Building Back a Better Tohoku After the March 2011 Tsunami: Contradicting Evidence

  • Shingo NagamatsuEmail author
Part of the Advances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research book series (NTHR, volume 47)


Disaster recovery is regarded as a great opportunity to mitigate future losses from possible hazards. This idea has led the Japanese government to introduce a series of recovery programs, composed of relocation, land readjustment, and the provision of public housing; in fact, many reconstruction projects have already been undertaken under these programs. In spite of the massive reconstruction efforts for ‘building back better’, the recovery of the population has stagnated. Although part of the reason is the trend of population decrease in the area, the existing research and media reports have indicated that the length of time devoted to reconstruction works and the cost to local residents discourages them to the extent that they do not participate in the programs. The purpose of this study is to identify quantitatively whether such a paradoxical impact has existed during the recovery process from the 2011 disaster in Tohoku (Japan) by using panel analysis of 27 affected municipalities from 2009 to 2015. Once the analysis had been completed, a ‘reconstruction paradox’ was found indicating that the larger number of population emigrates from the affected area if the municipality devotes itself to the larger recovery project with heavy reconstruction projects. It was also found that the reconstruction paradox is evident in the municipalities in the high-fatality group, while those in the low-fatality group do not exhibit the significant impact of recovery programs both on in- and out-migration. Based on the results of the study, large-scale reconstruction projects are not recommended to ensure the safety of the residents but instead alternative approaches should be considered.


Disaster recovery Migration Disaster reconstruction Relocation Build back better 



This research is supported by Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (24221010). The initial work of this study owed by undergraduate research of Mr. Shumpei Kawatoko and Ms. Yumiko Matsuba at Kansai University. I am also grateful for comments from Adam Rose, Jonathern Eyer at University of Sourthern California, and Ilan Noy at Victoria University as an reviewer of this paper. All remaining errors, however, are mine.


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© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Societal Safety SciencesKansai UniversityOsakaJapan

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