TEDxTohoku - Oct. 30th Sendai, Japan

This week I'm helping with TEDxTohoku, an independently organized TED event in Sendai, Japan that will showcase 12 speaker's presentations about the Tohoku region's revitalization after the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami. The theme of the event is "asking the 3.11 generation". I'm helping translate materials into English, organizing a team of bilingual volunteers to make the event more accesible for non-Japanese speaking attendees, and doing some English language PR.

My point of view and what I find so interesting about TEDxTohoku is that it is almost completely organized by local college students. Their passion and energy is amazing and I'm having a great time working with them. Having first imagined some stereotypical 20-30something creatives as the organizers I was shocked to find that most of them are my age or younger and most are going to university even as they are planning the event.

The popularization of the TED brand in Japan is another very interesting angle. This fall there have been many TEDx events in Japan like TEDxTokyo, TEDxTokyo_yz, TEDxTokyo Kids, and TEDxSEEDS. The brand is really starting to take hold. In a country where ideas are often handed down from central committees and presentations tend to be dry and read directly from a script... an event brand like TED where the spotlight is on the quality of the ideas and not who presents them is really radical and if it becomes popular, has the potential to really change how people think about post-disaster revitalization and other kinds of societal change here. The theme of the event is "asking the 3.11 generation" (the 3.11 generation being those whose lives were changed in great or small ways by the disaster). Focusing on "asking" instead of "saving" or "telling" something is what makes this event special in my opinion.

 Right now the regional planning process is well underway and there are a wide variety of projects aimed at restoring, revitalizing, and growing the urban environment of Tohoku, whether in big cities like Sendai or small villages. I hope that as redevelopment plans are implemented, their planners consider the importance of "asking" and collaborating with the people who have or will inhabit these spaces and places. I'm grateful to have the chance to be a part of this event and hope it helps promote this sort of curiosity and willingness collaborate on new models for the future rather than rebuilding the past with old theories and preconceived notions.

I need to thank my friend Cesar Harada, a Senior TED Fellow, for introducing me to the organizers. Having just presented at TEDxSEEDS in Yokohama, Cesar is currently biking from Tokyo to Sendai, looking for a place to launch his sailing drone, Protei, (designed to tack into the wind and skim oil in swarms) in an attempt to test it's potential to measure radiation. Although he won't be presenting at the event he will join us on sunday and have some materials available for people interested in learning more.

If you can't make it on sunday, you can watch the event live on Ustream from our website:

Some of the speakers at the event will include:

•Paul Bennet - Chief Creative Officer, IDEO 
As Chief Creative Officer of the global design consultancy IDEO, Mr. Bennett is actively involved in designing and bringing to market new products, services, and experiences. He is a proponent of 'human-centered design' that draws inspiration from the end-user experience and practical elements of daily life. he will speak on the concept of 'human-centered design' and how it might be applied in post-3.11 Tohoku.
•Kawashima Masashi – Google Senior Webmaster / Global Product Manager
Kawashima Masashi spearheaded the Google Person Finder project, initiated within hours after the earthquake struck, among other projects under Google Crisis Response. He will speak about the necessity of leadership and the role of Information Technology in natural disasters.
• Iinuma Kazuie - Head of Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital.
Following the disaster, when the city of Ishinomaki's transportation links were severed, Ishinomaki Red Cross Hospital was the only functioning source of medical care, lead by Dr. Iinuma. He will speak about how to give medical care that protects the lives of residents in situations where outside aid is unavailable.