The Open Seminar in Kesennuma at Umi-no-Ichi brought local community, citizen activists, people from Tokyo together with activists and academics from Australia and created a forum for exchanging ideas for a future in Kesennuma and beyond. These are the presentation slides of my presentation to the local public on January 28th 2016.
The 2016 Kesennuma Living with the Sea Open Seminar was made possible by funding support of the Australian Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Australia-Japan foundation.
My hometown, Kiel on the Baltic Sea in northern Germany, is strikingly similar to Kesennuma: a fjord-like bay, industrial port and tourism industry.
Having worked in the region since 2011, I have been fortunate to meet the extraordinary people here: Suzuki Shinato San of Shibitachi, Ito Kaori San of Tokyo. It is through the effort and spirit of these persons that communities have been holding together and finding new ideas in old practices. I believe that the people here hold the key to another future for the region and it is through the open events I seek to open possibilities for them to be heard.
Direct engagement in the region through design studio study tours are integral to the work I have been undertaking. In 2012 and 2014 RMIT students visited Kesennuma and Shibitachi, working with Tokyo University and Waseda University students on design responses to the 3/11 disaster.
In Australia, students who were part of these studio tours shared their experiences in journal articles and major projects.
The continued involvement in the region is important to the project as we become witnesses to change and processes in the region. In addition, we seek to demonstrate that the involvement is not about short term sensational gain of experience but a genuine continuation. Publications, exhibitions, media interviews, and articles as well as scholarly work are forming another key part of the continued investigation into the region.
Activating conversations between people and making sites accessible is the core of the project. The 2013 Seawall Symposium brought landscape architects form Tokyo to Shibitachi who had not seen the destruction, the old buildings and vernacular building structures. Local citizen activists were able to meet international researchers and landscape architects.
Considering risk on global scale, it is evident that there is no binary or us-them. Key considerations must include environmental vulnerability and shift from ignoring to accepting vulnerability. From the conversations with local activists and community leaders it is clear that the knowledge is there: all fishermen in Shibitachi know that Oysters grow best in the secluded bays where forest and sea have a direct connection. They also know that in the event of an earthquake a tsunami is likely to become much larger that imaginable.
I would like to propose to build research into the communities to capture this type of knowledge and to develop ways to make it accessible to all. The Kangaroo was used as an ambassador for chillaxation – a typical and beautiful Australian quality.