Kesennuma city is one of the worst-hit places in the Japan’s quake disaster, extremely damaged by tsunami and widespread fire. Kesennuma city reported more than 1,000 of its 70,000 citizens were dead and the figure of damaged housings rose to at least 15,000.
In Kesennuma city, “Smart City Project” was launched through collaboration between the local government and local companies. The project aims to promote city-planning including energy system redesigning and community building.
Mr. Masaki Takahashi, a president of Kesennuma Regional Energy Development Co., has been working on a new challenge to promote and industrialize renewable energy system with utilization of woody biomass. With a concept of “For the city of Forest, Ocean and Mountain”, Mr. Takahashi established a project to create biomass fuels using woody pellet from local thinned wood as an energy source. Electronic power plant using local unutilized wood resources is an unprecedented attempt in Japan.
They started “Forest Academy”, including a training lecture of how to use a chain saw, has brought a connection between local forest owners and those who want to start forestry business. They also created a monetary unit of local currency “Reneria” in order to circulate the benefits of the forestry business within the local community. As of now, Reneria can be used in more than 180 shops in Kessennuma city.
Ms. Yuko Goto joined this project as a Fellow from May 2012 after 15 years of engagement as a system planner in a big enterprise in Tokyo. Utilizing an abundant experience of designing operation and system development from past carrier, she took charge of developing the supply system of woody biomass fuels. She played a critical role in executing questionnaire surveys, holding training lectures, making purchasing rule of thinned wood and managing monetary unit of local currency. As a result, about 70 people participated in the workshop and they could gather 600 tons of lumber, which was a lot more than they had expected.
She is still remaining in Kesennuma city and continues implementing the project after one year Fellowship period.
Seitaro Kuroda, Rikuzentakata Shopping Street Project
Before the earthquake, Rikuzentakata city in Iwate prefecture, one of the areas where we send Fellows, had a population of 24,246. By the disasters, 1,787 inhabitants died or went missing. In addition, over 1,000 inhabitants have moved out of city after the disaster.
As we have reported in the past report, “Rikuzentakata Shopping Street Project” was launched to build new shopping street using containers and prefabricated building in Rikuzentakata city, with shop owners who suffered devastating damage from the disaster.
Finally, the shopping street held its grand opening in March 2013, two years after the disaster. They aim to rebuild the shopping street as a fun community place to stay for local inhabitants, from children to elderly people. They hold events where local people can gather together—for example, “Kesen morning market”, which has a 300-year-old history in Rikuzentakata.
Mr. Seitaro Kuroda, who had been thinking of working for local revitalization, took part in this project as a Fellow last July. He is in charge of fundraising and PR, and conducted opening events.
*Please check their Facebook page to see latest pictures!
Takuya Yaguchi, Iwaki Organic Cotton Project
Iwaki city in Fukushima prefecture is another area where we send Fellows. Since they accommodated the refugees from the nuclear disaster, their population has increased by 25,000 people. Now the friction between local people and refugees from other area is becoming a serious issue in the city.
“Iwaki Organic Cotton Project” cultivates organic cotton in deserted arable land, and develops products. The project provides opportunities for both local people and refugees to communicating with each other. Through these activities, they try to ease friction in the community while conserving farm land.
Mr. Takuya Yaguchi participated in this project as a Fellow January 2013. His main roles are managing cultivating plan for their 15 farms and planning how to sell their products. He is also promoting collaboration with other organizations in Fukushima prefecture.
*Please check their Facebook page to see latest pictures!
We would like to express our deepest appreciation for your generous supports to our recovery efforts. Almost two years have passed since the earthquake. As a matter of course, people’s memory of the disaster is gradually diminishing. However, thanks to your continuous support we have been able to promote the Fellowship Program steadily.
Since the launch of Fellowship program just after the earthquake, we have selected 127 Fellows from 353 applications and dispatched them to 63 projects led by good recovery leaders. Your support covered stipends and related expenses.
We will continue to explore good leaders, recruit good Fellows and provide various supports to them. Your continuous support would be highly appreciated.
Project example: Community and Livelihood Support Project for damaged residents
Location: Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Pref.Organization: Health and Life Revival Council in Ishinomaki district (RCI)
This project consists of two units: the medical care & health unit and the community & life unit. There are approximately 12,000 households where the residents had once evacuated but then returned to their damaged housings in Ishinomaki city and Onagawa town in Miyagi prefecture. The medical care & health unit has visited each of these households and conducted health and life assessments since October 2012. All the data collected through the assessments are stored in the database that is referred to by the Residence Support Specialists to provide appropriate health cares to each household. The community & life unit works together with the medical care & health unit, other organizations, government, and companies to rebuild the bonds among local community. It supports community recovery and provides relevant information to the victims to restart independent living.
A Fellow Kanako Tsuchiya has worked for the community & life unit since 11/5/2012. She has a major role in coordinating local organizations and community recovery. Her business background as a consultant greatly helps the unit that originally consisted of health-care professionals only to accelerate its project including operational improvements.