i’ve been meaning to start this blog for a while now, except that it was supposed to be a different blog. see, i’m a researcher/phd student in kobe, japan. and for the last several months, i’ve been planning to start a blog to keep track of my research, case studies, links to articles and events and theories, to document my site visits, experiences, conversations. to organize and share.
i have a background in architecture. by the way, i’m from the u.s., not japan. and this is my 3rd time to live in japan. this time i’m in the doctoral course at kobe university. and my research is about community-based housing recovery after natural disasters; specifically about the potential role of the university to partner with the community post-disaster.
the 2nd time i lived in japan i was a visiting research student; that time my goal was to compare the recovery of kobe after the earthquake in 1995 with the recovery of new orleans after hurricane katrina in 2005. my master’s thesis in architecture had been about housing recovery in new orleans. and then, during my 2nd time in japan from 2006-2008, i was very fortunate to find myself in the care of a wonderful professor, who is an expert on disaster recovery. from that time, i had the chance to join my professor for his research, first to yogyakarta, indonesia, the site of the central java earthquake in 2006, and more recently also to sichuan, china, the site of the great sichuan earthquake of 2008.
so the blog that i’ve been planning to start was going to be about those four countries; the role of universities and students in disaster recovery in support of community-based housing. but all that changed on march 11, 2011.
on march 11th, i was returning back to japan with my professor and other members of our research laboratory. our team had just finished a week in sichuan, visiting some towns and cities that had been destroyed by the earthquake, and also newly reconstructed schools and towns. we left chengdu airport in the morning, and i think that we were almost in the shanghai airport when the tohoku kanto earthquake hit. i guess that one of the chinese students who had been helping us sent a text mail to the chinese member of our lab, telling that there had been a big earthquake in japan and the situation was bad. in the airport, i checked the news online and before boarding the plane to return to the kansai airport in osaka, the tvs in the gate area were showing pictures of buildings shaking, or ceiling panels falling. mostly in tokyo. i don’t think i saw any images of the tsunami. after arriving back in japan in the evening, i took the airport bus back to my home in kyoto, with my professor. the airport seemed normal, although the bus was more crowded than usual. for the 1.5 hours on the bus, i watched twitter and the news on my phone, to try to figure out what had happened and what was happening. at that time, the casualty numbers were very low, but of course that was just because they hadn’t been confirmed. it wasn’t until i got home, and took out my small dvd player/tv that i could see what had happened, and know how bad it was.