Unite education, research and practice in innovative projects that stand out for interdisciplinary leadership

Japan: Tsunami reconstruction Otsuchi 2018/19

In collaboration with
Waseda and Tokyo University
Otsuchi disaster recovery office
Mio Kamitani

Funded by
Delft Deltas, Infrastructures & Mobility Initiative (DIMI)

Amin Askarinejad (Geo Engineering)
Adam Pel (Transportation Logistics and Infrastructure)
Jeremy Bricker (Hydraulic Engineering)
Fransje Hooimeijer (Urbanism)
Frans van de Ven (Water Management)
Keisuke Sugano (Landscape Architecture)
Yuka Yoshida (Landscape architecture)

Thesis students
Jochem Roubos (Hydraulic Engineering)
Jesse Salet (Hydraulic Engineering)
Nataly Filipouskaya (Geo Engineering)
Ilse Nederhof (Water Management)
Toshiya Yasaku (Transportation Logistics and Infrastructure)
Gayatri Muyumdar (Urbanism)
Aditya Rao (Landscape)

Interdisciplinary group
Álvaro Prida Guillen (Hydraulic Engineering)
Antoine Gori (Geo Engineering)
Sophie Broere (Water Management)
Eline Van Unnnik (Transportation Logistics and Infrastructure)
Emma Paola Flores (Urbanism)
Zoe Panayi (Architecture)
Nimmi Sreekumar (Building Technology)
Aylin Ozcan (Management in the Built Environment)

Staff Japanese partners Waseda and Tokyo University
Miguel Esteban (Sustainability science/coastal engineering)
Motoharu Onuki (Sustainability science/wastewater management)

Participating students from Japan
Cubelos Perez Gema Carlota (Sustainability Science)
Chen Junnan (Sustainability Science)
Cao Vu Quynh Anh (Sustainability Science)
Senoo Kohei (Coastal Engineering)
Nishida, Yuta (Coastal Engineering)
Tomii Yosuke (Coastal Engineering)

The project resulted in a journal publication:

Hooimeijer F.L., J.D. Bricker, A.J. Pel, A.D. Brand, F.H.M. Van de Ven, and A. Askarinejad (2022) Multi- and interdisciplinary design of urban infrastructure development. Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers – Urban Design and Planning 2022 175:4, 153-168

Read the paper

Building on the research done last year (Tsunami reconstruction Yuriage 2017/18), this year a group of students of 9 disciplines and staff have continued research together with students and staff of Waseda University and Tokyo University in tsunami struck Otsuchi. Spending a week in the town talking to municipal and provincial civil servants responsible for the reconstruction, high school students who survived the tsunami when they were 9 years old, the former mayor and representatives from NGO’s brought the group together in learning and thinking what is key to disaster reduction and reconstruction.

The Otsuchi case

The aim of the workshop is to give specific attention to approaches to reduce these risks by means of a combination of multiple structural and non-structural measures through an interdisciplinary approach. The workshop will focus on the reconstruction of Otsuchi, a town of about 12,000 residents in Iwate Prefecture. The town is nestled between large mountains in a small river valley and situated on Japan’s most productive fishing grounds where cold and warm ocean currents meet in the Pacific Ocean. Fishing and farming are the major livelihoods of the town, which is relatively isolated from the larger population centres of Sendai to the south and Morioka further inland. Transportation connections consist of only a coastal highway and railroad. Like many towns in the region, Otsuchi has been experiencing severe population ageing and decline since the 1980s. Due to the steep mountains surrounding the town, the population experiences risks from natural hazards on all fronts: landslides and slope failures occur during times of heavy rains and earthquakes, while lowlands face river flood and tsunami hazards.

The 2011 tsunami destroyed approximately ½ of the houses in the town and killed over 1,200 residents. As part of the government’s 250 billion Euro reconstruction project, the town is building giant coastal embankments, gates, and seawalls, elevating residential land, and enacting land use controls to remove development from the tsunami hazard zone. Bridges and roads have been rebuilt, but the railroad has not. The fishing harbour has resumed its activity, and private and public housing have been built.

The project is done by two groups of students: an interdisciplinary group and a group of thesis students; the group of thesis students consists of students of 6 departments, Hydraulic Engineering, Geo Engineering, Transportation, Urban Water Management and Urbanism; the interdisciplinary group has additional to those 6; architecture, building management and building technology.

This is a link to the general video about the project: click here 

Results project group

Interdisciplinary resilient spatial planning based on the reconstruction of Otsuchi, Japan
This paper demonstrates that a modified land use design, developed and achieved through an interdisciplinary approach, represents a holistic solution to the drawbacks of the reconstruction plan. Through an iterative framework, site-specific strategies are developed at the urban and the building scale that combines safety and livability by finding synergies among disciplinary fields in an integrated manner. The result of this paper is a quantified evaluation of the reduction in flood risk achieved with a new design, making spatially evident the areas in which a refinement is required to mitigate flood damage.

This resulted in a final paper read it @ the repository TUD

Results thesis group

In addition to the big picture and detailed designs for Otsuchi, the group of MSc thesis students developed their individual thesis that addressed disciplinary topics in detail but in the context of the other disciplines.


[Hydraulic engineering] Jochem Roubos

Prediction of the characteristics of a tsunami wave near the Tohoku coastline
Based on literature reviews, video footage, analytical reasoning and numerical modelling (using SWASH) it can be concluded that both the continental shelf slope and the bay geometry have a significant influence on the transformation of a tsunami wave near the coastline. Therefore, to calculate tsunami forces on coastal structures, it is of great importance to determine the type of wave breaking in front of the coast, in which, a new tsunami breaker parameter is proposed to predict the type of wave at the coastline in a quantitative way.

Link to project @ the TUD repository.


[Hydraulic engineering] Jesse Salet

Tsunami induced failure of bridges
Recent major tsunami events generated by earthquakes inundated coastal cities and caused extreme destruction and loss of human lives. The collapse of coastal bridges due to tsunami wave impact represents a huge obstacle for rescue works. The need to understand tsunami effects and develop tsunami-resilient bridges became apparent in the aftermath of extreme tsunami events in the Indian Ocean (2004), Chile (2010) and Japan (2011). To find out more about these failure mechanism and what role all these measures have in the failure, a laboratory experiment is executed and a numerical SPH model is set up to investigate the impacts of various wave characteristics, a seawall, shear key and inclination of the bridge deck.

Link to project @ the TUD repository.


[Geo Engineering] Nataly Filipouskaya

Experimental Investigation of Submarine Landslide Induced Tsunami Waves
In low-lying coastal areas, tsunamis are an unavoidable hazard to human lives. A common way of addressing natural disasters of this scale is with timely warning and evacuation, which in turn requires appropriate techniques for prediction of an upcoming disaster. While earthquake induced tsunamis provide a sort of a warning signal, tsunamis generated by a submarine landslide can be much more difficult to predict. Landslide tsunamis are usually concentrated in local areas and do not propagate far, as they are more dispersive than earthquake tsunamis. Thus, landslide generated tsunamis pose a serious hazard to densely populated coastal areas. Within the scope of this thesis, a number of experimental simulations on submarine slope failures were conducted in a so-called static liquefaction tank – a unique testing facility for large scale experiments at the Geo-Engineering Laboratory of TU Delft.

Link to project @ the TUD repository.


[Water Management] Ilse Nederhof

Towards Resilient Urban Stormwater Management in a Tsunami Reconstruction: A Scenario Discovery Study on Ötsuchi Town, Japan
In the face of climate change, urban stormwater management practices are subject to an uncertain context. More frequent and extreme rainfall events are expected in many urban areas. The extent how climate change will affect weather patterns is however uncertain. This challenges contemporary stormwater management practices. A post-disaster reconstruction of an urban area would potentially be an opportunity to anticipate climate change uncertainties from the initial design phase of new urban development. This would allow for taking advantage of the disaster recovery by rebuilding a more resilient stormwater system than was present before, in which the uncertainties are anticipated. A resilient stormwater system would thus be able to cope a wide range of plausible futures, rather than the average. A case study is conducted in which is focused on a) the conducted design approach, b) the realm of conditions for which the implemented stormwater system would be vulnerable and c) which solutions could be implemented to reduce the vulnerability, and reflected upon opportunities of an interdisciplinary approach from a stormwater management perspective.

Link to project @ the TUD repository.


[Transportation Logistics and Infrastructure] Toshiya Yasaku

Extensive application of a methodology to evaluate a tsunami-resilient transportation system
A methodology for an assessment of resiliency of a transportation system threatened by a disaster has been evaluated as to whether it is applicable in small coastal communities at risk of tsunamis. The result shows that, although the methodology is well-designed to apply in different cities in terms of the data collection, there are challenges in capturing the resiliency of the transportation system in the unique geography of the town of Otsuchi and against the tsunami-specific impacts. Besides, it was found that the methodology fails to take disaster-counter measures into account, e.g. a higher dike and a land elevation for the future tsunamis, which also could enhance the resiliency of a transportation system. Nevertheless, it was discussed using Wegener’s circle that the methodology captures well a transportation system threatened by a disaster from both demand and supply perspective. A conclusion was drawn by some recommendations to make the methodology more tsunami-resilience focused.

Link to project @ the TUD repository.


[Urbanism] Gayatri Muyumdar

KiNTSUGi: Improving resilience capacities in a hazardscape, Otsuchi, Japan
The project aims at contributing to integrated emergency planning in hazardscapes. The research takes the case of tsunami scape of Otsuchi, a town in the Iwate prefecture of Japan. Learning from the 3/11 disaster about the dependency of decisions that affect the nature of recovery has led to the formation of a methodology and guiding principles for the integration of emergency and contemporary planning. To enhance the effectiveness of preparedness, systemic dependencies of socio-technical factors have been examined based on the disaster resilience capital model of(Sakurai et al, 2016). The aim is to attain community resilience that mitigates and improves the capacity of dealing with returning disasters in the region. The method and principles are tested in the urban design of Otsuchi that envisions its urban renewal through the concepts and principles of social memory, identity revival, co-designing and wellbeing.

Link to project @ the TUD repository.


[Landscape] Aditya Rao

Stitches: Blending landscape fabric through the golden threads of spatial identity in San Riku coastline, Otsuchi, Iwate, Japan
Along the San Riku coastline where the tsunami and earthquake hit the hardest due to the landscape features and the proximity to the epicenter the government has set a list of top down governed structures that have impacted the urban fabric of the city. This document looks at one of these towns “Otsuchi” and how alternate solutions based on the historical and landscape features of the district can help create landscapes of livelihood for the citizens. Otsuchi among many other Japanese cities faces the issue of a shrinking population due to a lack of economy, a lack of education in the rural areas and a lack of opportunities. The design document also looks at how Identity crisis in a Rias coastline can create a set of cyclical opportunities for the people to develop their town responsibly and sustain-ably as they see fit. Landscape design seeks to provide opportunity to the stakeholders to further create, it provides the platform for this creation and the thesis looks at ideas and solutions on ways this can be done.

Link to project @ the TUD repository.