Tuesday, May 10, 2011


April 25, 2011
The Yomiuri Shimbun

The following is a translation of the Henshu Techo column from The Yomiuri Shimbun's April 25 issue.

* * *

If we are asked what the capital of California is, we may be tempted to answer, "Los Angeles." But the correct response is "Sacramento." Or if we are asked what the capital of New York State is, we may answer, "New York City." But the correct answer is "Albany."

Not many Japanese can instantly imagine what these state capitals must be like.

In the United States, major cities are dispersed across the country in a meshlike pattern. This may have something to do with the country spanning a continent, but its various functions are not overconcentrated in any one area.

If American society is reckoned to be blessed with resilience, such a trait can also be found in the country's patterns of urban development.

One of the lessons we have learned from the Great East Japan Earthquake, which delivered a triple blow in the form of the quake, the tsunami and the nuclear plant accident, is the "risk diversification."

Even if one city were to be devastated by a disaster, other cities should be able to take up the functions of the affected one.

But a typical example of an overconcentration of functions in one area is Tokyo. Everything--ranging from politics to business to culture--is concentrated in the capital.

People in Japan may have come to realize through the latest catastrophe that the adverse impact of a major disaster in Tokyo would be enormous.

More than 87 years have passed since the Great Kanto Earthquake. As frequent aftershocks from this year's March 11 quake continue, the possibility of a major earthquake occurring directly under Tokyo may be taking hold in people's minds as an event "within anticipation."

How should we reduce the risk of overconcentration in the capital to overcome a potential quake disaster? Heaven may be urging us to work out a plan and act boldly.

(Apr. 28, 2011)

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