US-Japan Exchange Program: Citizen Participation in Community Building Post-Disaster


The US-Japan Exchange Program will examine how four cities in the US and Japan have engaged their local citizens in the long-term recovery and rebuilding of their cities in the aftermath of a natural disaster. The 3-year dialogue and travel program is organized by the East-West Center, based in Honolulu, Hawaii, with primary funding from the Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership.

Travel dates:

Year 1

Miyako visit: June 22-25, 2015

Kobe visit: June 26-July 1, 2015

Year 2

New Orleans, Louisiana and Galveston, Texas: November 26-December 7, 2016

Participating cities:

Kobe, Hyogo Prefecture, Japan - Great Hanshin Earthquake, 1995
New Orleans, Louisiana, US - Hurricane Katrina, 2005
Galveston, Texas, US - Hurricane Ike, 2008
Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, Japan - Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, 2011

Participating delegations:

One representative from the local government planning and community development agency; one representative from the local chamber of commerce; three representatives from community/non-profit/grassroots organizations (5 participants total per city)

Galveston Delegation:

  • Rev. Freda Marie Brown
    Executive Director, St. Vincent’s House
  • Mr. Joe Compian
    Facilitating Organizer, Leader, and Board Member, Gulf Coast Interfaith
  • Mr. Dustin Henry
    Project Manager, Industrial Development Corporation, City of Galveston
  • Ms. Betty Massey
    President of the Board, Artist Boat
  • Ms. Gina Spagnola
    President, Galveston Regional Chamber of Commerce

New Orleans Delegation:

  • Mr. Paul Cramer
    Planning Administrator, New Orleans City Planning Commission
  • Ms. Sandra Lindquist
    Vice President of Operations and Business Development, New Orleans Chamber of Commerce
  • Ms. Andreanecia M. Morris
    Chair, Board of Governors, Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance, and Vice President for Homeownership and Community Development, Providence Community Housing
  • Ms. Saundra Reed
    Community Coordinator, Orleans Public Education Network, and Founding Member, Central City Renaissance Alliance
  • Mr. Keith Twitchell
    President, Committee for a Better New Orleans

Miyako Delegation:

  • Mr. Shuichi Daibo
    Board Chairman and Chief Director, Tachiagaru zo! Miyako-shi Taro (Stand Up Taro!)
  • Mr. Tsutomu Obata
    Owner, Torimoto Yakitori Restaurant and Curry Tei Restaurant; and Chief Director, NPO Iha Tov Torimoto
  • Mr. Masato Sasaki
    General Manager, Oceans Miyako International Club; Director, Iwate International Association; and Vice Principal, Ichinoseki-shi Ohara Junior High School
  • Mr. Washichi Tanaka
    President, Taro District Revival Urban Development Investigative Committee; Vice Director, Tarochan Cooperative Association
  • Ms. Reiko Watanabe
    Section Leader, Miyako City Council of Social Welfare

Kobe Delegation:

  • Mr. Koyo Fukagawa
    Community Planning Advisor, Mano-Machizukuri District Council
  • Dr. Akira Miyasada
    Director-in-Chief, Machi-Communication
  • Ms. Junko Nakamura
    President, Community Support Kobe
  • Mr. Hisanori Nakayama
    Professor, Kobe Gakuin University, Contemporary Social Studies of Disaster Management; Former Director-General, Urban Redevelopment Department, Kobe City Government
  • Dr. Shizuyo Yoshitomi
    Executive Director, Takatori Community Center

Natural disasters remain among the most critical events to impact residents and their communities. These events present significant turning points for a city because they offer residents the opportunity to reconsider the significance of local community and to think about ways in which they can have a strong voice in rebuilding and creating more livable, sustainable, and inclusive environments for the future. Community rebuilding after a major disaster requires a large and complex effort. From past disasters, experience and lessons learned demonstrate that successful reconstruction requires sustained local citizen involvement.

This exchange program will contribute to new knowledge through the sharing of innovative approaches to enhanced citizen participation in each participating city's long-term recovery efforts. In Japan and US cities, the rebuilding and recovery experiences post-disaster offer common lessons. One of the most important is that city neighborhoods are usually rebuilt, with some improvements, in the same locations. A second shared lesson is that recovery is a long-term process that involves many decisions made over time and is best achieved when local community-based organizations are able to respond to their specific circumstances. A third lesson is that because the pressure to rebuild communities after a major disaster is strong and the needs of the victims/residents is great, there is a relatively small window of opportunity to plan for new permanent communities to be the best that they can be. An active, in-place planning process that includes well-established citizen participation is essential to improve both the speed and quality of post-disaster building.


For more information regarding the US-Japan Exchange Program, contact:

Ms. Meril Dobrin Fujiki
Seminars Development Coordinator
East-West Seminars
East-West Center
1601 East-West Road
Honolulu, Hawaii 96848-1601

Phone: 1-808-944-7352
Fax: 1-808-944-7600