Ravaged townships could rise again as Japanese “future cities”

March 05, 2012

Several communities wiped out in last year’s tsunami-devastated Fukishima Prefecture in Japan may be rebuilt as energy-efficient “future cities” under what some observers are calling highly ambitious plans.

According to a report in the Voice of America, the communities of Ofunato, Rikuzentakata and Sumida Kesen could become part of the world's first mega solar power project running on locally distributed batteries.

The township of Kamaishi plans to make its own electricity for local consumption and to create new industries. Higashi Matsushima is to use cutting edge building technology to create a disaster resistant community while Iwanuma may use debris from the disaster to redevelop a natural environment and develop its own solar-powered smart electrical grid.

The town of Shinichi plans to become an “information infrastructure hub” while Minamisoma is trying to be an “energy circulation” themed city, perhaps utilizing wind power.

Architect and engineer Shuzo Murakami said “future city” residents would not only control their electrical usage, but also create and store energy in their own homes while cautioning against designs that merely pour in money for construction. The new cities, he said, need to be self-sufficient and sustainable so people will want to live in them over the long term.

Survivors and planners fear that the projects could be the latest version of billion-dollar boondoggles. Japan has seen many of those over the decades where politicians and construction companies collude, primarily for the financial benefit of each other, said the VoA.

Japan is encouraging foreign companies to participate in the rebuilding. But overseas groups complain they have found little actual enthusiasm for their expertise and products, both with the massive cleanup so far and the planned reconstruction efforts.