Kesennuma Future Proofing Open Seminar: Day 03 – @Maehama

Sunday 31. January Day 03 @Genba: Maehama

A special field tour in Maehama organized by Hiroko Otsuka. It was wonderful to be able to explore small beaches and see the remnants of the rocky shores.

The concluding event at Maehama Marine center was with Australian wine and German chocolate!

Maehama Marine Center – Concluding Discussion

After 3.11 : Have you met the new Japan?

Very happy and honored to be invited to talk about the work in Kesennuma and field research in Tohoku by the Japan Foundation Sydney on Friday 18th March 2016.

Designing in Uncertainty – In this talk I aim to share experiences of five years working with and in Tohoku: Building relationships, seeing best practices, beautiful resilient spirits of local people who have seen and experienced the worst… working with this to build knowledge in Australian design practices in Landscape Architecture to build global connections and a simple shared understanding of the fragile beauty of life.

Hope and passion for life is what I see in the new Japan.

After 3.11 : Have you met the new Japan? Japan Foundation Sydney


Ito Yuichiro 02

Photo by Yuichiro Itoh

Seawalls of Japan – Sunago

Site visit with Barbara Hartley, Akihiro Nakamura and guide Keiko Sugawara on 31.01.2016

The seawall here is 11.3 m high. [T.P +11.3] behind the wall structure a small dirt road and no buildings.

Sunago bay with seawall
Sunago – Buildings are located on the slope
Sunago behind the wall

loaction seawall sunago

Location 38.907106, 141.651835


In 2012 and 2013 we stayed in the small pension Sunago with the RMIT University and Melbourne University Landscape Architecture study tour students.

Sunago 2013
Sunago 2013
Australian Students swimming at Sunago in summer 2013




Akie Abe – Japan’s First Lady NYC 2014

Sanriku Coast – coves, bays, rocky cliffs

From the Japan Times 26 September 2014

First lady Akie Abe on Thursday questioned a plan to build high seawalls in coastal Tohoku areas impacted by the devastating March 11, 2011, tsunami.

Delivering the 15-minute keynote speech in English at the Ford Foundation in New York, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe noted local opposition to the barriers, which are already under construction.

“I am asking whether we could not adjust our plan to make it more flexible, reflecting the differences from region to region,” Abe said, stressing she is “not an activist, opposed to the plan.”

The seawalls could block ocean views, and the cost of maintaining the walls, which will not last more than 60 years, will fall on coastal communities with shrinking populations, she said.

A group of oyster farmers in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, is concerned that the wall there will block the nutrient-rich runoff from the forests that make the area good for cultivating oysters, she told the audience.

“A wall is dividing one heart from the other,” the first lady said, referring to the division between residents of the disaster-hit areas who want the seawall to be built quickly and those who are hesitant and think more consideration is needed.

In a question-and-answer session after her speech, Abe said she has worked on the issue in Japan but has not gained much traction, so she decided to take the opportunity to speak about it overseas.

Abe has gained a reputation for being outspoken. Notably, she has voiced her opposition to exporting nuclear power technology, despite it being a centerpiece of her husband’s strategy to revitalize the Japanese economy.

She was in New York with the prime minister, who participated in several days of high-level meetings and spoke at the U.N. General Assembly.

It is incomprehensible how construction can still go ahead despite of this very high level concerns.

January 31st 2016, Karakuwa Peninsula

Kesennuma Future Proofing Open Seminar: Day 02 – @Genba

Saturday 30. January Day 02 @Genba: Site Tour

True to the idea of @Genba – at the site the afternoon was spent on a bus to view and experience a few key sites in Kesennuma. Local activists and participants became guides who shared their views of sites and pointed out specific events and constructions of “protective” seawalls.

Abe Masahito Sensei pointing out seawall construction

In Hashikami a local guide from KRA Kesennuma Reconstruction Agency joined us to discuss the progress in Hashikami and Iwaisaki.

loaction 02SONY DSC

We collectively prayed for the victims who lost their lives on 3/11 in the area – many families and workers of the local greenhouses had fled to a designated evacuation area that became inundated by the Tsunami.

Memorial to lost lives on 3/11 at Iwaisaki

Hijikata Sensei went on to discuss his work in Koyo Koko – the Fishery High-School designated as a national memorial.

Koyo Koko – Fishery High-School behind raised land

The second stop was the National Park at Iwaisaki.

Here it was interesting to observe the close proximity between National Park and seawall construction site – seeming and actual polar opposites.

loaction 01SONY DSC

Iwaisaki National Park
Iwaisaki National Park


Seawalls of Japan – Okabe Karakuwa

Site visit with Barbara Hartley, Akihiro Nakamura and guide Keiko Sugawara on 31.01.2016

The Seawall is 11.3m tall. [T.P+11.3m], the building behind is a sewage treatment facility. Keiko explained that the water in this small bay is brackish due to a number of small steams running into the sea here.

Okabe Seawall
Okabe Seawall – Former brackish water area
Okabe Seawall
Okabe Seawall
Okabe Seawall
Okabe Seawall
Okabe Seawall
Okabe Seawall

Kesennuma Future Proofing Open Seminar: Day 02

Kesennuma 30. January 2016

Saturday 30. January 2016 — Day 02

Session 03 – Why we are here @Genba: Design Research

Marieluise Jonas – RMIT University

In the short talk, I focused on the value of teaching students in the built environment sector through a site based and exploratory design research framework.

This framework is a shift away from learning based on observation and distanced analysis to an applied learning strategy, which is actively engaging students to work -not only with- but in the environment closely with industry and communities. By investigating landscape architecture research problems through the medium of design students are able to actively contribute to addressing complex issues through their work and initiate change.

My suggestion in conclusion was: Kesennuma can become a center for learning, research and innovation in disaster mitigation for the future through the approach of site specific design research.

Masao Hijikata – Hashikami Project Report 

Hijikata Sensei gave an overview of his work in Hashikami, Kesennuma. He emphasized the approach of community based design consultation in machizukuri.

The Koyo High-School is designated as a Tsunami Memorial and Prof. Hijikata discussed his ideas of preservation and memory in the design.

Hijikata Sensei
Audience Day 02

Christian Dimmer – Rettenbach, the happiest village in Germany

In his presentation Christian discussed Rettenbach, a village in the south of Germany, that became an independent energy producer. Christian successfully brought global challenges such as declining rural areas, aging society together in an argument for localized and decentralized governance. Further, Christian highlighted the fact that in Rettenbach a clear aim of independence had been set and that the process had been underway for 2 decades.

The audience was especially impressed by the possibilities and ideas outlined in Christians talk and engaged in a lively discussion.

Akihiro Nakamura – Localized business ideas

Aki with Tasmania Wooden Boat Centre Staff

In his second talk, Aki shared his idea and a short video of “The Wooden Boat Centre Tasmania” as an approach of combing local heritage and culture with small economies.

The wooden boat center


Kesennuma Future Proofing Open Seminar: Day 01

Day 01 Session 01 – Participants

Friday 29. January 2016 — Day 01

Session 01 – Rethinking Environment and defining Resilience

Shusuke Hirose, Tohoku Landscape Notes

Hirose 01

Learning form the local milieu: a thought about sustainable regional management based on the area’s natural capital

In his talk Hirose Sensei discussed the aspects of environmental capital through a lens of site specific mappings of localized ecosystems. Hirose reminded us to regard the specific aspects of regional landscapes such as soil conditions, climate and exposure as keys to forming local habitation cultures.

Hirose 02

Hirose 03

Information on Sanriku Geopark

Akihiro Nakamura – Defining Resilience for local approaches

Nakamura Sensei discussed various concept approaches of resilience definitions and pushed the audience to participate in rethinking their individual ideas for how the term would be considered useful in their context. Specifically a shifting away form Hardware  [fortified environments; infrastructural measures] was suggested. Instead an approach to building resilient Software [communities] was encouraged.

Session 01 – Discussion and collective definition of ‘Resilience’


Session 02 – Social Innovation

Hiroko Otsuka – Optimism and the story of women of the rocky shores

Otsuka san discussed a connection of two places: Kesennuma and Hobart through her own life experience of growing up in Kesennuma and moving to Hobart aged 21. Otsuka san reflected on her own experience of loss, grieving and activism. Being the founder of “Think Seawall” and “Sea the sea” as well as “Disaster Risk Reduction Women’s Working Group” and “Think” she has worked as activist and organized since 3/11 occurred. In her session Hiroko motivated the audience to define and exchange their own terms of “Optimism”.  Think Seawall


Barbara Hartley – @Genba: Women’s stories of disaster and recovery

Hartley san brought the discussion to defining Genba “the site of the event” and presented a range of definition ideas:

Hartley 01
{I will ask Barbara for a translation, so please bear with me;)}

In addition to the discussion of Genba, Barbara reflected on her work in collecting stories of women in context of disaster such as the 2011 Queensland Floods and recent bush fire events in Australia. She made the point, that disasters are universal and we are in need of knowing form women who have first hand experience in order to learn and adapt.

Barbara cited groups such as the “Firefoxes” and “the National Rural Women’s Coalition (NRWC)” as examples of women’s groups who shape distinct futures of equally empowered societies.

day 01 definition of genba
Outcome of Day 01 – A collective definition of “Genba”

The outcome of day 01 was a lively discussion among panelists and participants with the help of Nobuyuki Takahashi to define “Genba”, relationships between site and resilience, social capital and social innovation. In short, what can we learn form Kesennuma?