Creating global social change, one individual at a time



changing numbers

japan's population decline

In May 2014, the Masuda Report concluded that the population of women between 20 and 39 would decline to less than half in around 50% municipalities across Japan by 2040.

However, the population around Tokyo itself is increasing which reduces regional income and this in effect leads to a vicious cycle with more people moving to urban centres.

catalysing change

rise in population outflow

Disasters can often trigger a huge population outflow. In the case of Futaba in Fukushima, the population itself reduced to nil due to evacuation. Only 10% of them have expressed an interest in returning to Futaba whereas 60% have no such intention according to surveys conducted by the Japanese government and others.

Moreover, such population outflow due to disaster could be seen in all the 3 prefectures affected during 2011.





brick by brick

rebuilding a place

Although reconstruction of the ‘hard’ infrastructure such as roads, buildings, etc. is more or less complete, rebuilding regional and community ties and providing psychological care for residents and evacuees alike remain a challenge. Moreover, top-down decision-making approach can be detrimental to reconstruction. Active public participation or bottom-up approach is required for the success of reconstruction.



Over the course of human history, towns and cities have been inhabited not by individuals but by communities. It is these communities which give the city its identity and therefore any urban planning must include the voices of these communities. However, such democratic urban planning isn’t just about specific buildings or designs. It is rather about thinking about the communities on which it will have an impact and using those voices in the planning process.


cities for all


the first step

creating a city

power of individual effort

Democratic urban planning shows how active participation by the public can lead to informed and quality decisions over time. Examples in post-9/11 New York and post-March 2011 Tohoku show what can be achieved by people being active and proactive in taking actions on their own to impact their surroundings. Even the smallest steps have the potential to eventually transform into global impact stories. At Rurio, we want to facilitate this process of creating active players in the society.


Creating global social change, one individual at a time



Engage people from all walks of life cutting across social divisions



Provide space for novel ideas and ensure feedback and impact are visible and measurable



Measure quality of each action and take steps for continuous improvement

futaba frontier

the journey begins here

Futaba is just the first step for Rurio. It is a region unique in its own right as it is the last uninhabited town in the aftermath of the 2011 nuclear disaster. It provides an unique opportunity that it is a blank slate. Moreover, Futaba had no history of tourism or developing and branding unique local products up until the disaster. This provides a fertile ground for outsiders or unrelated people to engage with the region and be an active player themselves. Finally, the history of Futaba itself is testimony to the fact that active players have shaped history.

One of the strongest features of Rurio is its diverse team with an elaborate international network. It can bring in fresh ideas to the region. Rurio is a platform to practice collaboration between these diverse people to achieve the goal of town-building at an individual level.


stepping stone

stepping stone

history of futaba

During the Sengoku-era (1467-1615) or the Warring States Period, Futaba was under the Soma clan which was sandwiched between the much powerful Date and Satake clans in the north and the south respectively. Inspite of this, the Soma clan was one of the longest surviving clans which is attributed largely to the fact that it actively took steps in diplomacy or otherwise to maintain its independence in the region. However, with the advent of the Meiji-era (1868-1912), Futaba largely submitted itself to national service as it hosted a training site for World War II pilots and produced coal and nuclear power to light the city of Tokyo and the surrounding Kanto region. The mediaeval history of Futaba therefore acts as an example of how being active and proactive can ensure independence, progress and sustainability over generations.

the first step

proactive efforts in ishinomaki

Ishinomaki Lab was founded in 2011 in Ishinomaki, Japan as a simple public workshop for the local community so that people can engage with DIY and become independent on their own. It soon engaged itself in the work of renovating shops and creating spaces where people can think and plan a new Ishinomaki. Soon, the US furniture company Herman Miller joined the project and provided these workshops for locals at the end of which locals can take the produced furniture for free. These DIY workshops still run today. What started as a simple DIY workshop eventually went on to become the world’s first DIY label with the now-iconic Ishinomaki Stool added to the permanent collection of Victoria and Albert Museum in London, UK. The founders even travelled to the Philippines in 2016 to provide these furniture-making workshops in the typhoon-hit island of Bohol.

cities for all

democratic urban planning

A successful example of how democratic urban planning could work would be in the aftermath of 9/11 attacks in New York in 2001. Although owned by the Port Authority, the Governor and Mayor decided to set up ‘Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’ (LMDC) whose aim was to make the planning process transparent so that everyone could participate in the decision-making. This was also meant to be a democratic answer to terrorism. The LMDC hosted the ‘Listening to the City’ event where 5,000 participants expressed their opinion about the 6 plans presented by LMDC. All the 6 plans received negative reactions and LMDC cancelled all of them to restart the design study. This time, LMDC included 5 selected architects to design alternatives based on public input. Architect Daniel Libeskind was successfully able to capture the public emotion through his design and it went on to become a successful example of democratic urban planning.


bottom-up approach

As early as 1970, the anti-pollution movement in Mano in Kobe, Japan gained attention of outsiders and a ‘Machizukuri School’ provided occasional lectures and workshops by academicians and planners on the issues related to the movement. Many of the long-term attenders became supporters and even published research on Mano. Kobe took this case as one of the pillars when it passed the first ‘Machizukuri’ ordinance in 1980 to officially support such local planning processes. In fact, it also provided small subsidies to local ‘Machizukuri’ councils to pay for consultants.

This participatory planning system came to Mano’s help during the 1995 Great Hanshin earthquake. Even though it had a population of 5,500 in 1994 which was higher than 750 in the neighbouring Mikura, only 19 people lost their lives compared to 27 in Mikura. Further, only 25% of the housing units were destroyed in Mano with fire damage accounting for less than 2% as compared to Mikura where 70% of the area was destroyed and burnt. By 2005, Mano had a 78% recovery in population as compared to 53% in Mikura. It is important to note here that Mikura had an inactive community development practice in the past as compared to the long-term community development in Mano. 


top-down approach

Post-2011, the government proposed several choices for safety measures to the people. While various surveys pointed out that the majority of the tsunami-affected people preferred relocation to higher grounds, the Ministry of Land and Transportation issued the Basic Recovery Principle in July 2011 which centred around construction of seawalls instead. This was then followed by the decision of the Central Council for Disaster Prevention in September 2011 which authorised construction of seawalls 15 m in height to cover the entire coastal lines of tsunami-inundated areas throughout East Japan.

A similar top-down approach was also seen in Kobe in the aftermath of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake. The city government only allowed for 2 weeks of public input in the planning process which required people to inspect the plans at city government offices and then comment in writing. Furthermore, people were still living in emergency accommodation or they had left Kobe altogether at that time. The people protested and only after that some major changes were introduced to make the planning process more accommodative. However, even if they had a choice, they didn’t have the veto power.