Ishinomaki 2.0 is a community-based redevelopment program started in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. Ishinomaki and the surrounding region were devastated by the tsunami, with nearly 46% of the city inundated and destroyed.
The founders of Ishinomaki 2.0 came together with a profound yet simple goal: rather than rebuilding Ishinomaki, they were going to rebuild Ishinomaki into the ‘most interesting city in the world’ by bringing together a collective of local shop owners, NPO workers, architects, city planning researchers, creative producers, web directors and university students.
The recovery of Ishinomaki is an all-too-common phenomenon after disaster. Once a city or town is destroyed, and the initial political and social will to rebuild has passed, many cities suffer from profound neglect, or remain at the mercy of socio-economic forces which impede recovery. The slow pace of recovery in Ishinomaki has made semi-permanent communities out of housing which was designed to be temporary.
In Ishinomaki’s case, many of the younger residents decided not to stay or resettle. They moved inland or to larger cities which were perceived as safer. This left Ishinomaki with an aging population and a void of working-age residents.
Desperate to breathe new life into Ishinomaki, Ishinomaki 2.0 took a novel approach. In downtown Ishinomaki, there has been a widespread movement to reuse vacant properties by converting them into open-air, open-plan shops, offices and facilities to create a deeper sense of community.
Ishinomaki 2.0 has engaged a wide variety of projects since its founding. Although no project is typical, two of our favorites are:
Irori Ishinomaki – an open business café which anyone can use. The café was set up to provide a gathering space for micro-entrepreneurs and those involved in the reconstruction, while simultaneously serving as the information center for Ishinomaki 2.0. It features free Wi-Fi and coffee to keep everyone going. The café continues to be used to this day, and has become a community fixture.
Ishinomaki Voice is a free magazine produced by Ishinomaki 2.0, and written from the voices of local residents. It comments widely on both the history and culture of Ishinomaki, as well as what future Ishinomaki residents see for themselves. The magazine is circulated nationally, serving to introduce Ishinomaki all over Japan, and generate interest in the new vision for the city.
These projects, along with many others, represent in their sum a progressive approach to disaster – one that doesn’t limit its aspirations to mere rebuilding, but asks how disaster can be a catalyst for completely new visions.