Neither Too Early Nor Too Late —
Mr. Otsuyama's Fruitful Year in Pursuit of a Long-Cherished Dream
In recent years, “pre-disaster recovery plans,” which refer to planning for post-disaster recovery before the occurrence of disasters, have become increasingly popular. The region within and surrounding Florida is widely recognized as the foremost site in the world to implement pre-disaster recovery for weather-related disasters. At Kyoto University graduate school, Mr. Otsuyama Kensuke researched the utility of and methods for building pre-disaster recovery plans in Florida; however, he states, “I wanted to actually live there and do research.” Accordingly, he applied to visit Florida and perform fieldwork.
Initially, he did desk research at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, following which he interviewed people involved in the government, as well as citizens, in Florida. Subsequently, Mr. Otsuyama returned to the University of Illinois to document his surveys. He recalls that, during this period, he got the opportunity to compare the disaster risk reduction strategies implemented in Japan and Florida and reveal some interesting results. According to him, “In Japan, when there is a disaster, the local people assemble in evacuation centers in groups. On the other hand, in America, people act individually. Therefore, traffic jams occur due to the long-distance evacuation from hurricanes. I believed that Japan followed efficient disaster risk reduction and recovery measures; however, my research required me to objectively consider these measures.”
He experienced seven and a half months of homestay in Florida, which had been his dream since his days as a student. Further, he was invited by an elementary school teacher whom he had met while doing volunteer work to conduct classes of approximately 30 minutes to students studying in the second to fifth grades, which amounted to a total of four classes. Mr. Otsuyama folded 100 paper cranes and gave one crane each to his students. He recalls, “I advised the children to take the initiative and take care of themselves during disasters in case they become evacuees or have to flee a hurricane. I’ll be very happy if they look at the folded cranes and remember my advice in case of emergency.”
Regarding his university PhD dissertation program, Mr. Otsuyama said, “There is no such thing as being too early or too late to take on challenges. I worked in the private sector for about nine years, and then I started on the path to research. Therefore, I am a little bit older than other Japanese Fulbrighters. Other places probably have age restrictions; but the Fulbright Program doesn’t have any. If you have a strong desire to study something, I request you to definitely face the associated challenge.”
Since his return to Japan, he has been continuing his research on methods to build highly advanced recovery planning systems in Myanmar. He plans to continue his research on disaster prevention even after completing his PhD studies. Finally, Mr. Otsuyama hopes that his research contributes to disaster risk reduction in Asia, which has witnessed many disasters.