Changes in land use after the Great East Japan Earthquake and related issues of urban form

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Five years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, great progress has been made in rebuilding the affected areas. This kind of recovery from a tsunami is generally accompanied by major changes in land use. This paper aims at providing an overview of reconstruction and land use plans and going over the effects and issues posed by such reconstruction from the perspective of land use planning by categorizing the disaster-stricken regions into following three types; “collective relocation area,” “rebuilding on original location area,” and “non-disaster area.” A “collective relocation area” is the reconstruction case, in which the affected people collectively move from low-lying land, which is at risk of tsunamis and is designated as a disaster hazard zone, to a residential site on a hill or some other safe location, mainly based on the Collective Relocation Program. In this area, the municipal governments conducted careful surveys to understand the residents’ intentions and had done their best to match the supply and demand with the number of units available in the relocation residential sites. Thus, for the most part, the residential sites intended for relocation have been filled. However, some challenges still remain, such as isolation of relocation residential sites, low demand for low-lying original relocation areas. “Rebuilding on original location area” is a reconstruction case in which the affected people rebuild their houses on the affected site, since safety from tsunamis is assured through land raising or seawall construction. In this area, the rebuilding process has not progressed and a very low-density urban form is taking shape in both cases where land readjustment projects had built infrastructure and raised the ground level for safety, and those areas where no urban development projects took place and in which immediate reconstruction was allowed. A “non-disaster area” is a reconstruction case in which the affected people move and rebuild their houses outside of the original affected area individually. In cases where there were designated urbanization promotion areas and urbanization restricted areas, as seen mostly in the metropolis and core city areas based on the City Planning Act, development concentrated around the existing urban centers within the urbanization promotion areas, and thus achieved a highly dense utilization and was able to protect the urbanization restricted areas in the suburban zones. However, in the small and mid-sized cities where they had not made such designations, and in suburban areas where they had much looser restrictions, it was found that development was occurring in a sprawling fashion. The author concluded there has been progress in creating a denser urban form in some areas in “non-disaster areas” in the urbanized area, partly in accordance with plan and partly without plan, and “collective relocation areas,” which can be evaluated as a more sustainable space. In other locations, however, the reality is that a low-density urban form is taking shape before our eyes. He also pointed to a few potential solutions such as the aggregation of land and the creating a district- or local-level land usage management system.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research
PublisherSpringer Netherlands
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameAdvances in Natural and Technological Hazards Research
ISSN (Print)1878-9897
ISSN (Electronic)2213-6959


  • Great East Japan earthquake
  • Land use density
  • Land use diversion
  • Urban form


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