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Concept And Evolution Of Machizukuri From Social Movement To “Soft-Infrastructure” Of City Level

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Civil society engagements are important in city planning as their role seen to comprehend and fill the gap of society needs. As the purpose of urban or city planning is for society sustainability, the idea of participatory approach could answer the challenge of what should be provided and how. The community-based activities are deeply rooted with the social engagements of culture and tradition enabling them to deliberately express their needs and preferences in the society level (Twigg, 1999) or (Twigg and Greig 1999). Their activities reflect their capability in understanding their issues and with their experience, some ideas are addressed and proved to bring the solutions. Therefore, this experience is also reflected and applied in disaster management in which being victims of disaster raise their awareness on the participation in land reconstruction. The desertion of community involvement in this case seems to increase the vulnerability (Maskrey, 1989).

The concept of community-led planning is rooted in Japanese society since post World War II. After the war, the approach of the country to escalate their dignity was massively turning a devastated country into a full-of-hope country by rapid and intensive development. Industries in urban area had turned most of city to be more polluted where they also lived in. The impacts to the society resulted in the society engagements and movements to speak up their problems with respects to environmental and health issues. Thus, the community organization was raised or called “Machizukuri”. Following by the situation, machizukuri has evolved as the most influential actor particularly in city planning, they have purpose to prevent unwanted changes and promote desired changes (Sorensen, Koizumi, and Miyamoto 2009). Later on the power of civil society in terms of machizukuri played significant role in disaster management.

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In this paper, the concept and evolution of machizukuri from social movement to “soft-infrastructure” of city level in delivering and maintaining the community needs in post-disaster stage are discussed. Firstly, introduction or background of the establishment of machizukuri as community movement to protest due to massive industrial activities impacts. In the section two, a study case of The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in Kobe in 1995 are chosen to review the role and process of machizukuri in disaster management in the context of urban renewal and land readjustment. Next, challenges of machizukuri in the process of city planning are delivered which derive the lesson learned of community-based activities in participatory planning particularly in disaster relief and reduction. The lesson within the succeed of machizukuri in identifying their problem and needs, leads to the deliberation of the collective actions which highly become experiences to the other communities in other regions in the following disaster after Kobe earthquake. This application is presented to see what changes and what the remaining limitations within machizukuri activities and process dealing with their innovation in disaster risk reduction. In the end, the possible improvements or opportunities are proposed to establish the sustainable mechanism for civil society engagement in disaster management.

In order to identify the role and lesson learned of community-based activities for building sustainable mechanism in disaster risk management, the Japanese concept on the machizukuri is vividly explored. The characteristic of civil society in Japanese culture emphasizes the strong emotional bonding in the community or neighborhood level which results in strong social networks. The form of community activities mainly the actions from different actors who have shared interests by voluntarily express their idea through any means or resources with an array of time, skill, and not less with their capital resources (Mamula-Seadon, Kobayashi, and Maki 2015). Many of them have diverse professions from ordinary civil society to businessman and expertise. Although a gap may be realized, the rooted connection and emotion amid them may reduce and even diminish the barrier in which their shared purposes are seen the most important to achieve.

Machizukuri is not a new concept which in 1970s, it was highly promoted as a new approach as key player dealing with industrial era problems in Kobe. The upcoming of residents’ groups in delivering their collective actions eventually needs a legitimate organization who organize their aspirations. In 1978, the establishment of machizukuri council in Mano district was seen to be a means to an end as to prevent population shrinkage by attracting young families to live (Mamula-Seadon, Kobayashi, and Maki 2015). Altogether with municipal administrations, they developed the ideas and practices in more subtle ways to in existing developed-region (Sorensen, 2002). It follows with the development of the area into integrated settlement with other public facilities that promote the livelihood of the community. In the following time, the grass-root innovation from civil society has been used to shape the community livelihood in which in disaster risk management, it helps to relieve the condition. The process of civil society in post-disaster land reconstruction arose when devastated earthquake hit Kobe in 1995.

Disaster Profile

On January 17, 1995, a devastating earthquake with a seismic magnitude of 7.3 struck Kobe City, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan. The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, occurred in Kobe City built on a narrow 2 to 3 Km of wide coastal plain, surrounded by Rokko Mountains and the Osaka Bay. Consequently, it took 6000 casualties and over 30,000 injuries (Chung 1996). It also demolished over 200,000 buildings and damaged around 180,000 buildings, following with fire. As a result, about 300,000 people were homeless and estimated about $200 billion of the economic loss.

The characteristic of disaster enhanced the intensity of the impacts. The peak of earthquake vertical movement exceeded horizontal acceleration resulted in the expel of the liquefied layer on the Port Island, one of the reclamation islands in the fringe of Osaka Bay (Chung 1996). Noda Hokubu and Matsumoto districts in West Kobe’s Nagata Ward were seen the most affected places due to fires. This was caused by the poor quality of houses exemplified by many old timber wood houses with narrow street that triggered and increased the extent of fires right after the earthquake (Mamula-Seadon, Kobayashi, and Maki 2015). It consequently hindered the fire-fighters to access the affected areas where many modern buildings with concrete columns also collapsed into the narrow streets.

The earthquake also damaged several pivotal infrastructure networks. According to report of The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Statistics and Restoration Progress in 2012, the traffic networks were also disrupted that the Hanshin Expressway Route 3 (Kobe Route) and Route 5 (Wangan Route) collapsed onto the road below. Railway or bullet train were damage as well. Healey (2009) argued that it resulted from the neglection of inner city development whereas major development was focused in the reclamation land in the coastline area. However, the reclamation lands were also affected by the combination of vertical and horizontal earthquake movement. Liquefaction occurred in the layer of reclamations of 2-4 sections of the eastern areas on Port Island (Chung 1996).

Overall, the high intensity of Kobe earthquake contributed to the extent of the damage which raised the awareness of the civil society to do collective actions. Here, the engagements of communities became a turning point of the old-machizukuri concept which had concerned on the environmental issues in post-WWII into disaster reduction in accordance with city planning participation.

Actor involved and Civil Society Engagement

In the context of disaster management, urban renewal or saikaihatsu and urban readjustment or kukakuseiri in post-major earthquake of Kobe Prefecture in 1995 was initially dominated by top-down approach which focus on overall physical structure and layout (Hein 2002). However, later in the process of execution, there were some gaps found resulting in community movements as bottom-up approach to balance the city planning. Therefore, in this case, there were three key actors who played pivotal role both saikaihatsu and kukakuseiri, namely city administrations, civil societies, and consultants or specialists. It is important to note that the portion of civil society engagement contributed to the outcome of city planning in disaster risk management.

The rapid and large-scale of land reconstruction in Kobe after the disaster exhibits the role of city administration in using decentralization as means to endorse “build back better” in disaster management for their territory. One of quick measures local government took was establishing umbrellas to do land reconstruction. Within short period after the earthquake, they published some policies in saikaihatsu and kukakuseiri for promotion areas to gain a recognition of decentralization as their long-term planning Hein (2002). In addition, the local government published building restrictions policy for six areas on February 1 and followed by law for Special Measures for the Reconstruction of Destroyed Areas on February 26. However, the concept of decentralization in disaster risk management cannot be overlooked the importance role of other actors such as civil society and the experts as they balance between need-gap of what should build and how to build to achieve the sustainable post-disaster neighborhood. As a result, the reconstruction promotion area in south of Kobe was opposed by citizens as the location was far from their originate neighborhood and also they had been not informed about the plan.

The role of civil society in post-disaster city planning exemplified by rooted-Japanese strong emotional relation has comprehend the design or plan that many groups from diverse social status involved. The involvement of society in machizukuri, significantly rose at 100 groups particularly after Kobe earthquake that destroyed their cities and neighborhoods. Most of the groups consisted of local land and property owners and residents with small businesses and concentrated on urban redevelopment or readjustment areas (Kobayashi 2007; Mamula-Seadon, Kobayashi, and Maki 2015). These machizukuri organizations were authorized under the Kobe City Machizukuri Ordinance that was established by the city government in 1982, long time before the disaster occurred. Kobayashi (2007) encapsulated that the residents could play an important role as they were accustomed to the city planning process, yet supporters network existed.

The concept of Machizukuri becomes a great example of the participation of civil society in urban planning particularly post-disaster urban redevelopment planning. Their role encompassed their shared-values and lifestyles arrayed in constructive manners through regular meetings and consultation among community members and the local urban planners or specialist groups (Hein 2002; Mamula-Seadon, Kobayashi, and Maki 2015). The process of Machizukuri in post-disaster urban planning reached an echo and advocacy in the meantime of Great Hiashin Earthquake in Kobe, yet challenged. The process of machizukuri gaining the recognition and authorization in post-disaster land reconstruction was not only begun with fine-grained movements but also pressure. The initial absence of local machizukuri in land redevelopment in The Rokko-michi Station South Area, one of the worst affected areas, led social movement as a lawsuit to City Planning Office (Mamula-Seadon, Kobayashi, and Maki 2015). Relocated local residents at that time were shocked by the original plan from the administration seen to detriment their social culture life. As a result, a revised plan of the initial redevelopment plan of high rise apartment buildings with large park was enacted with the specific terms. As prerequisite, it required the establishment of Machizukuri Council to accommodate community aspirations which later the council became an embryo of legitimized participatory planning approach.

This become a foundation on magnifying and bridging between local machizukuri and City officials in reconstruction plan. It aimed to improve liveability by working with local administration in a more fluid manner within the technocratic of top-down bureaucracy yet temporary deadlocked. In The Rokko-michi Station South Area, the proposal of reserving small parks from local residents was barely passed because reduced the floorspace/site ratio for high rise buildings and hindered the central subsidy by 75 per cent (Evans 2002). However, the machizukuri council showed their essential role of supporting networks for community development through effective communication and organization activities (Kobayashi 2007). Another case of Mano district, local residents, shopkeepers, and local businesses were also involved in revised of District Plan (Healey 2009).

The presence of supporting networks was also seen as one of contributing factors for local Machizukuri process to deliver their innovations or ideas through intense assistance. Partnerships with other groups and towns led to the creation of social activities. The planners, architects, academic researchers, and other specialists played the role as a bridge between machizukuri to work on agreement with local government with better understanding and as a catalyst to produce good material of reconstruction plan (Kobayashi 2007; Mamula-Seadon, Kobayashi, and Maki 2015). The specialists assisted from the creation of basic plan to the implementation of project in land redevelopment, readjustment and revitalization. It allowed their proposal to re-build residential in cooperative rebuilding with improved urban design and environment, to provide more cooperative housing for low-income residents, and to keep small parks around neighborhood for socially interaction (Healey 2009; Hein 2002; Mamula-Seadon, Kobayashi, and Maki 2015).

Therefore, some improvements had been made in urban design to maintain the characteristic of the residents and to achieve the future desired-neighborhood as disaster relief. In Noda Hokubu district, the community were willing to reconcile with the City Planning by giving small part of their land to be 50 cm of setbacks and 5 m of street widening which still can be a public-private intermediate space for residents to socialize (Hein 2002). Some urban features were installed in public spaces which functioned as safety elements as well such scattered small parks around neighborhood, a small meandering stream along the main road to increase liveability and eco-neighborhood in Matsumoto district, and integrated community center in Rokko Park (Mamula-Seadon, Kobayashi, and Maki 2015).

However, the process of machizukuri in delivering their ideas as innovation in post-earthquake reconstruction plan were seemingly contribute to different pace although the final plan eventually justified their proposal. The contribution of machizukuri in Mano district was gradual and slow in order to increase environmentally and healthy neighborhood as attraction to the new comers tackling with population declining problem in the area. In comparison, the process in The Rokko-michi Station South Area has been more radical as the evacuated residents wanted to come back in their community with the closed-appearance environment before the earthquake destroy their neighborhood. It reflected that urban regime in terms of Machizukuri role in post-disaster reconstruction plan may deliver different approach depends on the characteristics of the residents, neighborhood, and the leadership style itself. In the end, the long-term planning aftermath the disaster was driven by the government in terms of infrastructure and modernization.


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