Resilience planning for sudden shock events: exploring ‘emotional equilibrium’ responses in shrinking cities across Japan

Urban and regional planning in Japan increasingly takes place under conditions that require responses to sudden shock events within the context of significant population shrinkage. Since 1995, 36 out of Japan’s 47 provinces have lost residents. Overall, Japan’s population is forecast to decline by 12.8 million people or 11% to 2050, from its peak in 2009 of 128.6 million. At the same time, Japan is a catastrophe prone country as evidenced by the 11 March 2011 triple disaster of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed by a gigantic tsunami hitting north-eastern Japan, and resulting in multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Planning policy and urban planning related responses in Japan must therefore be designed to mitigate, absorb or respond to sudden shock events.

It is in this context that strategic planning across scales is presented with a tension between responding immediately to shock events, i.e., to restore order, ensure the safety of citizens, and repair vital infrastructure; and developing a long-term vision or plan – a response which alters the development path in the context of population shrinkage and adapts the existing infrastructure for a different set of cultural, economic and social conditions.