New Year Greetings for 2020

Manabu Yoshimura

I wish a Happy New Year to all members of Japan Concrete Institute (JCI) as we enter the new Reiwa era.

Japan has suffered a number of natural disasters in the past few years. The year before last, heavy July rains in western Japan caused a series of landslides and river floods that brought great damage to the Chugoku and Shikoku regions. (The resulting cancellation of the afternoon session on the third day of the JCI Annual Convention in Kobe is still fresh in our memory.) Then when Typhoon 21 made a direct hit on the Hanshin area in the following September, the storm surge inundated Kansai International Airport while strong winds caused power blackouts across Osaka and other areas. The destruction continued last year, when September's Typhoon 15 became the most powerful to strike the Kanto region in recorded history, wreaking considerable damage in and around Chiba prefecture. Then Typhoon 19 in October dumped record rainfall, resulting in extensive damage ranging from the Kanto to Koshin and Tohoku regions.

These events affecting western Japan and then eastern Japan in two successive years remind us that terrible natural disasters can strike anywhere in Japan. They bring home to us that a priority issue for JCI is ensuring that concrete structures are safe. At the same time, we have seen that infrastructure constructed with concrete, such as embankments and dams, has considerably reduced the potential for disaster as a result of natural phenomena. So another of our tasks is to remind the public of the contribution that concrete has made to the safety of society.

One of JCI's major activities relating to concrete technology, alongside research, study, and dissemination, is the certification, testing, and registration of qualified concrete engineers. As of this fiscal year, the number of people registered as Authorized Concrete Engineers and Authorized Chief Concrete Engineers has reached 57,400. This large number of engineers — all highly regarded concrete specialists — are engaged in the production and quality control of fresh concrete and in a range of disciplines in the construction industry. In addition, 13,300 Authorized Concrete Diagnosis & Maintenance Engineers work in the areas of inspection, diagnosis, maintenance, and repair and reinforcement.

A problem that JCI faces is the small proportion of female members, who account for only 3.7% of our 7,000 total. (Even the Japanese House of Representatives boasts a 10% ratio.) Becoming a concrete engineer remains a challenging aspiration for a woman in Japanese society; we must try harder to increase our female membership in order to encourage women into the field. Recent government laws implemented to promote more active engagement of women in various underrepresented fields are not working the way intended. For goals in this area to be met, we need these laws to take root in society's consciousness. JCI can help with this, by taking the initiative and calling public attention to the problem in our field. More voices have a greater impact. As a first step, we are considering the idea of a cross-sector network of relevant organizations in the concrete industry, or more broadly in construction, aimed at promoting women's participation.

Annual conventions held by Japan Society of Civil Engineers and Architectural Institute of Japan cover a wide range of topics. They generally offer little opportunity for participants to hold deep discussions with peers from their field. In contrast, JCI's annual conventions focus specifically on the single theme of concrete, drawing participants with similar interests from civil, building, and material engineering. This year, we hope the annual convention will engender a greater than ever sense of identity and unity among concrete engineers.

With the assistance and cooperation of all members, we will continue our efforts related to all issues facing concrete engineering, including the ones I've mentioned above. I wish you all the best for this year.

Manabu Yoshimura
Professor Emeritus, Tokyo Metropolitan University

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