Barriers to Long-Term Return after the Great East Japan Earthquake: Lessons from Hirono Town

Carl Bruch, Syafruddin Karimi, Jagath Manatunge, Mikiyasu Nakayama


The Great East Japan Earthquake and the ensuing tsunami and nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi displaced more than 340,000 people. Four years later, more than 70,000 people were still living in temporary housing. This article summarizes findings from a series of structured interviews with people from Hirono Town that were still living in temporary housing four and a half years after the triple catastrophe. The interviews sought to understand why people were still in temporary housing, rather than moving back to Hirono Town (as many had) or on to more permanent arrangements in other locations (as some had). Five key factors are identified that contributed to respondents’ ongoing decision to stay in the temporary housing: (1) a new sense of community in the temporary housing; (2) convenience of shopping, medical care, and dental care, as well as (to a lesser degree) education and recreational opportunities; (3) a sense of injustice and inequality in the benefits they were receiving; (4) concerns about radioactive contamination; (5) a desire to receive compensation.

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