Disability, Destitution, and Disaster: Surviving the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake in Japan

By Nakamura, Karen | Human Organization, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Disability, Destitution, and Disaster: Surviving the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake in Japan


Nakamura, Karen, Human Organization


On the morning of January 17, 1995, a magnitude 7.3 earthquake struck the port city of Kobe, Japan. 6,400 people died and over $80 billion in property damage occurred. Among those rendered homeless was a small group of people with severe disabilities. Over the next decade, this group leveraged discourses surrounding civil society, disability, poverty, and the role of government in natural disasters, to become one of the most powerful and vocal proponents of disability rights in Japan. What lessons can we learn to make disability advocacy a leading, rather than trailing, element of social policy?

Key words: advocacy, disability, civil society, social welfare, government

Introduction

A tremendous natural disaster strikes a major metropolitan area. Thousands are thought to have immediately perished and hundreds of thousands are rendered homeless. The local government is overwhelmed as provision of basic services such as medical care, electricity, telephone, water, and food supplies are all disrupted. The elderly, disabled, and poor are hit the worst. The national government dallies for days while people are dying in the streets and the eventual response is too little, too late. Citizens all across the country are enraged at this state of affairs and demand change.

This was not New Orleans 2005. This was Kobe City, Japan in 1995.

In the early morning hours of January 17, 1995, a Richter magnitude 7.3 major earthquake struck 16 km below the surface in the Hanshin- Awaj i area near the port city of Kobe, located west of Osaka, Japan. Although many Japanese had thought that their country had some of the highest earthquake resistant construction standards in the world, these beliefs were shattered when the earthquake hit. Simply put, this major metropolitan region of 3.5 million residents was devastated. Overhead highway trusses split in two, the Shinkansen Super Express train derailed, ferroconcrete buildings were pitched onto their sides, and wooden residential homes burned for days. This was not supposed to happen.

Over 6,400 people died, over a million were rendered homeless, and over $80 billion in property damage occurred. People across Japan were horrified at a scale of destruction that had not been seen since the Pacific War and were enraged at the national government's subsequent mishandling of the rescue and recovery effort. National self-defense forces were not sent in for several days, as local and national bureaucrats clashed over jurisdiction and accusations of political scheming. In one famous incident, specially trained survivor rescue dogs and their human teams from Switzerland were held back at Narita airport for several days over quarantine requirements, thus rendered useless (Grubel 2000: 121).

Just as with New Orleans 2005, Japanese citizens in the 1995 Kobe earthquake were outraged that news media were able to get helicopters in for live coverage of the ongoing tragedy while the national government was seemingly still in denial. The result of the bungling of the rescue effort was a massive outpouring of financial and physical assistance by the citizens of Japan and the creation of a new era of active civil society in Japan. Three years later, the government passed the first NonProfit Organization Law (NPO Law of 1998), allowing small non-profit organizations to incorporate for the first time.

Located near the epicenter of the earthquake in the suburb of Nishinomiya was a small organization of people with severe physical disabilities called the Mainstream Association. Their office building was destroyed and most of the members were rendered homeless. Ten years after the earthquake, Mainstream Association had become one of the strongest and most militant organizations of people with physical disabilities in Japan. This paper discusses the ways that Mainstream leveraged discourses surrounding civil society, disability, poverty, private and public giving, and the government's role in natural disasters. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Disability, Destitution, and Disaster: Surviving the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake in Japan
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.