/Seven years after tsunami, Japanese reside uneasily with seawalls

Seven years after tsunami, Japanese reside uneasily with seawalls

RIKUZENTAKATA, Japan – When a large earthquake struck in 2011, Japanese oyster fisherman Atsushi Fujita was working as ordinary by the ocean. Quickly after, an enormous black wave slammed into his metropolis and killed almost 2,000 folks.

Seven years on, Fujita and 1000’s like him alongside Japan’s northeast coast have rebuilt their lives alongside enormous sea partitions that specialists say will defend them if one other large tsunami, which some see as inevitable in a seismically energetic nation like Japan, was to strike.

The 12.5-metre (41-ft) concrete wall changed a 4-metre breakwater that was swamped within the March 11, 2011 catastrophe. The earthquake and tsunami, which reached as excessive as 30 meters in some areas, killed almost 18,000 folks throughout Japan and triggered a nuclear meltdown on the Fukushima energy plant.

“It looks like we’re in jail, despite the fact that we’ve not accomplished something dangerous,” the 52-year-old Fujita mentioned.

For the reason that catastrophe, some cities have forbidden building in flat areas nearest the coast and have relocated residents to increased land. Others, akin to Rikuzentakata, have raised the extent of their land by a number of meters earlier than developing new buildings.

A typical thread, although, is the development of seawalls to exchange breakwaters that had been overwhelmed by the tsunami. Some 395 km (245 miles) of partitions have been constructed at a value of 1.35 trillion yen ($12.74 billion).

“The seawalls will halt tsunamis and stop them from inundating the land,” mentioned Hiroyasu Kawai, researcher on the Port and Airport Analysis Institute in Yokosuka, close to Tokyo.

“Even when the tsunami is larger than the wall, the wall will delay flooding and assure extra time for evacuation.”


Many residents initially welcomed the concept of the partitions however have change into extra important over time. Some say they weren’t consulted sufficient within the planning phases or that cash spent on the partitions has meant that different rebuilding, akin to housing, has fallen behind.

Others fear the partitions will injury tourism.

“About 50 years in the past, we got here up right here with the children and loved drives alongside the attractive ocean and bays,” mentioned Reiko Iijima, a vacationer from central Japan, who was consuming at an oyster restaurant throughout from the seawall.

“Now, there’s not even a hint of that.”

A part of a wall within the metropolis of Kesennuma, additional south, has home windows in it – however these, too, draw complaints.

“They seem to be a parody,” mentioned Yuichiro Ito, who misplaced his dwelling and youthful brother within the tsunami. “It is simply to maintain us pleased with one thing we by no means wished within the first place.”

Fisherman Fujita mentioned that whereas the tsunami had improved oyster farming within the space by stirring up sea flooring and eradicating collected sludge, the ocean partitions might block pure water flows from the land and affect future manufacturing.

Many municipalities mentioned the large partitions needed to be in place earlier than permission may very well be granted for reconstruction elsewhere.

“I can not say issues like ‘the wall ought to be decrease’ or ‘we do not want it,'” mentioned Katsuhiro Hatakeyama, who has rebuilt his mattress and breakfast enterprise in the identical location as earlier than. “It is due to the wall that I might rebuild, and now have a job.”

However many discover the wall arduous to regulate to.

“Everybody right here has lived with the ocean, by means of generations,” mentioned Sotaro Usui, head of a tuna provide firm. “The wall retains us aside – and that is insufferable.”

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