By Mizan Bustanul Fuady BISRI[2]

Japan is one of the most prone countries due to various disaster risks, e.g. earthquake, tsunami, typhoon, volcanic eruption, etc. However, the global world views Japan as an example  - a “good practices”  - in terms of how a country prepare themselves to overcome various risk, both from structural (physical) and non structural (policy, social engineering, etc.) approach[3]. Such state actually could not be achieved without social learning from past disaster. For Japan, Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake in January 17th 1995 was one of the disasters that re-shape Japanese path in creating disaster-resilient society.
The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake occurred on January 17th 1995, 5.46 a.m. local time. The epicenter of the earthquake was in the north of Awaji Island, i.e. 34o36’ Latitude and 135o02’ Longitude, approximately 16 km under the surface, and measured 7.3 on Richter scale (Kobe City Government, 2011). As a result, there were 6.402 dead victims (4.571 in Kobe City), 40.092 persons injured, and 3 persons missing. The state of emergency and coverage of disaster area was being forced in 10 cities and 10 towns in Hyogo Prefecture (Hyogo Prefecture Government, 2011).
The earthquake also destroyed (fully or partially collapsed) 248.080 structures (67.421 fully collapsed and 55.145 partially collapsed in Kobe City alone). At that time, there were 1.153 evacuation centers and the total numbers of evacuees/IDP (internally displaced persons) were 316.678 people. In sum, the earthquake caused economic losses approximately 9.926,8 billion yen. Thus, Kobe City which previously called as “Mother-Port” in Asia lost its pace of development.
The earthquake caused two major changes in Japanese society: an increase in voluntary and non-government activities, and the enhancement of cooperation between local government and the residents' association (Shaw and Goda, 2004), in which such action (e.g. at the community-level) offers the best capacity development opportunity for institutional memory and effective action (UN-OCHA, 2010), towards creation of resilient society. As a means, various activities to increase disaster awareness of the society took place, especially in Kobe and generally throughout Japan.
In addition, transfer of knowledge social memory also being highlighted in post Great-Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, covers the issue of importance of information sharing; importance of knowledge, lessons and experience  on the earthquake; importance of education in disaster reduction; importance of research in disaster reduction; and importance of citizen centered and active community (Tsunozaki, 2006). The term of recovery as a “build-back better” effort seems actually took place in Kobe City and Hyogo Prefecture in general; i.e. not only to reconstruct physical features of Kobe City in a better ways compare to condition before the earthquake, but also a Kobe society that more aware to disasters risk thus leads to a more resilient condition.
This paper aims to describe variety of efforts to enhance Japanese disaster awareness within society after Great-Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, especially in Kobe City and Hyogo Prefecture and Japan in general. In addition, relevance from and towards Indonesia, as a country that also prone to various disasters, will be explained at the final part of the paper. Content of this paper draws from secondary data through desk study as well as primary data from field observation to various activities in Kobe City, related to enhancement of disaster awareness.
                In short, disaster awareness is an aims to notify the public about their exposure to a hazard risk and to give them an accurate impression of how that risk affects them personally, it was the first stage before further efforts such as disaster preparedness activity can be applied (Coppola and Maloney, 2009). While it is true that the actual disaster was the most effective way to aware people about the risk, the experience of surviving a disaster has not been shown to increase future preparedness behavior by any significant degree if a public disaster preparedness education or awareness efforts does not follow the event (Citizen Corps, 2006), in that sense such activity is actually a process of social learning within society (Bisri, 2010) to achieve particular resilience state (Twigg, 2007).
                According to Coppola and Maloney (2009:17), disaster awareness cannot be done by simply telling people about the source of hazard on particular disaster risk. At least, people should be informed about several features as follows: process of how the risk affects them (individually or as a group), activities that may result them in a place of risk, location and time that hazard may happened and caused disaster. In addition, just like any other communicative efforts, disaster awareness enhancement activities should be crafted according to the target of audience of particular activity.
There are several challenges in communicating risk to increase disaster awareness, one of the most usually occurred are competition in terms of subject that being discussed; i.e. the theme of disaster will face stiff competition from day-to-day problems faced by the public such as poverty, crimes, illness, etc. Therefore, as Morgan (in Coppola and Maloney, 2009:18) noted, that there was only a limited amount time that people can devote to accept information about unusual risk, therefore disaster awareness should compose of accurate and trustworthy information as well as crafted as effective as possible.
                In addition, another challenge can be added especially to sudden-onset type of disasters, e.g. earthquake and tsunami, because their characteristics of occurrence are rapid, sudden, and happened rarely. In that sense, after particular major disaster probably it took several generations until the next occurrence. Therefore, how to convey message of disaster awareness in such long time span is also challenging. In the past, elderly use story, poem, picture and painting, etc.
                However, disaster awareness basically is not a stand-alone activity; it can be done altogether with other disaster preparedness or mitigation activities, both structural and non-structural, as long as in the process it incorporates the public themselves. The most important is to modify information of disaster and its measurement to become knowledge that easy to understand by the people and motivate them to have intention to prepare; i.e. the essence of disaster awareness.
                This part will discuss variety of ways that happened in Japan, especially in Kobe City and Hyogo Prefecture, which contribute towards assurance of disaster awareness within society. According to the findings, efforts that were made can be classified into four categories; i.e. 1) public participation in development planning and policy process, 2) commemoration of Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, transfer of knowledge, and disaster awareness campaign, and 3) various community engagements in disaster preparedness activities.
                After just four days prior to the earthquake, several main recovery and development plans were outlined; i.e. at least the Hyogo Phoenix Plan 1995 – 2005 (Tsunozaki, 2006; Adachi, 2008) and Kobe City Reconstruction Plan 1995 – 2005 (Kobe City Government, 2011). Both plans itself was a mix between top-down and bottom-up approach. For example, the Hyogo Phoenix Plan which implemented at 10 cities and 10 towns strived with a vision of creative reconstruction – better than pre-earthquake – a harmonious coexistence between people and nature/society (Tsunozaki, 2006). It thus contained with five pillars, which four of its embedded the value of people participation; i.e. creation of a welfare society tailored for the 21st century, creation of a culturally rich society open to the world, creation of a disaster-resistant metropolis where people can live with confidence, and creation of urban development with multi-centered network-type metropolitan area. Each of them leads to the participation of people, thus automatically those key figure from the community gain more awareness about disaster and how to build better future. It also has positive correlation with the emergence of community-based activities in Kobe and Hyogo area.
Similar approach also conducted at Kobe City, aside of providing temporary shelter at each ward physically, socially and physiologically those areas also revitalize sense of civicness of the people. Kobe City Government provided proper opportunity for the people to join the development planning for each ward, and it was indeed proven to be successful according to The 10th Year Restoration Committee, i.e. one of the factors was multi-tier implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of recovery plan, both in Kobe City and Hyogo Prefecture (Kobe City Government, 2008); e.g. specially dedicated 5 years and 10 years evaluation of the recovery progress by engaging community, NPOs, altogether with government.  Shaw and Goda (2004) wrote a good explanation about Nishi-suma as one of the community which proven to be bounce back better after the earthquake to become a sustainable community, as it presented in the figure below.

Figure 1 Cooperation Scheme Worked at Nishi-suma Area, Kobe City
Source: Shaw and Goda (2004)
The second type effort consists of three components; i.e. commemoration of Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, transfer of knowledge, and disaster awareness campaign. In Kobe, there is a campaign so called “We don’t forget 1995.1.17” or “1.17 shall never be forgotten”, where each year until today people commemorated the earthquake. Usually people gathered in Sannomiya and light candles to form “1.17” and sometimes with addition or being done at “5.46 am” to indicate the time when the earthquake happened. In addition, in Kobe itself there are 154 monuments to commemorate the earthquake and each has their own uniqueness, the distribution can be seen in the figure below e.g. in Kobe University. Moreover, in order to overcome challenge of trans-generation, in Kobe every elementary school student being taught a song that commemorate the earthquake and contained the value of disaster preparedness.
Figure 2.a
Map of Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Commemoration statue throughout Kobe
Figure 2.b
Video of Elementary School Student Sing the Song Related about Kobe Earthquake
Source: Bisri, 2012, Photo taken at Earthquake Museum, Kobe City
Moreover, commemoration was being enriched by process of transfer and endeavor of disaster knowledge. The government developed the area that being known as HAT Kobe which occupied by various organizations that engaged in disaster management activities and research (e.g. Disaster Prevention-Human Renovation Institution (DP-HRI), JICA, ADRC, UN-OCHA, UN-ISDR, etc.). HAT Kobe is located in Chuo-ku and developed with one of the core value to represent spirit of Kobe in rebuilding themselves and to the Earthquake as global lessons learned in managing disaster risk, i.e. through various research and humanitarian activities located there. Therefore, the Hyogo Framework of Action 2005 – 2015, a global framework in disaster risk reduction developed there.
The Earthquake Museum belongs to DP-HRI is one of the most iconic building in HAT Kobe, the outer layer building all made from glass and people can see the structure of the building as well joining compaction under the building. It has two main reasons, i.e. to shows good earthquake-resistant structure and the value of transparency, meaning that experience of earthquake should be shared. The area of museum consists of five floors with the fifth serves as public library. There are several experiences can be felt there; i.e. the earthquake itself, condition of street after earthquake, diorama of the complete recovery and reconstruction took place in Kobe, disaster preparedness workshop, and information booth on risk reduction activities to earthquake and wind-disaster. Similarly, the so called Bousai Center (Disaster Prevention Center) can be found easily across Japan.

Figure 3.a
The Earthquake Museum

Figure 3.b Future Earthquake Risk in Kansai
Figure 3.c
With Volunteer at the Earthquake Museum
Source: Bisri, 2012, Photo taken at Earthquake Museum, Kobe City
On the other hand, at community level, the trend was parallel with the finding that after the Great-Hanshin Awaji Earthquake NPOs and voluntary activities related to disaster was emerged (Shaw and Goda, 2004). In Japan, the emergence of this type of activity was noted to be run by Jishu-bousai-soshiki, i.e. means an autonomous organization for disaster risk reduction. It was formed as a neighborhood group for disaster preparedness and emergency response activity at community level (Bajek et al., 2008). These types of organizations were emerged after the Great-Hanshin Awaji Earthquake, and when in the situation without disaster it runs activities that ranged from public education, disaster drills, and workshops. Such actions, were not only located in Kobe, but also stretch around Japan with Sagala et al. (2010) described some of its in Kyoto area. One of the example in Kobe was the Cooking class in case of emergency and disaster, among other activities.
Figure 4.a
Trend of Disaster-volunteer Activities
Figure 4.b
Cooking Class in Case of Emergency and Disaster
Source: (4a) Tsunozaki, 2006; (4b) Bisri, 2012, Photo taken at Kobe Wholesale Market
From the description above Experience of disaster was being crafted as knowledge and being distributed equally throughout the area along with monumental structures. In addition, long-term recovery planning with the value of “building back better” equipped with periodic and participatory program and evaluation channel in Kobe City and Hyogo Prefecture. The most important that can be found out in Kobe was that, it’s not about the quality of the participation of the people, at least in the first time, but more on how such activities increase people awareness to disaster. After the people get used to such activities they thus easily do the same for other development purposes.
Another important lessons learned is the continuous and periodic commemoration of the earthquake that crafted with risk reduction activities towards future risk, that not only targeting the victims or its friends and family but also the future generations of Kobe City as well as Hyogo Prefecture. While there are similarities between the Song being taught in Kobe City, the story of Inamura-no-Hi no Yakata in Wakayama Prefecture[4], with the “Smong” story in Aceh after the Indian-Ocean Tsunami in 2004; the difference was that Indonesia still should learn on how effective Japanese in sharing story and knowledge about past disaster experience. Moreover, Japanese did not only pass on the knowledge through story, like most usually happened in Indonesia, but also through picture, painting, and nowadays any visual means. One of these examples can be found out in the Osaka Museum of History which shows that even some Japanese tried to draw the event of tsunami that happened thousands years ago.
How Japanese reconstruct the experience and sense of disaster of Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake at the Earthquake Museum are also more advance compare to Indonesia which still use the common earthquake simulation model. At last, the issue of distribution also can be learned, i.e. while disaster prevention center (Bousai Center) can be found almost at all cities in Japan so people can easily learn about disaster, in Indonesia only those areas hit by disaster has, e.g. in Aceh, thus in other areas only a commemoration statue. In addition to this matter, the relevance for Indonesian is that Japanese can tailor community engagement, research and education based activity, as well as development planning-policy in appropriate ways as being described above. Simple arrangement like DP-HRI did by opening access to research product and education activity in the museum which also entertain the people (museum as a hub of research and community education), especially children, can be replicated in Indonesia. In this way, even Museum Tsunami Aceh[5] should learn from the Earthquake Museum in Kobe City.
Moreover, in comparison with Indonesian case, where Hyogo Phoenix Plan or Kobe City Reconstruction Plan effectively engaged community, different result appeared in reconstruction of Aceh Tsunami 2004 or in West Java Earthquake 2009 (Bisri, 2011). Therefore, key factors that made it workable in Kobe City should be replicated in Indonesia; i.e. leadership from local government[6], especially Major and Governor; policy support towards voluntary based activities (Tsunozaki: 2006, Shaw and Goda: 2004) so that recovery process is not only to bounce back to previous condition but also to shape future vision and community identity (e.g. at ward level); disaster information provision that proper throughout the Kobe City and Hyogo Prefecture that maintain people awareness; and utilization of knowledge and technology (both civil engineering to enhance infrastructure or social engineering to build social awareness to disaster) towards policy making process.
Adachi, K., 2008, Our Initiatives for Recovery from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, Disaster Prevention Planning Bureau – Hyogo Prefecture, Available online:
Bajek, R., Matsuda, Y. and Okada, N., 2008. Japan’s Jishu-Bousai –soshiki community activities: analysis of its role in Participatory Community Disaster Risk Management, Natural Hazards. Vol. 44, No.2
Bisri,M.B.F. 2010. Pangandaran Village Resiliency Profile due to Earthquake and Tsunami Risk. Bachelor Thesis. Bandung: Regional and City Planning, Institute Technology Bandung
Bisri, M.B.F. 2011. Exploring Intergovernmental and Inter-organizational Cooperation in Disaster Management (the Case of West Java, Indonesia). Thesis. Bandung: Regional and City Planning, Institute Technology Bandung
Citizen Corps. 2006. Patterns in Current Research and Future Research Opportunities. Citizen Preparedness Review. Issue No.3. Summer
Coppola, D.P. and Maloney, M.K. 2009. Emergency Preparedness – Strategies for Creating a Disaster Resilient Public. New York: CRC Press Taylor & Francis Group
Hyogo Prefecture Government, 2011, Disaster Management in Hyogo Prefecture: Working Towards Disaster Reduction based on Experience and Expertise, Hyogo Prefecture
Kobe City Government, 2008, Lessons Learned from the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Case, The City of Kobe, Available online:
Kobe City Government, 2011, The Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Statistics and Restoration Progress as of January 1, 2011, Available online:
Sagala, S., Dwiyani, R., Bajek, R., Takeuchi., and Okada, N. 2008. Examining the Relationships between Earthquake Preparedness Factors at Household Level – Case Study: Nakagyouku Communities, Kyoto City, Annuals of Disaster Prevention Research Institute, Kyoto University, No. 51 B
Shaw, R., Goda,K., 2004, From Disaster to Sustainable Civil Society: Kobe Experience, Disasters: Volume 28, Issue 1, pages 16–40, March 2004
Tsunozaki,E., 2006, Disaster Reconstruction in Japan: Lessons Learned from the Kobe Earthquake, Asian Disaster Reduction Center: in SAR Regional Conference on Hazard Risk Management, 19-20 December 2006, New Delhi, India
Twigg, J. 2007. Characteristics of A Disaster – Resilient Community: A Guidance Note. DFID Disaster Risk Reduction Interagency Coordination Group
UN-OCHA, 2010, Emergency Preparedness Forum III – Final Report, Geneva: United Nations

[1] Prepared for Special Course on Political and Social Development
[2] Master Student, Graduate School of International Cooperation Studies, Kobe University, Japan
[3] As it mentioned by the Representatives of World Bank in the International Recovery Forum 2012, 20 January 2012, at Kobe Portopia Hotel
[5] (Tsunami Museums Opens in Indonesia)
[6] Such impression felt by Author when meeting Hyogo-ken Governor at International Recovery Forum 2012, 20 January 2012, Kobe Portopia Hotel


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