This book was published to share with the people of the world what we have learned from the events surrounding the process of recovery from the Great Hanshin Earthquake.
The Earthquake, centered in Kobe city with a population of 1.5 million, occurred at dawn on the 17th of January 1995. It precipitated the loss of 6,433 lives and the ruin of 250,000 buildings and caused 10 trillion yen worth of damages. Almost 80% of the victims were lost during the collapse of old dilapidated wooden houses and in the massive fires that followed the quake. Elevated expressways collapsed and railroads and ports suffered great damages as well.
10 years have passed since the Earthquake and restorative efforts can be seen in every corner of the city. The collapsed buildings have been replaced and the population has recovered. On the surface, the recovery measures seem to have been a great success. However, if we review the current well-being of the victims and the vitality of the trading markets, we find that many are still facing recovery difficulties. Furthermore, problems that were faced during the process of the recovery were left unsolved. Due to these shortcomings, it is questionable if the measures taken following the Great Hanshin Earthquake should serve as provisions for future disasters.
Japan is recognized internationally as an economically strong and a technologically advanced country in reality, however, this is only true in certain areas. Unlike many advanced countries, the national resources of Japan are not utilized to provide aid to victims of quake-hit areas; there are no provisional funds for natural disasters such as typhoons and earthquakes. This shortcoming can be seen in the policy for victims who lost their homes in the quake-hit areas of Kobe. They were not entitled to any compensation or monetary assistance from local or national authorities. The government policy has stated that; as housing is an individual asset, it is logical that the national fund collected from taxes should not be invested for personal welfare. However, in the case of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, this logic no longer prevailed. Local authorities could no longer ignore the need to provide assistance to the victims of quake-hit areas. Unfortunately, the well-being of individual victim was not prioritized, as it should have been. As a result, although new buildings were constructed, communities were lost, individual loans increased, and many small to medium sized enterprises are still suffering in a critical state.
Japan's national and local governments have taken pride in the outcome of the recovery measures of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. This pride, however, is based on a superficial record. Beneath the surface, many major issues still remain. In October 2004, an earthquake occurred in Niigata Prefecture. Whether or not the recovery measures taken for the Great Hanshin Earthquake are applicable to Niigata Prefecture is now a major issue. In the near future, great earthquakes are anticipated to occur in Japan along the coastal region of the Pacific Ocean. Consequently, the verification of the process of recovery from the Great Hanshin Earthquake is not an issue of the past, but an issue that should be considered for the benefit of the present and the future.