The sixth preliminary education session was held by Professor Saitō Yukihiko, from Chiba University’s Faculty of Horticulture. Professor Saitō is an expert on town and country planning, particularly the planning of open spaces inspired by local residents’ perspectives. Professor Saitō’s lecture introduced a community-based project, which he is currently involved with, to revitalize Hosoura, a fishing village near Ōfunato-city (Iwate prefecture). Hosoura was almost entirely destroyed by the tsunami that followed the Great East Japan Earthquake on 11 March 2011.
Professor Saitō described the process of creating focus groups composed of local residents to think about possible solutions to ensure the safety of the village from future tsunami floods, as well as attempting to re-build the area’s infrastructure and economy. Issues of local management, diverging opinions between the local administration, the villagers and the experts, such as Professor Saitō, who had been called in from the outside, were the highlights of a lecture that demonstrated the complexity of setting-up a community-based project in times of disaster. A blog article written about this project by Professor Saitō is also available online.
Students from AUTh were again able to attend the lecture through skype and ask pertinent questions about, for example, the possible difficulties of bringing back residents who may have considered the disaster as “an opportunity” to leave the area, or the difficulty of defining what exactly we call local residents and community-based projects. Who are to be considered “local”? How far do the (non-geographical) boundaries of a community extend to?
After the lecture and Q&A session, AUTh students and Chiba U students had the chance to exchange opinions about each other’s image of their respective countries, and about their daily lives.