Interest in Social Sustainability in the Wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake
I completed my graduate studies at the University of Pittsburgh, Department of Anthropolgy, USA, obtaining my doctorate in 2003. In my doctoral thesis, I uncovered the importance of social connections in fishing villages for access to marine resources, and examined how this links into a sound marine environment. I first started this research in 1991. I was interested in Japanese culture and since I was studying in Sendai, I began interviewing the wives of fishery cooperative members in order to gain an understanding of livelihoods and lifestyles in coastal areas.
After obtaining my PhD., I moved to Europe on a post-doctoral fellowship, with this leading to my researching the fishing industry and coastal commons in Europe, SE Asia and southern Africa at Aalborg University in Denmark. This experience was very helpful in broadening the way I viewed the research I had carried out in Japan up until that point in time.
The Great East Japan Earthquake that struck in March 2011 resulted in a tsunami hitting the coastal region of Miyagi Prefecture which was thew location of my main fieldsite. In October of that year, I launched a short-term period of field work in Shichigahama-machi, Miyagi, which had been badly damaged by the tsunami, and focused my research on the rebuilding of the fishing community and carried out a survey on the impact of governmental policies on residents as they worked to restore their lives. Since that time, one of my primary research themes is social sustainability and resilience in the face of changes brought about by disasters. I believe that there is an intrinsic value in culture, and this needs to be protected and championed. One way of doing this is to carry out research into levels of social sustainability that contribute to the creation of resilient societies.