What has three and a half years brought to devastated Tohoku? 東北被災地の3年半

By Hideo Nakazawa, political science professor of the Faculty of Law, Chuo University          中央大学法学部政治学科教授 中澤秀雄


The editor of Hakumon Herald requested me to review how the Tohoku region has seen the three and a half years that went by after it was ravaged by the March 11, 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. I accepted the request, realizing that student journalists from the campus newspaper are making their efforts to be personal media. As I once wrote for Chuo Online, we live in an era when it is imperative for each of us to act as media since the present media structurally lacks the ability to communicate the actual situation of not only the 3.11 disaster but other happenings in just proportion. I want you students not to gulp what other people say but try to check things yourself, feel them with your body and five senses, and communicate them to people around you with accuracy and basis. I may add one more thing. It is also important for you to stretch out your antenna and go in search of information rather than relying on push media (information that comes to you automatically). You will be able to find the information I give here if you make an effort even without stepping a foot out of Tokyo.


 『白門ヘラルド』編集部から、ポスト3.11東北の3年半の概説をしてほしいと依頼をうけた。学生記者がパーソナル・メディアたろうと努力しているのを拝読して引き受けることにした。以前にもChuo Online上で述べたことがあるが、3.11報道に限らず現在のマス・メディアは現場の状況を過不足なく伝える能力を構造的に欠いているので、一人一人がメディアになることが大事な時代である。他人の言うことを鵜呑みにせず、自分の手足で調べ、身体と五感で感じ、最後にそれを周囲の人に、正確にかつ根拠をもって伝えることを心がけてほしい。もう一つ、プッシュメディア(とくに意識しなくても供給される情報)に頼るのではなく、自分のアンテナを研ぎ澄まして情報を探しに行く姿勢も大事だ。以下の内容も、東京から一歩も出なくても、工夫して探し出せば見つけられるはずである。


To begin with, the information you get about post-3.11 developments is utterly different both in volume and substance depending on where you live, in Fukushsima, the Sendai Plain, the Sanriku coastal areas north of Oshika Peninsula or Tokyo. The local people’s criticism of the media that appears in the article written by a student journalist concerns the reports sent out from Sendai. In the first place, the information on the quake/tsunami disaster available in national broadcasts and newspapers has dwindled in volume to almost nil after the third year. The coverage gap between Tohoku and Tokyo was prominent even in the first and second years – local residents were often angry about the contents of the national coverage which were essentially off the mark. This stems from the ongoing situation where the national media based in Tokyo continues to lose its ability to get an accurate picture of the subtlety and context of what is actually happening in the afflicted areas. I draw your attention to the fact that what the student journalist reports this time is basically about what is going on in the Sendai Plain. There are different realities and people’s desires in the areas north of Oshika Peninsula with complicated ria shorelines dotted with tiny villages and fishing harbors, and in Fukushima where people cannot look ahead and cannot even depict their future image. To the people there, the word “rejuvenation” may sound only hollow. In the present situation, firsthand information in those areas goes into circulation only among the local people and those who are closely associated with the region.



If I may continue my review, based on what I have said and with the Sendai Plain in my mind, I can broadly divide the three and a half years after the disaster into three stages. Those are the “rescue period” right after the calamity, the “infrastructure restoration period” focused on the construction of temporary housing and reconstruction of the destroyed infrastructure, and the “life reconstruction period” in which the sense of time becomes unsynchronized from area to area and from people to people. Saving lives, maintaining health and retaining social life were the top priority during the rescue period. In the case of the Great East Japan Earthquake, an enormous amount of volunteer activity was needed for soup-run services, removal of debris, etc. in this period. However, people in the areas south of Sendai and the central media sent out words: “Don’t go to Tohoku as you may only make trouble to the locals.” As a result of this misleading information ― in retrospect, I cannot but declare it “wrong” ― people in the areas north of Sendai who badly needed a lot of human hand were put on the rack. The second infrastructure restoration period lasted from the summer to the winter of 2011, when the construction of temporary housing hit a peak. Individual local authorities put together their tentative "rejuvenation schemes" before the end of fiscal 2011. We have to note here that they didn’t officially define what they meant by “rejuvenation”. The Basic Law for Great East Japan Earthquake Reconstruction enacted in June 2011 defined it as “rejuvenation rather than simple restoration”. As Tohoku had been faced with human disasters like depopulation and aging society since well before the 3.11, local people strongly hoped to "turn a misfortune into a blessing" by taking advantage of a voluminous influx of external people, goods and money into the region. That was what they had in mind when they talked about "rejuvenation" and "life reconstruction”. They hoped to “resolve the fundamental problems of the regional community and create a more sustainable society rather than simply getting things back to what they were before March 10, 2011”. At present, we see success stories about some smaller local businesses getting closer to rejuvenation in that sense. Those are featured in Sendai-datelined articles that get some acclaim. That is the ongoing trend of media reports. Those are the stories that can be easily drawn from hollow cries like "Go for it, Japan” and “Let’s get closer together, Japan". We may momentarily feel encouraged in front of the TV. However, the situation will not fundamentally change unless the afflicted people and their community know how to rebuild their life and make it "better than before". We cannot define the third life reconstruction period because the local communities and people are too different from each other as to when it will actually start and when it will get into full swing. The student journalist has reported precisely how the local people stand transfixed in front of the ambiguous word "rejuvenation".


 以上のことを前提にした上で仙台平野を念頭に概説するならば、東日本大震災以後の3年半は大きく3つの段階に分けることができる。発災直後の「レスキュー期」、仮設住宅の建設とインフラ再建を軸とする「緊急復旧(infrastructure restoration)期」、そして地域や人によって時期認識がバラバラになる「生活再建(life reconstruction)期」である。レスキュー期は人命救助と健康維持、そして社会生活を存続させることが課題になる。東日本大震災の場合には、この時期に炊き出し・瓦礫撤去等で膨大なボランティアの力も必要とされたが「現地に迷惑をかけるから東北に行くな」という誤った情報が――現時点から振り返れば「誤っていた」と断言せざるを得ない―主として仙台以南の宮城県域と中央メディアから発信された結果、人手を必要とした仙台以北の地域は苦しんだ。第2期の緊急復旧期は、仮設住宅の建設がピークになった2011年夏から冬である。2011年度内に各自治体は一応の「復興計画」をまとめた。ここで注意しなければならないのは、「復興」とは何かの定義が公的になされていないことだ。20116月に成立した「東日本大震災復興基本法」には「単なる復旧ではない復興」としか定義されていない。被災地は3.11以前から過疎や高齢化という人災を被っていたから、大震災以降に外部の人・モノ・カネが大量に流入してきたことを「災い転じて福となす」にしたいという希望も現地住民には多かった。現地住民のいう「復興」ないし「生活再建」とはこの意味であり、「2011310日の状態に戻すのではなく、地域社会が抱える根本的な問題を改善して、3.10時点よりも持続可能な社会を創出すること」であった。現在、一部の中小企業等で、このような意味での復興に近づいている成功例があり、それらが仙台発で称賛されているのが現在の報道の流れだ。「頑張ろうニッポン」「絆でつながろう日本」という空虚なかけ声に回収しやすいストーリーであるが、実はテレビ画面の前で一瞬「勇気をもらった」ところで、各被災者やコミュニティが具体的にどう生活を再建し「前よりまし」にするのか方法論が分からなければ状況は根本的には変わらない。そもそも第3期の生活再建期についてはいつから始まるのか、いつから本格化するのか、場所や人によって違いすぎて一般的な定義ができない。「復興」という曖昧な言葉の前で立ちすくんでいる現地の姿こそ、学生記者がレポートしているものである。


Some of the readers may have got fed up with too much talk about "definition" in classroom lessons. “Concept definition” is surely empty if it ends up in a mere word game. However, I want you to keep in mind that if a language not properly defined is translated into a policy, it will continue annoying people. I have no space here to expand my argument over what we should do specifically. I expressed my view in my report written for Chuo Online. Just read it if you are interested. Before that, I advise you to have a look at the real situation in Tohoku those student journalists are trying to report.


 授業で「定義」の話ばかりされて閉口した経験が読者にはおありだろう。確かに「概念定義」が単なる言葉遊びならば空疎だ。しかしながら、きちんと定義されていない言葉が政策になってしまうと、それは人々を苦しめ続けることを銘記して欲しい。具体的にどうすればいいのかという話を展開する紙幅はない。Chuo Onlineに書いた記事で私なりの見解を表明しているので、興味ある読者はそちらをお読みいただくことにして、まずは学生記者たちが伝えようとしている現実に耳を傾けてほしい。

                                   ⇐Back             Next⇒