Industrial Reconstruction after the Great East Japan Earthquake
Current Status and Initiatives
Current Status and Initiatives
Tohoku Bureau of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI)
Seven years after the earthquake, gradual progress is being made toward recovery, including new facilities opening in affected parts of Tohoku and the establishment of special reconstruction zones. We will continue to work with the relevant institutions toward full recovery of the performance of key industries and regional population with the aim of speeding the recovery of affected areas and promoting additional autonomous development.
Seven years have now passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake and the tsunami waves and nuclear power plant accident that accompanied it. The disaster caused terrible damage to Tohoku industry, but steady progress is being made toward reconstruction thanks to the dedicated efforts of local authorities and industry personnel, as well as various types of assistance from a number of quarters. I would like to take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude for your support.
Status of industrial reconstruction
Looking at the economic state of the Tohoku region, the Indices of Industrial Production reveal that production, which slumped heavily following the disaster, had recovered virtually to pre-quake levels by the beginning of 2012, but the pace of recovery for the region as a whole remains sluggish.
In the affected areas along the coast, work continues on raising ground levels and land readjustment projects, while in areas additionally affected by the nuclear power plant accident , recovery and reconstruction assistance through, for example, SME Group Subsidy, remains essential.
Reconstruction initiatives in affected areas
Progress with infrastructure development in tsunami-hit cities, towns and villages in Miyagi Prefecture and Iwate Prefecture has opened the way for local commercial and municipal regeneration initiatives.
In April 2017, Kyassen Ofunato shopping facilities and Abasse Takata shopping center opened in Ofunato City and Rikuzentakata City respectively (both in Iwate Prefecture), using the government's subsidy program for the reconstruction and development of commercial facilities, etc.
In June 2017, the market Ishinomaki Genki Ichiba also opened in Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture, utilizing the government's support program for regional and urban commercial revitalization. Local restaurants and retailers have set up shop there, and the hope is that the market will become a lively creative hub and serve as a symbol of urban reconstruction.
However, the marine processing industry—a key industry in this region—is recovering very slowly.
Because the industry fosters employment clusters in affected coastal areas, and because the Sanriku Coast's once-abundant marine resources could potentially create major added value again in the future, chambers of commerce and industry, support organizations and government institutions came together in March 2016 to set up the “Council for Promoting the Revitalization of the Sanriku Marine Processing Industry”, aiming to open up markets for processed marine products both in Japan and overseas. In addition to the “Japan Brand Development Assistance Program,” we are working with the relevant ministries and agencies to actively support the establishment of a Sanriku brand with the aim of opening up sales channels in Asia, as well as offshore expansion.
In addition to the efforts mentioned above, we have created a slideshow video showcasing the Sanriku region. Take a look—I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
[YouTube] Sanriku Japan (in English)
Evacuation orders have now been lifted for a growing number of towns and villages affected by the nuclear power plant accident in Fukushima Prefecture, and community regeneration efforts are moving forward. Looking at transport infrastructure too, the various rail segments are being progressively put back into service, while the restrictions on general traffic previously in place on some highways have been removed, with slow but steady progress being made on restoring the infrastructure for use in daily life.
Turning to the situation in individual towns, Tonya no Sato shopping mall opened in the town of Kawamata in July 2017, along with the Iitate Village rest stop Madeikan in August the same year—both examples of business returning to the area. METI Tohoku is also working with the relevant institutions on programs designed to rebuild the livelihoods of affected businesspeople and help them become independent, aiming to bring about the quickest possible recovery and reconstruction of Fukushima.
In addition, the central and prefectural governments are using the Fukushima Innovation Coast Scheme to provide overarching support for the regeneration of Fukushima Prefecture's Hama-dori area, including research on nuclear decommissioning and robot field trials. The entry into force in May 2017 of the Act Partially Amending the Act on Special Measures for the Reconstruction and Revitalization of Fukushima will enable us to push this initiative forward even more powerfully.
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has created a couple of videos featuring the current state of Fukushima, and these are also well worth viewing.
[YouTube] Welcome Home to Fukushima (in Japanese)
[YouTube] The Next Step—Building Fukushima's Future Together
METI Tohoku is also promoting disaster reconstruction tourism in order to communicate to a wide audience the disaster prevention and mitigation lessons learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well as to boost the regional population and erase lingering reputational damage through local tours.
We held a symposium in Osaka City in June 2016, followed by a similar event in Takamatsu City in August 2017. Around 380 people from companies and administrative institutions, etc., came along to the Takamatsu event to deepen their understanding of current conditions in Tohoku and disaster prevention and mitigation initiatives.
Please visit Tohoku!
The Tohoku region is located in northeastern Honshu. Comprised of the six prefectures of Aomori, Iwate, Miyagi, Akita, Yamagata and Fukushima, it represents approximately one third of Honshu's total land mass. The glorious natural landscape allows visitors to experience many different attractions through the lenses of four distinct seasons.
In spring, for example, Tohoku's harsh winter comes to an end and the region is wrapped in the white snow remaining on the mountains, the pink of cherry blossoms, and the green of vegetation. Hanamiyama Park in Fukushima City is called Fukushima's Shangri-La, with its profusion of different types of local blossoms captivating the eye. To many people visiting Tohoku's numerous cherry blossom viewing spots, the sight of the cherry trees in full bloom brings the sense that spring is finally here.
Summer in Tohoku is festival season. The Tohoku Rokkon Festival, which each of Tohoku's six prefectures took turns holding in the years following the Great East Japan Earthquake, was renamed the Tohoku Kizuna Festival in 2017, with parades and traditional performances making for a major celebration! In addition, more than 10,000 fireworks are set off at the Omagari Fireworks Festival, a national fireworks competition which takes place in Omagari, Akita, with the best products from fireworks makers around Japan brilliantly lighting Tohoku's evening sky.
Autumn is harvest season, when Tohoku's foods taste their very best. The Best Imonikai Festival in Japan is a major event held every September in Yamagata Prefecture, where massive pots six meters across and large-scale heavy machinery are used to prepare around 30,000 servings of this famous local stew. Japanese sake painstakingly brewed from Tohoku rice and crystal-clear water by master brewers is also becoming increasingly popular both in Japan and overseas. Fukushima Prefecture has led the country for the last five years in terms of the number of gold medals it has won at the Annual Japan Sake Awards.
In winter, the bitter cold decorates the trees with hoar frost in areas such as Mt. Hakkoda in Aomori Prefecture and Mt. Zao, which straddles the border of Yamagata and Miyagi, and many visitors from both inside and outside Japan visit Tohoku to view this magical spectacle. Other winter specialties include Tsugaru's Stove Train in Aomori and Kotatsu Train which runs along the Sanriku coast of Iwate Prefecture--unique attractions which enable passengers to view the Tohoku snowscapes from inside a cozy train.
Tohoku also has many tourist resources that can be enjoyed regardless of the season. Savor history, nature and culture around the region—at Shirakami-Sanchi (Aomori/Akita), the first site in Japan to be added to UNESCO's Natural World Heritage list, for example. Tohoku has almost endless local resources on hand. In terms of tourism, the number of foreign visitors to Japan has been increasing every year and there are also more visitors to Tohoku now than before the Great East Japan Earthquake.
Seven years on from the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tohoku continues to drive forward toward recovery. Whether for tourism or business, visit Tohoku for a truly remarkable experience.