami. Sharing its experiences of reconstructions, JICA has been supporting "mutual reconstruction" that brings advantages for both Banda Aceh and Higashimatsushima.

PhotoTraining participants Yuli Martunis, left, and Hafriza
(Photo credit: Atsushi Shibuya/JICA)

2.1 City employees of Banda Aceh participate in a one year training program in Higashimatsushima

From March 2013 for one year, two employees of Banda Aceh Municipality participated in a training program in Higashimatsushima. While sharing the reconstruction experiences of Banda Aceh with the people of Higashimatsushima, the participants learned about renewable energy, waste management, industrialization of agricultural and fishery products and more.

PhotoA method learned from the "Stitch Girls" project of Higashimatsushima is shared in Banda Aceh.

2.2 Enlivening both communities for revitalization and for reinforcement of disaster risk reduction

With the aim of revitalizing a community, Banda Aceh has started efforts on building disaster resilient community through methods learned from Higashimatsushima, such as the "basket fishing experience tour" and "Stitch Girls" project. It is expected that the learning experience of Banda Ache will be used for Higashimatsushima in the future.

3. Japan's Experiences and Lessons are Used in Leyte and Samar, Philippines, Areas Affected by Typhoon Yolanda in 2013

On Nov. 8, 2013, Typhoon Yolanda hit the Philippines. Higashimastsushima was carrying out its reconstruction plans. So, JICA asked Higashimatsushima for cooperation to use Japan's experiences and lessons for reconstruction assistance in the Philippines.

PhotoA survey team talks about support problems with Leopold Dominico Petilla, governor of Leyte Province, second from the left.

3.1 Survey teams dispatched to study cooperation problems

While emergency supplies were being delivered and the medical teams were in operation, an expert team for evaluating the damage and needs was swiftly assembled and deployed on the ground to assess the situation. Based on that assessment, JICA coordinated with the Philippines to focus on 18 local government units that were damaged by storm surges on the coastal areas of Leyte and Samar.

PhotoA submersible fish cage being installed in Basey, Samar province, the Philippines.

3.2 Deploying projects in wide areas toward reconstruction

When planning each project, JICA bears in mind support for life planning and revitalization of a community. Examples include support for technical instruction for the construction sector, and for recovery of livelihood for fisherman through introducing Japanese submersible fish cage technology.

PhotoA fisherman holds cultivated oysters in his hands.

3.3 Japan's technologies support revival of fishery farming

In February 2014, in response to the situation, JICA began a project called "The Project on Rehabilitation and Recovery from Typhoon Yolanda." To build a more disaster-resilient society and community, JICA asked Higashimatsushima and other cities in Miyagi prefecture for their cooperation on this project. Those cities have been working toward reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

4. Strengthening Cooperation with Higashimatsushima Toward Promotion of Regional Revitalization and Reconstruction


JICA has been working with Higashimatsushima to share its knowledge and lessons learned through the reconstruction process, and to disseminate them to the world.

On July 31, 2015, JICA and the government of Higashimatsushima signed on a Memorandum of Cooperation. It is to contribute to the development of developing countries, together with the promotion of regional revitalization and reconstruction in Higashimastsushima, through strengthening cooperation between international cooperation programs of JICA in developing countries and reconstruction programs of Higashimatsushima that aim to "build back better."

5. Spreading Japan's Experiences and Efforts to the World at international conferences

PhotoSendai Station greets people involved in disaster risk reduction from around the world.

5.1 Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai

From March 14 to 18, 2015, the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction was held in Sendai, Miyagi prefecture. Many public forums were held during the conference, and diverse actors including teachers, entrepreneurs, NPOs, local governments and former JOCVs sent messages from Sendai about the lessons of affected areas of the Tohoku region.

5.2 Gender and Diversity in Disaster Risk Reduction

From Feb. 22 to March 4, JICA carried out the first program following the concept "Gender and Diversity in Disaster Risk Reduction" presented during the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, in March 2015.

Twenty one participants from seven Asian counties participated in the program for disaster risk reduction measures with viewpoints from women, children and persons with disabilities. Participants visited the Tohoku region and exchanged opinions with local residents.

6. Inviting Journalists from Around the World to Encourage Disaster Risk Reduction and Mitigation Around the World

JICA has been carrying out the program "Invitation Program of Media Representatives to Japan," to deepen understanding of JICA's programs and Japan. It is hoped that that coverage of the experiences and lessons of the disasters by the participating journalists in their own countries will heighten awareness of disaster risk reduction, which will lead to less damage caused by natural disasters.

PhotoJournalists from around the world visit a temporary shopping street, in Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture.

PhotoParticipants report at Takano Kaikan, a hotel facility preserved as it was after the earthquake.


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