Group of 100 Devotees of Koyasan and Kumano


Member Profiles

Director of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake Memorial Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution Director and specially invited professor of the Kansai University Research Center for Societal Social Sciences

Yoshiaki Kawata


I became fascinated by mountains during my days as a university student, and I have spent 400 nights in tents and other temporary quarters. I narrowly escaped death after falling 1,200 meters at Mt. Hotaka in the spring. That moved me to give up hiking in the mountains, and I began studying instead. I earned my doctorate at age 29 and became an associate professor, and then I married the woman I loved. Since that time I've dedicated myself to disaster research, and over the last 44 years I’ve authored around 1,000 papers, served as a joint author of around 70 books, and participated in around 400 overseas research trips. As a result, I received the UN Sasakawa Award for Disaster Reduction, which is generally considered to be the Nobel Prize of the disaster prevention field. I remain the award’s only Japanese recipient. Currently, I am working to implement disaster reduction measures so that an earthquake occurring directly underneath Tokyo or a quake along the Nankai Trough would not precipitate a national crisis. I'm grateful for being born, and I’m doing my best to make a contribution.

Kii, Japan’s largest peninsula

When I was in elementary school, I went to an open-air school on Mt.Ominesan, which is a sacred site for the religion of Shugendo. While I was there, I had the experience of “Nishi-no-nozoki,” in which someone holds your legs while you look over the edge of a precipitous cliff. I still remember how frightened I was. I was also amazed by what I saw at the shop that makes Daranisuke, a famous medicinal pill. They cut notches into the paste used to make the pills, placed a board on top of that, pressed down with the palms of both hands, gave it a turn, and presto! There were a countless number of pills. I watched, fascinated, until I had to go. There are what seems like countless appealing onsen in Odaigahara, which makes up the central part of the peninsula. The only problem is that you can't go on a “hot spring crawl” like you can a pub crawl. Getting around on the peninsula is really inconvenient. My suggestion would be to make the remaining two lanes of the Kinki Expressway cut across the Kii Peninsula to form what you might call the Sangaku (“Mountain”) Expressway, instead of taking the route along the coast. Since it would consist of numerous tunnels, construction wouldn’t necessitate destroying the surrounding environment, and the infrastructure would be useful in the event of a disaster. Such an expressway would surely propel the peninsula at once to international renown as a secluded, sacred site in Japanese culture.

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