Local sociality, which is local people's everyday lives in and with their community, influences recovery in disaster-affected communities. This paper examines recovery in four disaster-impacted communities. In the two Australian examples rural communities were impacted by the 2011 Queensland floods. The two Japanese communities discussed suffered in the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and, in one case, from radiation contamination arising from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. We argue that local sociality is often poorly understood by external parties such as disaster recovery experts and agencies. The Japanese planning concept of machizukuri – literally “creating communities” – incorporates physical, structural and social aspects in urban planning practices and was successfully applied to recovery processes in one of the Japanese cases. Drawing on that case, the paper concludes that machizukuri offers a valuable tool to foster better consideration of local sociality – both pre- and post-disaster – as an intrinsic component of communities’ vulnerability and resilience.