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Trust deficit: Japanese communities and the challenge of rebuilding Tohoku

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Abstract

Trust between civil society and the state is a necessary pre-condition for successful public policy in advanced industrial democracies. It is all the more important following a mass catastrophe that affects hundreds of thousands and upends the rhythms of daily life across the country. Choices made by the Japanese government and energy utilities during and after the compounded 11 March 2011 disasters damaged relationships between civil society, utility firms, and the government. This article looks at how decision makers in Japan continue to struggle with a trust deficit and how that gap has altered the behavior of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society as a whole. Residents will continue to resist what they see as flawed disaster recovery and nuclear restart processes unless the political system undergoes major reform.
... A few studies have investigated postdisaster trust. These studies have found that trust in government may decline following a disaster if the communication between a government and its people is insufficient or if the government is believed to be inefficient (Aldrich 2017;Horne 2018;Menzel 2006). However, trust may return to its original level when society has recovered from a disaster (Nicholls and Picou 2013;Uslaner 2016). ...
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This study investigated the effects of social determinants and resource distribution on trust in government after a disaster. This involved an analysis of four waves of the Social Impact and Recovery Survey of Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan. The statistical method adopted was the latent process mixed model for multivariate longitudinal outcomes. Trust scores were assigned to four levels of government, and social determinants were chosen to represent resource distribution in predisaster situations. This study also included resource distribution after the disaster. The results indicated that ethnicity was a more prominent issue than education and income. Regarding resource distribution after a disaster, resource gain and resource loss were both significant in shaping trust in government. The results also suggested that over the long term, resource gain more greatly affected trust in government than resource loss. Additionally, resource loss was crucial for the government at more local levels in gaining people's trust. This study recommends that a postdisaster model of trust in government must prioritize resource distribution both before and after a disaster.
... Nevertheless, questions arise as to whether, by constructing defences to prevent a recurrence of the previous disaster, the authorities are adequately imagining and preparing for a changing future. Indeed, there is already evidence of a public trust deficit in the effectiveness of the reconstruction (Aldrich, 2017;Aldrich & Sawada, 2015;Bird, 2013;Strusi ska-Correia, 2017). ...
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Following the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster of 11 March 2011, the Japanese government began constructing a series of 440 seawalls along the northeastern coast of Honshu. Cumulatively measuring 394.2km, they are designed to defend coastal communities against tsunami that frequently strike the region. We present a case study of the new seawall in Tarō, Iwate Prefecture, which had previously constructed massive sea defences in the wake of two tsunami in 1896 and 1933, which were subsequently destroyed in 2011. We ask whether the government has properly imagined the next disaster for the era of climate change and, therefore, whether its rationale for Tarō's new seawall is sufficient. We argue that the government has implemented an incremental strengthening of Tarō's existing tsunami defence infrastructure. Significantly, this does not anticipate global warming driven sea level rise, which is accelerating, and which requires transformational adaptation. This continues a national pattern of disaster preparedness and response established in the early 20 th century, which resulted in the failure to imagine the 2011 tsunami. We conclude by recalling the lessons of France's Maginot Line and invoke the philosophy of Tanaka Shōzō, father of Japan's modern environmental movement, who urged Japanese to adjust to the flow (nagare) of nature, rather than defend against it, lest they are undone by the force of its backflow (gyakuryū).
... Nevertheless, questions arise as to whether, by constructing defences to prevent a recurrence of the previous disaster, the authorities are adequately imagining and preparing for a changing future. Indeed, there is already evidence of a public trust deficit in the effectiveness of the reconstruction (Aldrich, 2017;Aldrich & Sawada, 2015;Bird, 2013;Strusi ska-Correia, 2017). ...
Article
Full-text available
Following the Great East Japan earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster of 11 March 2011, the Japanese government began constructing a series of 440 seawalls along the north-eastern coast of Honshu. Cumulatively measuring 394.2km, they are designed to defend coastal communities against tsunami that frequently strike the region. We present a case study of the new seawall in Tarō, Iwate Prefecture, which had previously constructed massive sea defences in the wake of two tsunami in 1896 and 1933, which were subsequently destroyed in 2011. We ask whether the government has properly imagined the next disaster for the era of climate change and, therefore, whether its rationale for Tarō’s new seawall is sufficient. We argue that the government has implemented an incremental strengthening of Tarō’s existing tsunami defence infrastructure. Significantly, this does not anticipate global warming driven sea level rise, which is accelerating, and which requires transformational adaptation. This continues a national pattern of disaster preparedness and response established in the early 20th century, which resulted in the failure to imagine the 2011 tsunami. We conclude by recalling the lessons of France’s Maginot Line and invoke the philosophy of Tanaka Shōzō, father of Japan’s modern environmental movement, who urged Japanese to adjust to the flow (nagare) of nature, rather than defend against it, lest they are undone by the force of its backflow (gyakuryū).
... 14 See DiNitto (2014) and Hein (2014). Aldrich (2017) and Reiher (2017) examine the erosion of trust in the Japanese government, largely as a result of misinformation spread after the Fukushima disaster. Essays in Hindmarsh (2013) examine social, political and environmental effects of the disaster. ...
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Examining a wide range of Japanese videogames, including arcade fighting games, PC-based strategy games and console JRPGs, this book assesses their cultural significance and shows how gameplay and context can be analysed together to understand videogames as a dynamic mode of artistic expression. Well-known titles such as Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Street Fighter and Katamari Damacy are evaluated in detail, showing how ideology and critique are conveyed through game narrative and character design as well as user interface, cabinet art, and peripherals. This book also considers how ‘Japan’ has been packaged for domestic and overseas consumers, and how Japanese designers have used the medium to express ideas about home and nation, nuclear energy, war and historical memory, social breakdown and bioethics. Placing each title in its historical context, Hutchinson ultimately shows that videogames are a relatively recent but significant site where cultural identity is played out in modern Japan. Comparing Japanese videogames with its American counterparts, as well as other media forms, such as film, manga and anime, Japanese Culture Through Videogames will be useful to students and scholars of Japanese culture and society, as well as Game Studies, Media Studies and Japanese Studies more generally. Read a review of this book: https://www.manchestergamestudies.org/blog/2019/8/20/japanese-culture-through-videogames
... employment, socialization, and volunteering) (Burd-Sharps & Lewis, 2012). Disengagement among underserved populations, which was exacerbated by the Great Recession, compounds the already substantial problems that individuals and families endure in seeking opportunities for engagement: crime (both as perpetrators and victims), limited access to high quality education and health care services, greater need for public assistance, social exclusion (limited stocks of bridging social capital), poor mental health services (Bassler, Brasier, Fogle, & Taverno, 2008), and lack of trust between citizens and those with authority to distribute resources (Aldrich, 2017;Chung et al., 2009). Trust deficit feeds into low levels of community participation by those who feel left out and less valued by society because of their lack of skills and resources (education, career, income, and wealth) deemed important for effective participation in the socioeconomic events of life. ...
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This mixed method study examines the causes of continued disengagement among graduates of a low-income community leadership development (CLD) program. Interviews were conducted with 55 CLD program graduates, 19 program facilitators, and 12 community members. Surveys were completed by 80 program graduates including the 55 who participated in interviews. Three main themes emerged with regard to community engagement: self-motivation, program leadership, and community readiness. Participants had mixed feelings on each of the themes. Overall our findings suggest that there are personal (self-motivation), programmatic (leadership and structure), and community (readiness) factors influencing the motivation to participate in CLD and transition to skills application in the community. This implies a need for CLD programs to focus on developing a holistic, inclusive, and collaborative process where low-income residents can partner with community leaders in identifying the creative solutions necessary to solve very distinct local problems.
... Following the Fukushima disaster, government recovery activity and the lack of dissemination of critical information lead to a break down in trust between citizens and the government. While this breakdown is a negative outcome, another result has been that communities may begin to recognize and utilize their social capital to solve issues within the community (Aldrich, 2017). Deployment issues have been explored beyond nuclear, including carbon capture and storage (CCS), both of which may not be supported by the government moving forward because their long-term safety has not been made clear, among other uncertainties. ...
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The prominence of witness testimony in a range of contemporary political events is reflected in interdisciplinary efforts to theorize the act and genre of witnessing. Notably, this literature has framed the occurrence of errors, contradictions and other instances of ‘problematic’ speech in testimony as attesting to the traumatic quality of disastrous events. In this paper we extend this line of reasoning by recasting the fundamental quality or ‘witness‐ness’ of disaster survivor testimony outside a logic of representational correspondence. Instead, drawing on the philosophy of Maurice Blanchot, we suggest that the disorienting features of testimony can be interpreted as the disruptive influence or inscription of the disaster itself upon the recollections of survivors; a certain ‘writing of the disaster’. Furthermore, we suggest that different disasters disrupt the testimonies of its survivors in unique ways, thus imprinting a signature that betrays the material and psychological character of the event. The ‘witness‐ness’ of survivor testimony is therefore argued to dwell not in its representational accuracy, but in the distinctive, signature ways that it disorients the search for a coherent accounting of the disaster. We explore this proposition first in relation to Nazi death camp survivor testimony, before exploring this approach in the very different testimonial context of the 2011 tsunami in Tohoku, Japan. In the wake of these readings, we argue that the concept of the signature has potential not only for broadening the repertoire of testimonies admissible in the study of disaster, but also for investigating the societal impacts and ‘countersignatures’ of disasters more generally.
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Political trust has long been presented as a key social determinant of pandemic resilience in public health by facilitating public cooperation with government instructions. During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, countries where citizens had relatively low levels of trust in government tended to see higher numbers of infections and deaths. Yet Japan’s public health response to COVID-19 complicates a straightforward relationship between political trust and successful pandemic response, presenting something of a paradox. Trust in government, very low by international comparison, was compounded by a lack of state authority to enforce its public health recommendations. Nevertheless, it appears that initially, most people followed government advice, particularly politicians’ calls for jishuku (‘self-restraint’). This paper explores the Japanese government’s response to COVID-19 and places the concept of jishuku in historical context, arguing that it represents a complex dynamic that includes expectations about the solidaristic behavior of imagined fellow citizens, stigmatization and social coercion, and government appeals to ethnonationalist identity that together may have helped overcome low trust in government. ‘Compliance’ itself is complicated in this picture, with compliance with individual measures dependent on the dynamic tension between a variety of different factors beyond political trust alone.
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Policymakers in Japan have adopted a discourse to link the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to the recovery of Japan’s northern Tohoku region following the March 2011 triple disaster (3.11). This discourse has created a dissonance between 3.11-affected communities, policy-makers and wider Japan. To understand this dissonance, this article explores the implicit agendas behind Japan’s Olympics efforts (such as positioning sports as a facilitator and symbol of recovery), its Cool Japan initiative (as a nation-branding and nation-building strategy) and other actions (such as labelling the 2020 event ‘the Reconstruction Olympics’). It then analyses the opinions of people from affected areas, gathered through interview research and from popular media, to demonstrate that the use of recovery rhetoric to promote the Olympics is being poorly received among some in 3.11-affected communities. Community concerns circle around availability of construction resources as well as the fact that recovery is not yet complete. This article contends that the events of 3.11, combined with the pursuit of the Olympics, has effected changes in the social imaginary and in regional ideas of belonging among 3.11-affected communities.
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The preceding contributions of this Interface have vividly depicted the practical problems and unprecedented challenges that planners in Japan are still facing after 3 years of post-disaster reconstruction – despite repeated national reassurances of greater speed. The difficulties are vast in scope, with over 400 communities in 62 municipalities affected in six different prefectures, along hundreds of kilometres of coastline. The challenges are complex and differ in their particular manifestations: earthquake damage, displacement from nuclear disaster, and tsunami destruction; they are dynamically interrelated and cumulative, with peripheral regions, long confronted with depopulation and ageing, additionally affected by disaster, and exacerbated by slow recovery and uncertainty. While the authors provide a graphic overview of the difficult situation “on the ground”, from a planning perspective I will take a broader view of the implications of the reconstruction effort for place governance and place-making in the long-term. Are there transformative potentials, and how can we assess them? Will they overcome structural problems that have prevented a wider diffusion of more progressive place governance?
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One year after the Tohoku-oki earthquake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, many coastal communities in Japan's Tohoku region show little progress in rebuilding. Yet as this paper explains, localities, along with affected prefectures and the national government, have been embroiled in a complex, iterative planning process that has involved scientific modeling of future tsunami risk scenarios, difficult decisions about future land uses and funding for reconstruction, and the creation of new polices, programs, and institutions. Taking time to plan conflicts with the urgency to rebuild, but it also provides an opportunity to reflect local needs and to coalesce on a shared vision for rebuilding. While Tohoku's future still remains uncertain, these planning efforts may ultimately lay the foundation for a successful and efficient recovery. Conversely, they may cause unnecessary delays that only exacerbated the region's already fragile economy and community well-being.