Building For Resilience: After The Tsunami A look at disaster recovery and earthquake technology in Japan.


Nishi Hongan-ji Temple, Kyoto: Part of a UNESCO World Heritage site, the 17th century wooden building’s design has proved remarkably resilient to earthquakes.

More than three years on, the effects of this triple whammy – the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster – continue to be felt. So it was with some trepidation that I accepted an invitation from NHK TV, Japan’s national broadcaster, to spend 10 days in the country making two documentaries for the NHK’s English language Tomorrow program. The first was entitled Reclaiming Communities, and the second A Tradition of Building for Earthquakes.

I meet my seven-person film crew in Tokyo. They turn out to be extremely hardworking and dedicated. My translator, Lisa, who grew up in the US, proves to be indispensable.

Bustling Tokyo is the world’s largest metropolitan area. At night it is a forest of neon. It is incredible to think that in March 2011 skyscrapers were dark and the Japanese government considered the very real possibility of abandoning the city because of the threat of radiation.