2. Problem beim Wiederaufbau – Sozialer Wohnungsbau

In Rikuzentakata ist ein Gebäudekomplex bestehend aus 3 acht – und drei 9 geschossigen Apartmenthäusern mit 301 Sozialwohnungen. Wahrscheinlich werden davon 206 bezogen, ca. 25% werden allein lebende ältere Personen sein. 95 Wohnungen werden leerstehen. Die Vereinsamung ist vorprogrammiert.
Ein weiteres Problem ist, dass die Feuerwehr bisher nur Leitern für 15 Meter

hohe Gebäude besitzt (5 stöckige Gebäude). Diese Gebäude sind doppelt so hoch. Die Leitern müssen beschafft werden und die Feuerwehr muss geschult werden.



2016年08月01日 月曜日



Otsuchi, Return of a Perilous Beauty


A March 2015 view of the progress of the incremental landfill operations in centrol Otsuchi that began in 2013 after debris-clearing. To the left is the district of Ando, with its fishing jetty protruding into the harbor; across the Kozuchi River to the right is Nobematsu, now connected by a temporary span that replaced the original bridge and its six-meter high floodgates.
A tsunami-battered town tries to get back on its feet: struggle, conflict, bureaucracy and, yes, hope.


by Charles Pomeroy

Not all has gone smoothly in the town of Otsuchi as it struggles to recover from the tsunami devastation wreaked upon it five years ago. (See my story, “The Perilous Beauty of Otsuchi,” in the April, 2011 edition of No. 1 Shimbun.) For starters, the loss of its mayor, Koki Kato, together with key department heads and the more than 30 experienced staff that made up a quarter of the town’s civil servants meant that there was no one to immediately get to work on a master plan for recovery. It wasn’t until January 2012 that a draft was finally completed, under a new mayor, Yutaka Ikarigawa.

Mayor Ikarigawa was faced with a number of tough issues, from organizing housing for survivors to sorting out land problems for the dead and missing. And over the next several years some progress was made, including a partial revival of the fisheries industry and construction of new residences to replace the temporary structures housing survivors.

But two key projects in the master plan led to discontent, as the long-range view of those who had forged the plan clashed with the more immediate desires of the survivors. One was a plan to raise the ground level in central Otsuchi by 2.5 meters; the other, to build a huge seawall 14.5 meters high.

After months of uncertainty, many displaced townspeople could not wait another six years and departed for other locales.

The plan to raise the ground level, intended as a safeguard against smaller tsunami and future rises in the sea level, will bring it up to the level of the entry road from National Highway 45 and the new town offices, formerly the burned-out elementary school. It is a six-year project, started in 2012 with debris clearing, followed by incremental landfill scheduled through 2016, and finally ending with a year of waiting for it all to settle before rebuilding can begin in 2018. But after months of uncertainty following the tsunami, many displaced townspeople could not wait another six years and departed for other locales.

THE PLAN TO BUILD the huge seawall – favored by Tokyo bureaucrats, but with the responsibility in the hands of the prefecture – has yet to get underway. Strong doubts have been expressed about its usefulness in protecting the town against future, perhaps even larger, tsunami. Critics also say that any concrete structure of this kind will deteriorate and require replacement in 50 years, which will mean another huge outlay of tax money. They prefer an enhanced system of tsunami alerts and evacuation routes, which are already included in the master plan for central Otsuchi.

In particular, opposition was voiced by the fisheries folk in Akahama, which is also home to Tokyo University’s International Coastal Research Center (ICRC). Akahama also has a walkway to Horaijima, an islet known to most Japanese from a popular 1960s NHK puppet program Hyokkori Hyotan-jima that featured a popular theme song. Many of its residents were lost in the 2011 tsunami, opponents said, because the earlier seawall at 6.5 meters had blocked their view of the “drawback” – receding water from the harbor that preceded the onslaught – that would have alerted them to seek higher ground. In their opinion, a seawall 14.5 meters high would just make such future situations even worse.

Opponents had their point made for them with the release in April, 2015, of a documentary by director Haruko Konishi, titled Akahama Rock’n Roll. The film makes a strong case for the more traditional fishery environment rather than a high seawall. Even Akie Abe, the prime minister’s wife, expressed sympathy for the opponents’ cause at a UN Disaster Prevention Conference in Sendai last year, according to newspaper reports.

After losing almost 10 percent of its 15,239 citizens to the tsunami (one of the largest losses among the affected towns), Otsuchi’s population continues to drop. In fact, it had fallen by 23.2 percent by the end of 2015, according to a report in Asahi Shimbun. This is far and away the largest decrease among the coastal communities affected by the tsunami, with the next highest being Rikuzentakata at 15.2 percent. The reasons were various. Some former residents who had evacuated to inland towns just opted not to return to the gutted community. But the biggest hit came from the post-tsunami exodus of younger people looking for work or schooling elsewhere.
Today, Otsuchi has become a town occupied mostly by retirees and transient workers.

Aside from cleanup and landfill work and rebuilding, long-term jobs that can help persuade locals to stay are in short supply to this day. Although the partially recovered fishery industry continues to offer opportunities, these jobs seem to offer little appeal for the younger generation. And though MAST – Otsuchi’s major shopping center that attracted many residents of surrounding communities – reopened in December 2011, its consumer base began eroding after 2013 as a result of increasing competition from shopping centers in nearby towns, especially the Aeon shopping center in nearby Kamaishi.

Driving home the reality of a shrinking population was the merger of three elementary schools in April 2013. Today, Otsuchi has become a town occupied mostly by retirees and transient workers.

TO ENCOURAGE REBUILDING IN Otsuchi, government subsidies totaling ¥5 million are on offer to qualifying families. But no rebuilding can take place in the town center until 2018, and those who want to build in other areas face escalating construction costs. That is assuming, of course, that a construction company can be found, for even local governments are having difficulty in obtaining bids for their projects. Costs have been rising not only from demand in the stricken areas of Sanriku, but also from the general upgrading of the national infrastructure by the Abe administration, a situation further aggravated by the decision to hold the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

These developments have fed growing cynicism among survivors all along the Sanriku coast. Many sense they are being abandoned, or at least having their futures downgraded in favor of other government projects. These feelings have only increased following the decision to hold the Olympics. And when the central government recently announced an end to the intensive five-year phase of Tohoku reconstruction and a reduction in such funds for the next five-year phase from fiscal 2016, this only added to their pessimism.

Despite these negatives, one of our family members, a brother-in-law in his mid-60s who spent most of his adult life in Tokyo, returned to Otsuchi after retiring in 2015. He now works part time to supplement his retirement income while looking for new opportunities in his hometown. So far he has found none.

Many sense they are being abandoned, or at least having their futures downgraded in favor of other government projects.

Still, all is not lost, and perhaps the long-range planning of Ikarigawa’s experts, representing central and prefectural governments as well as academia and knowledgeable locals, will see a new dawning in Otsuchi. But he won’t be in a position to lead it. Difficulties with his master plan’s implementation eventually led to his defeat in the August 2015 election. His victorious opponent, Kozo Hirano, ran on a platform calling for a review of the planned reconstruction projects.

In addition to the slow but ongoing recovery of the fisheries, positive signs include the revival of the old railway line by Sanriku Railways in 2021 and the completion of the new Sanriku coastal expressway in 2022. Both will make Otsuchi more accessible for commerce and tourism as well as much easier to live in, especially for students who had pleaded for a return of the railway to enable commuting to schools in other towns. This should also increase the town’s attraction for families with school-age children.

OUR HOME WAS AMONG the 3,359 in Otsuchi destroyed by the tsunami. My wife Atsuko and I plan to begin rebuilding in 2018 on our small parcel of land at the southern edge of the central district, which will allow us to continue our retirement that began there in 2004. It will again put us within a five-minute walk of the family gravesite at Dainenji, and give us easy access to that mountain’s scenic hiking trail.

Sadly, we will no longer be joined on these hikes by our favorite companion, Atsuko’s elder sister, Noriko, who had lived nearby. She and her husband, Yuji, were both lost to the tsunami. Her remains were not identified until August of 2011 and his were never found. The addition of her ashes to the family gravesite has made our visits for the annual Obon Buddhist observances even more poignant.

Half of our neighbors were also lost to the tsunami and, apparently, none among the surviving families will return. So we will start afresh with new neighbors, but bedrock support from Atsuko’s brother and other relatives as well as friends dating back to her childhood.

The author’s feature on Otsuchi in the April 2011 earthquake special.

And with any luck, some of our favorite local shops will restart their businesses. In particular, I would like to see the reappearance of Akabu Sakaya, which made it a point to keep my favorite gin and vermouth in stock. ❶

Charles Pomeroy retired from journalism 12 years ago. He is the author of Tsunami Reflections—Otsuchi Remembered.


検証変貌するまち>読めぬ集客 出店迷う








Kinder in Tohoku, fast 5 Jahre nach dem Tsunami

Wie geht es den Kindern in den zerstörten Gebieten? Haben sie die Erinnerungen an den Tsunami und den Verlust von nahe stehenden Verwandten und Freunden verarbeitet? Wie verläuft der Alltag in den vorübergehenden Gebäuden der Ersatzschule und das Leben im Container. Es gibt keinen Platz, in Ruhe Schularbeiten zu machen.


被災地負担、反対相次ぐ 復興相、首長らと会談 復興予算













Fighting to recover from the ocean’s wrath



On April 11, Wataru Takeshita, the minister for reconstruction of the areas most seriously affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake, met in Kamaishi with local government representatives to discuss the budget for Iwate Prefecture. After the meeting, the mayor of Kamaishi spoke to the press and said Takeshita told them the central government would continue paying for reconstruction work through next year, but after that he expected the prefecture and municipalities to cover part of the burden themselves.

“Please understand that the money we spend on reconstruction is from taxes levied on people nationwide,” Takeshita reportedly said during the meeting, which was closed to the media.

According to an article in the Asahi Shimbun, the local governments in attendance rejected the minister’s remarks, mainly because he neglected to go into detail about how much of a burden he was talking about and what sorts of things they would be paying for. The mayor of the city of Rikuzentakata seemed offended by the government attitude.

“They must discuss our financial situation and the reconstruction process,” he told an Asahi reporter. “Otherwise, we can’t envision a future for ourselves.”

Rikuzentakata is currently spending ¥30 billion to elevate levees and prepare higher ground for new residential housing, an amount equivalent to 2.7 times its whole annual budget. “And we still have to build schools and a new city hall,” he added.

Takeshita seemed oblivious to the resistance. He told reporters that he and the local governments “came to a common understanding” regarding division of reconstruction costs. A prefectural representative tried to point out that the municipalities weren’t saying “the central government should pay for everything and we pay nothing,” only that there had been no substantive discussion about what would happen after the current reconstruction budget expired in 2016.

As the Asahi presented the story, it read like a classic instance of official condescension, but the situation is more complicated. The report implies that the local governments formed a united front, but as the vice mayor of the town of Otsuchi said, the degree of damage suffered and the amount of reconstruction required differs from one place to another. By treating all the local governments the same way, the agency effectively demonstrates a lack of imagination and coordination, while the media gives the impression that money is the only issue.

Otsuchi, in fact, is the subject of a new documentary by Haruko Konishicalled “Akahama Rock’n Roll.” Akahama is the district closest to the sea and the one that contains the town’s fishing industry. One-10th of Akahama’s residents died in the 2011 tsunami or remain missing. The central subject of the film is the surviving residents’ objections to the central government’s plan to build a 14.5-meter-high seawall along the edge of the community. The rest of the town approved the seawall, or, at least, didn’t object to it.

The budget for construction was set in January 2012, when the town’s residents were still in shock from the disaster and hadn’t had time to think over the plans carefully. Since then, the people of Akahama decided that a better idea would be to move homes in the district to higher ground. The seawall, they contend, causes more problems than it solves. The tsunami, after all, was 22 meters high, so 14.5 meters may not do any good, but in any case, the fishermen of Akahama need to have constant visual contact with the ocean, and not just for the sake of their livelihoods. One reason so many people died in the tsunami was that they didn’t see it coming, since there was already a seawall blocking their line of sight, and that one was only 6.5 meters high.

Akahama is too small to attract the interest of the mass media, but Konishi managed to enlist one powerful supporter: Akie Abe, the wife of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. At the U.N. Disaster Prevention Conference in Sendai in March, she raised the matter of the seawall during an awards ceremony, saying that if you have to destroy the environment in order to safeguard a community from the forces of nature, then something is wrong. Since then, the movie and Akahama have been featured in a number of newspaper articles.

Konishi divides her footage between two principals: Tsutomu Abe (no relation to the prime minister), a fisherman who went back to work a few days after the tsunami, even though it killed his father, and Hiromi Kawaguchi, chairman of the Akahama Reconstruction Committee, who spearheads the local resistance to the seawall. This dual narrative approach toggles between the political aspects of the issue and the less concrete cultural ones.

Abe the fisherman represents the community’s soul, a man whose close relationship with the sea is primal. The tsunami was a tragedy, but, as he says over and over, you can’t fight nature.

“As long as our lives are connected to the ocean,” his mother says, “we have to be here.” And what’s the point of being here if you can’t see the water? When your life is dependent on the sea, you make peace with it as best you can.

People, however, are another matter, and it’s Kawaguchi’s job to fight the powers that try to tell him and those he represents what is best for them. Once the bureaucracy has a notion in its head, it’s difficult to change, and his fellow committee members, worn down by the subtle but relentless force of authority, seem willing to compromise, but Kawaguchi isn’t.

“Life comes from the sea,” he says. “And keeping the sea separate from us destroys life.”

If Konishi’s purpose is to show how a community’s desires should not be discounted even if those desires place it at risk, her movie acutely points out how specific needs can’t be summarily dismissed by logic or taken care of by charity.

“I’m not interested in people’s sympathy,” says Abe as he shucks oysters. “I just want to sell my products.”

Some Tohoku disaster areas on fast track to rebuilding while others stuck in slow lane


Es wird noch zwei Jahre dauern, bis hier – in Rikuzentakata – am Meer Geschäfte gebaut werden können  – mithilfe dieser gigantischen Transportanlage wird die Erde, die auf einem Berg abgetragen wird, auf die Ebene gefördert. Mit LKWs hätte es ca. 10 Jahre gedauert. – Aber ist dieser auf 10 – bzw auf 14 m angehäufte Grund so stabil, dass er bebaut werden kann – wie viel Zeit muss er sacken und wie häufig verdichtet werden? Auf der Ebene dürfen nur Geschäftshäuser errichtet werden – das bedeutet für die Menschen zwei Mieten – einmal für die Wohnung auf dem Berg, einmal für das Geschäft. In den temporären Einkaufszentren sind viele Händler schon über 65 Jahre – sie können sich die beiden Mieten nicht leisten, müssen aber irgendetwas weiter arbeiten – immer noch viele Probleme, die man auch mit High Tech nicht lösen kann.



This is the first of a five-part series on the lingering impact of the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster on the three hardest-hit prefectures in the Tohoku region.

“Bridge of Hope” is the name of a temporary span over the Kesen River in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture.

It connects a hill where construction is underway to create a residential area on high ground and to raise a low-lying coastal zone where 4,045 dwellings were destroyed by gigantic tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The bridge is not for people. Built in front of the city’s symbolic “miracle pine tree” that survived the tsunami when the rest of its grove was swept away, the temporary bridge is a link in a 3-km-long conveyor belt system that carries 40,000 tons of soil and gravel — the equivalent of 4,000 10-ton truckloads — from the hill every day.

Four years ago, 18-meter-high tsunami hit the coastal city and killed 1,556 residents; 207 are still listed as missing.

The waves also devastated the city’s famous oyster farms and a pine forest the government had designated as one of 100 locations nationwide of special scenic beauty.

Rikuzentakata is one part of the Tohoku region aiming to fast-track its rebirth and become a safer place to live.

To that end, the city is building two seawalls 1.8 km long, one 3 meters high and the other 12.5 meters, as part of efforts to mitigate the threat of future tsunami. It is also elevating the land in the coastal zone by some 10 meters.

Thanks to the conveyor belt system built in March 2014 by general contractor Shimizu Corp. at a cost of ¥12 billion, the city can shorten the time it will take for the reconstruction work from an initially planned nine years to two.

Besides being efficient, the conveyor system offers hope to the tsunami survivors waiting to get back to a semblance of normalcy, Rikuzentakata Mayor Futoshi Toba said.

“Thanks to the eye-catching machine that symbolizes the reconstruction by operating every day, survivors can experience step-by-step progress,” he said, adding that the conveyor system, which has rarely been used for ordinary construction work, has also drawn sightseers.

Seeing the progress with their own eyes is “much more encouraging for people” than what officials can do behind closed doors, the mayor said.

Rikuzentakata’s progress represents Tohoku’s hopes — and struggles — to reconstruct life as usual.

With most of the tsunami debris disposed of by last March, except for in some no-go-zone and evacuation areas in Fukushima Prefecture where radioactive decontamination work is still underway, Tohoku has finally started full-scale building of permanent dwellings, both detached houses and condominiums, for survivors who lost their homes in the disaster.

Many survivors, however, are still in limbo as municipalities face delays in providing permanent housing units.

Iwate Prefecture had constructed 1,049 publicly funded replacement homes for survivors as of January — just 18 percent of the 5,933 units planned to be built by September 2018. The deadline was initially March 2018.

Miyagi is also experiencing construction delays.

As of January, the prefecture had built 2,692 housing units, or 17.4 percent of 15,484 units planned to be completed by March 2018.

In Fukushima, only 261 units, or 5 percent of the 4,890 units planned by March 2018, were available for nuclear disaster evacuees as of January. Also, just 1,190 replacement houses, or 44 percent of the 2,702 units planned, were constructed for tsunami and earthquake survivors in the prefecture.

The delay is due to the rising cost of labor and construction materials, Iwate Gov. Takuya Tasso said.

Meanwhile a vast number of people continue to live in temporary housing units.

In Iwate, 22,300 people were still in prefab temporary housing as of January, down a mere 13 percent from 25,619 last March.

Miyagi in January still had 35,332 people living in temporary shelters, down 16 percent from the 42,310 listed 10 months earlier.

The situation in Fukushima also remains problematic, with 24,098 people still living in temporary housing in January, even though 15 percent of 28,367 had moved away from such units as of last March.

The number of temporary shelter dwellers is surprisingly high, considering that all displaced survivors of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake had moved out of similar housing five years after that disaster. The Hanshin temblor caused greater structural damage than the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, but there were no huge tsunami.

Industries in the Tohoku region are also suffering from slumping sales and manpower shortages.

Seafood production in Tohoku remains low. According to a survey by the Fisheries Agency between November and January, just 53 percent of facilities in Iwate Prefecture were operating at 80 percent or above of their pre-disaster levels. In Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, the number is even lower, at 50 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

Worse, the percentage of facilities at or above the 80-percent production threshold hasn’t changed much since last year’s survey, which recorded 57 percent in Iwate, 49 percent in Miyagi and 24 percent in Fukushima.

A recovery in seafood sales has also foundered, with this year’s survey showing just 58 percent of firms in Iwate reaching 80 percent or above pre-disaster levels. The figure is 40 percent in Miyagi and a mere 21 percent in Fukushima.

Iwate Gov. Tasso said the slumping sales in Tohoku fisheries is due to delays in the recovery of factories to process fish products, and radiation fears stemming from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Despite abundant job opportunities, the three hardest-hit prefectures are suffering a labor crunch.

Local industries, especially fish processing, construction and nursing care, are suffering from the shortage of human resources. Specialists who can take the lead in constructing infrastructure for community development are also in short supply, Tasso said.

Some Rikuzentakata residents don’t hide their anxiety about life after reconstruction.

Taxi driver Haruyuki Sato doubts people want to return to live in areas where they lost their homes to the tsunami.

“I can’t foresee how the city will turn out (after all the reconstruction ends),” he said.

Some citizens oppose the city’s planned seawalls, which will mar the traditional coastal scenery and the planned 70,000-tree pine forest to be planted on land between the embankments.

Midori Murakami of sightseeing promoter Marugoto-Rikuzentakata said that as the construction progresses, there is an emotional gap between locals who lost loved ones in the disaster and those who didn’t.

“Some people complain about creating a (raised-ground zone) on land where about 200 missing people may be buried,” she said. “But otherwise we can’t move ahead. . . . I feel both excitement and concern while the reconstruction advances.

“But local people are looking forward. . . . Thanks to the reconstruction, I get to know many new people and we work together,” she added.

Fiscal 2015, which starts next month, will mark the fifth year of Iwate’s eight-year reconstruction plan and the second year of its three-year “full-fledged” effort to rebuild housing, lives and industries for survivors. The estimated reconstruction budget will reach ¥1.1 trillion, the highest since the disasters if not counting past debris disposal, the governor said.

“When thinking about disaster victims . . . I feel it’s a mission for us survivors to reconstruct a city filled with smiles . . . (so) that even the most depressed people come here and become encouraged by finding diverse people at work and full of pride,” said Rikuzentakata Mayor Toba, who lost his wife in the disaster.

Fiscal 2015 will also be the final year of the government’s ¥25 trillion five-year reconstruction budget, which Toba said is the biggest concern for those hoping the rebuilding work won’t grind to a halt.

The administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has not made an official plan on whether or how to distribute the reconstruction budget after March 2016.

Toba is worried that the apparent waning sense of crisis among the public may lead to policymakers placing less priority on reconstruction.

“If possible, I want as many people as possible to visit the reconstruction sites — not necessarily Rikuzentakata — while the damage from the great earthquake still remains. Then, I want them to revisit after five, 10 years (to see the dramatic changes after the reconstruction),” he said.

“All bereaved families have something unforgettable inside them . . . but I think even that sorrow may turn to become an unbeatable energy (to generate positive effects).”