May 29, 2024

Kibou for Maui Project supports Maui delegation to study recovery, rebuilding in Japan

The Kibou for Maui Project in Japan hosted a Maui leadership delegation from May 19 to 23, 2024, to facilitate an educational and strategic exchange between Maui recovery effort leaders and experts in Japan’s Tohoku region, which underwent significant rebuilding after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The trip was 100% funded by Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and administered by the U.S. Japan Council to host Maui leaders and professionals in an educational tour of Japan’s Tohoku region, as the County of Maui recovers and rebuilds in the wake of last August’s devastating wildfires.

“We are extremely grateful for the outpouring of support we’ve received from Japan,” Mayor Richard Bissen said.  “This intensive experience has inspired and equipped our recovery leadership with innovative ideas for consideration in our efforts to rebuild a resilient, sustainable community.”

“I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to visit the areas affected by the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident, and see their progress on recovery and vision for the future as well as their reflections on living through these events,” said Maui County Councilmember Tamara Paltin, whose residency seat covers West Maui.  “I came away from this experience with a better idea of how we need to reach out to our people and collaborate on a safer and more resilient rebuild.”

The visit aimed to facilitate insightful exchanges on resilience and innovative recovery strategies, empowering participants with applicable lessons for Maui’s reconstruction. Participants included Hawaiʻi State government officials, community leaders, and representatives of private sector and nonprofit organizations. It focused on gathering a group capable of translating insights into actionable strategies for Maui.

A significant focus of the visit was exploring the elements of resilient cities, which will aid Lahaina as it undergoes reconstruction. The Kibou for Maui Project is designed to equip Maui’s leaders with innovative ideas and practices for building a resilient, sustainable community, leveraging Japan’s experiences in disaster recovery and urban resilience.

The Kibou for Maui leadership cohort comes after the project recently hosted a youth cohort of 11 students from Lahainaluna High School to learn about the reconstruction process and actions taken during Japan’s 2011 disaster.  

The Kibou for Maui Project objectives included educational presentations on resilient urban planning and infrastructure strategies; community-driven recovery efforts that empower local residents to actively participate in rebuilding their communities; integrating environmental considerations into recovery; lessons on incorporating sustainability into disaster recovery; and understanding the role of cultural heritage in community healing and identity.

Site visits targeted disaster recovery efforts in Sendai, Tohoku, Fukushima and Tokyo. Locations included Higashi-Matsushima Farm, which was previously an Elementary School abandoned due to the Great East Japan Earthquake and was refurbished as a state-of-the-art LED artificial light vegetable factory; Tohoku University; Tohoku University Hospital; Namie Town Hall; Namie Hydrogen Research Facility; Fukushima City; Mitsufuji Fukushima Factory; NEC Headquarters; and the US-Japan Council Business Advisory Board.

In addition to Mayor Richard Bissen, the delegation included County of Maui Deputy Managing Director Keanu Lau Hee, who is Deputy Director of the County Office of Recovery; County Public Works Highways Division Chief John Smith, who leads the Infrastructure Recovery Support Function; and Laksmi Abraham, County Director of Communications and Government Affairs.

Others included Maui County Council Member Tamara Paltin; Kim Ball, owner of Hi Tech Surf Sports and a member of the Mayorʻs Lahaina Advisory Team; Chief Executive Officer Kuhio Lewis and Chief of Staff Nicholas Carroll of the Council for Native Hawaiian Advancement; state Sen. Troy Hashimoto, University of Hawaiʻi Maui College Chancellor Lui Hokoana; Nicole Hokoana, Chief Executive Officer of Maui Behavioral Health Resources; Kyoko Kimura of Aqua-Aston Hospitality; Colbert Matsumoto of Island Insurance Companies; Bo McKuin, Regional Manager of Goodfellow Bros.; and Deidre Tegarden, Executive Director of the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center.

The tour ended with plenary sessions between the US-Japan Council and the Maui delegation to reflect on what was learned, and focused on disaster recovery ideas to bring back to Maui County for potential consideration.