Interview

Yoshitaka Maemura

Takamoto Loss Adjusters Co.,Ltd.
Tohoku Office

前村佳孝

Meeting a young girl in Kamaishi during an earthquake investigation after the Great East Japan Earthquake

When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011, I was in the middle of an earthquake survey at the Miyazaki Branch regarding damage from the eruption of Mount Shinmoedake. I heard about the earthquake on the radio while traveling in my car, and ended up going to Tohoku around 10 days later when transportation was available in the region. Perhaps because the disaster-struck area was in a state of chaos, I received many survey requests and was dispatched to multiple locations including Yamagata, Miyagi, and Iwate Prefectures. I finally went to the Earthquake Countermeasure Office of an insurance company in Kitakami, Iwate. From that base I performed earthquake surveys, starting with Ichinoseki City in southern Iwate, where I viewed damage that exceeded my imagination. Buildings were tilting over and sinking. Front doors could not be opened, so I sometimes had to enter from the veranda on the side to do my investigations. I saw many homes that were so tilted it seemed impossible for people to live there. Insurance company employees had already come from across the country to one of these districts to help out, so we conducted practical training on survey methods and formed teams to conduct the surveys.

In April, I went to the Countermeasure Office in Morioka, where I was mainly in charge of Kamaishi City and Otsuchi Town on the coast. I still remember surveying the home of an elderly couple that was located on somewhat high ground in Kamaishi. Afterwards, I asked about their experiences of the disaster. Because their house was located on high ground were safe from the tsunami. However, they lost their daughter and her husband—only their grandchildren had survived. Hearing this, their young granddaughter left the room with tears in her eyes. I knew that I must work without emotion, but that was still very painful.

Loss adjusters conduct surveys in disaster-struck areas and calculate damage amounts from an impartial standpoint

As loss adjusters, our job is to calculate the amount of damage to buildings, personal effects, and other property related to damage insurance according to requests from insurance companies. We also perform other tasks such as estimating insurable value and conducting cause of accident surveys. For instance, we work onsite to confirm the state of damage from a fire or if a house collapses in an earthquake, and then calculate the extent of the damage. Accordingly, I feel a sense of heavy responsibility every day since I must calculate fair damage amounts from a neutral standpoint.

When they are told that a loss adjuster is on the way, policyholders can feel some concern or worry. “Loss adjuster” in Japanese is “kanteinin,” which evokes the name of a certain television show that evaluates the worth of antiques and other objects. However, that is not what loss adjusters do. The people on the show are appraisers who judge the authenticity of an object. In contrast, loss adjusters calculate, assess, and survey the amount of damage to buildings for the purpose of compensation.

This job involves a lot of travel, including places you wouldn’t go for sightseeing. Some people may not like that, but it is a positive feature for me because I do not like to sit still.

After growing up around volcanic ash,
I learned of the loss adjuster profession

I was born in Miyazaki Prefecture and raised in Kagoshima Prefecture, my father’s home region, from age three until my second year of junior high school. I’ve always had a hard time sitting still, so I rode my bike amidst the volcanic ash that was falling. There are active volcanoes in Kagoshima, so I was used to seeing and living with this ash. Loss adjusters also work with accidents and damage caused by volcanoes, so I feel like this childhood experience is connected to my current job.

Before I was loss adjuster, I did deterioration diagnoses for outer walls and waterproofing at a waterproofing construction company. I was mainly in charge of repair work and investigations after water leaks, so I had increasingly frequent opportunities to interact with insurance companies and loss adjusters related to damage insurance, which is how I learned about loss adjustment for the first time. This job appealed to me, and I entered the loss adjustment industry in 2004.

Loss adjusters must always be acquiring a broad range of knowledge and experience with a constant awareness of sharing extra information

After earthquake insurance surveys I can convey the survey results (or assessment results) onsite, which at times make policyholders very sad or happy. Tohoku had a low rate of earthquake insurance membership at the time of the disaster, and many did not have it in the districts I was in charge of. When I visited the damaged areas, the affected people often asked me to explain earthquake insurance to them. I have even held lectures on that topic.

We loss adjusters go where people are experiencing hardship, so I work to provide advice and additional information rather than just calculating the amount of damage.

I would like to tell aspiring loss adjusters that this profession is broad and includes nearly everything except airplanes, ships, vehicles, and people. It requires a diverse range of knowledge because you must look at all sorts of things. New techniques, methods, and machines appear in succession, so the knowledge you have studied and remembered quickly becomes out of date. You must constantly learn and be attuned to various types of information. For this reason as well, it is a good idea to have many interests and gain lots of different experience.

Video interview