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Japan opts for massive, costly sea wall to fend off tsunamis

68 Comments
By ELAINE KURTENBACH

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68 Comments
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This seems pure folly to me. Nature simply isn't that predictable for a start, and the nature of moving water and the forces involved in a major tsunami would make it virtually impossible to control. I can see the water finding sections of weakness and heading on it's merry way.

The other thing that strikes me about this is that for a country of people who absolutely prize the aesthetic beauty of things, they sure do some damn ugly construction around their coastline.

36 ( +40 / -4 )

Opponents of the 820 billion yen plan argue that the massive concrete barriers will damage marine ecology and scenery, hinder vital fisheries and actually do little to protect residents who are mostly supposed to relocate to higher ground.

Pretty sound arguments, IMO. But, typical of Japan, here is why none of that matters:

Pouring concrete for public works is a staple strategy for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its backers in big business and construction, and local officials tend to go along with such plans.

250,000 folks still in temporary housing, with no real plans to get them back to their homes, but the LDP is still taking care of their cronies. Disgusting.

19 ( +26 / -7 )

Take all the money they're planning on spending on this, and it to those still in temporary housing.

Then educate people to evacuate to higher ground asap in the event of an earthquake or Tsunami warning. Problem solved!

11 ( +17 / -6 )

The mother of all amakudari pork scams.

19 ( +25 / -6 )

The Great Forest Wall is a better option, in my opinion. This used to be done to break waves in many areas. Here, you can see the remnants of the once nearly continuous banks of pines along the coast along the Hanshin Expressway near Mikage, Ashiya and Nishinomiya. Meters-high concrete walls blocking all view of the sea will likely feel oppressive, people won't want to live there. They'd be better off moving communities to higher ground.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Better land use, proper early warning systems, strict building codes and evacuation drills can all play a major part in reducing the effect of a disaster.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

If you were looking for the worst of the worst Yakuza-led & amakudari-approved building scams - look no further! ¥820bn...

7 ( +10 / -3 )

It makes as much sense as the narcissists who build expensive homes on the beach at Malibu only to later see it crumble into the sea from the combination of unstable cliffs and regular storm damage. Building a massive seawall or series of walls will make the coast ugly, will siphon even more monopoly money into the pockets of the well-connected, and will encourage yet more complacency. Bad idea on so very many levels. Typical government - idiot group-think. MASSIVE BOONDOGGLE!

4 ( +6 / -2 )

Rikuzentakata, a small city near Osabe whose downtown area was wiped out by the tsunami, is building a higher sea wall, but also moving many tons of earth to raise the land well above sea level.

They are literally moving a mountain to the coast line and have constructed a huge elevated conveyor belt to bring the mountain of dirt to the town. It's an amazing plan and I wish them luck and hope that they never build the wall.

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2015/03/09/national/tohoku-disaster-areas-fast-track-rebuilding-others-stuck-slow-lane/

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I start to lose sympathy for the working people who go along with these plans. They are supporting massive corruption and long-term environmental and economic destruction for a temporary job. When their great-grandchildren ask why there's a massive wall instead of the horizon on the sea, they will be told, "It was so your great-granddad could have a job for a couple years. We are still paying for it - that's why you can't have new shoes."

Corruption at the top is enabled by corruption at the bottom.

14 ( +18 / -4 )

Another factor against this idiotic scheme is the fact that a wall to prevent water from coming inland becomes a dam to prevent water from flowing back to the sea after a tsunami. Residents who might survive a brief water in/water out catastrophe will end up spending a much longer period of time trying to survive in a concrete aquarium built to buy votes. We're paying higher taxes in Japan to fund this meaningless desecration of the natural environment. But many of the older people along that coastline have been extremely stubborn in refusing to cooperate in relocating to communities built on higher ground, which encourages this foolishness.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I thought this would be the LDP solution. Every time concrete is poured LDP politicians seem to get money under the table. This is a scam.

What will happen to the seaside tourists destianations? "Come and see out new concrete wall" and photos of concrete walls on JR ads.

What will happen if the next tsunami is on Okinawa or the Kysuhu? Better surround them with concrete, too.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I've surfed up and down the coasts of Japan and can't tell you how many beaches, shorelines, and pleasant views have been destroyed with these seawalls.

The idea of a natural forest barrier is such a great idea that allows soil to return to the coast to replenish the beaches and reduces erosion.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

70% of the coastline is already concreted, why not add another layer? The pork barrels are filling with grease as we sit and watch our taxes burn.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

A 12.5 meter wall is a nessessary evil? By that logic, wouldn't they also need to build these walls around every coastal comunity? As other posters already mentioned, a natural forest barrier is a much better idea, on so many levels. Guess who will end up paying for this? And not just financially, but lower quality of life and harming the environment to boot.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This is possibly the silliest thing I have heard of in a long time. This earthquake and tsunami were a once in a millennium event and the chances of it happening again [in the same area] are virtually zero. The money would be better spent on better education, evacuation procedures and early warning systems.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

¥¥¥ comes first, of course:

"Pouring concrete for public works is a staple strategy for the ruling vLiberal Democratic Party and its backers in big business and construction, and local officials vtend to go along with such plans."

There should be other options, like some described already. And what happens to those walls in case of an earthquake/ Are they really strong enough? I doubt it.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Pouring concrete for public works is a staple strategy for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its backers in big business and construction, and local officials tend to go along with such plans.

Just about sums up Japan - the more things change the less they change in that country.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Pouring concrete for public works is a staple strategy for the ruling Liberal Democratic Party and its backers in big business and construction, and local officials tend to go along with such plans.

So it's the LDP behind this. But...

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s wife, Akie, offered numerous objections to cementing the northeast coast in a speech in New York last September. She said the walls may prevent residents from keeping an eye out for future tsunamis and would be costly to maintain for already dwindling coastal communities.

The wife of the party leader opposes it?

Okay...

Personally I think these walls are a silly idea. Where does it stop? The Great Forest Wall seems much better. Or perhaps tsunami-proof shelters? In any case, if you're going in an area that susceptible to tsunami, you're taking a risk. Harsh but unfortunately true. Better to rebuild somewhere safer when possible. And that's a reason why many still live in temporary housing, it's not just the government (maybe we should discern between national and local , huh?)

1 ( +2 / -1 )

What will happen if the next tsunami is on Okinawa or the Kysuhu? Better surround them with concrete, too.

I spend a bit of time in Okinawa each year, and while not everywhere, sea walls are common there too - especially near the cities.

Last time I went to the beach I had to walk 200m along the sea wall before I could get down onto the beach via some little stairs. The sea wall only went so far along the beach, but there was a beautiful park there with dunes and views of the sea. It was closed. A local told me its because after 3/11 they're extending the sea wall the whole way along the beach.

It's such a disaster and one less reason to go to the beach.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

@Yubaru They are literally moving a mountain to the coast line and have constructed a huge elevated conveyor belt to bring the mountain of dirt to the town. It's an amazing plan and I wish them luck and hope that they never build the wall.

Moving mountain to beach area.... When Tokugawa became shogun, it ounished Mouri and gave only current Yamaguchiken and took away other Chugoku area. So, the lord decided to move mounain on Beach. and former low level samurais became farmers. When Shogun force attacked, tiny Yamaguchi ken won. There were many flat mountain there. So, moving mountain was in Japan.

@Frederick: Maribu in Calif ----- bewach side, real estagte developers created concrete block housing area. On top houses with terrace. Then side of house, people could step on beach to watch Pacific Ocean. Not poor village. Houses are sold expensively. Cheaper one could be 1.5 million $ and the place is more popular than old Beverly Hills. You can;t compare So. Calif and Tohoku.

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

There’s a bit of an overbelief in technology as a solution, even though everything we have learned demonstrates that people’s own insights and instincts are really what makes a difference, and technology in fact makes us a bit more vulnerable,”

So true, but few people seem to believe that.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

While I'm all for safety this sounds like a massive way to pay more of Abe's construction friends.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

The most assanine idea i've ever heard ! I'm reading this & thinking "Maginot Line"-Let's focus on taking care of Victims first ,there is plenty of pain in Fukushima with only B.S. coming from these elected officials.even after all this time

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Green wall sounds nice.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A vote for the LDP is basically a vote Zenenekon and make-work projects. If you can't print and trickle down your way to growth, this seems one of the few other options in their old bag of corporate welfare tricks.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Unbelievably STUPID!!!

For christs sake we already saw how these walls DIDNT WORK & you want to make more & make them higher.

This country is going to hell & a hand basket at an atrocious rate, thank goodness I have no kids to see what this BS will do to the country.

When are these idiots known as the ldp going to be stopped. JAPAN YOU HAVE NO ONE TO BLAME BUT YOURSELVES was a colossal mistake this is! Words just cant describe to sheer lunacy of it all!!

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Shame. Ruin the coastline, line the pockets of LDP cronies, ignore those still affected by the last tsunami. how very Japanese establishment.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

I'm thinking about a horse and a barn door, but I'm not sure why...

Or maybe something about a dollar short or something...maybe a day late?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

In medieval times this type of walls was very useful but no one likely thing it can be used to protect from tsunami disasters.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

@Disillusioned

There were 2 or 3 comparable tsunamis in exactly the same place in the last hundred years, let alone the last millennium. The chances of it happening again are pretty high seeing as there's a major fault line just off the coast! I agree the wall won't do much to stop it though and there are plenty of much better ways to deal with them.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Ha! Great idea for Japan and very Japanese. Just build giant concrete walls around all the Islands. Even if they do nothing people love concrete and will feel very safe.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Just curious. My engineering students wish to know which is it: cement or concrete?

400-kilometer chain of cement sea walls

the massive concrete barriers

1 ( +1 / -0 )

might be more effective to build a few shrines and temples to pray to the God of the Sea.......

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The videos of the tsunami going over a sea wall and destroying the town behind it are proof that sea walls are ineffective, yet the LDP weasels still insist on wasting billions building more of them.

Sea walls will make flooding worse as multiple tsunamis will each dump water behind the wall, which is then blocked from returning to the sea.

There was no debate or discussion about the construction of these walls: they are being built whether you like it or not. How is it they can build a sea wall with no problem, but after four years they haven't found a place to put the Fukushima radioactive waste? Rail lines are still out of use and people are still living in temporary housing. Why does a useless sea wall get priority over them?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

High and cool sea walls with ladders and cool watchtowers and some tress i. The top would be great

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

High school students are going to be studying this in 50 years and thinking, "What the hell were they thinking in 2015!"

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This is obviously just about 'creating some jobs' part, and I'm guessing the government already has the contractors foaming at the mouth over the upcoming bid-rigging tradition.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Smithinjapan. Its not likely a si gle company will do this. Its almost certain that only local contractors will bid for these walls. And im 100% sure that most work will be done by locals. Believe me. I do concrete/steel construction for a living. Got a team of 6mig/tig welders and many smiths working for me

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

I don't want to defend Abe but sea walls are not just for tsunami protection I think. They protect the shore from erosion and protect the city in typhoons as well. Thus, it seems logical to restore them for multi-purpose functionality to some extent.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

Before they "cast those plans in concrete", check the old records about the "Orphan Tsunami" of January 1700 that was caused by the Cascadia fault earthquake off the Oregon and Washington coast. Where did that one hit? Next, what are the highest priority targets? Nuclear reactors and power stations come to mind. Can that in-rushing water be channeled and then released? Raising the JNR tracks on trestles might be more economical with the water flowing underneath and not harming anything. This is how old houses on the US Gulf coast survived hurricanes while newer structures were washed away by the storm surge.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Well apparently all those distopias that envision Japan as a jail weren't too far off.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think a wall is okay but not a wall made of cement. Japan should create a transparent wall around their coastlines made really great hi-tech material. Nearly better than glass. So it would seem like there is no wall there to begin with. Then when a tsunami is on its way, the wall reads its speed and how tall this wave of destruction will be, and would be ready to repel it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Well Kurtenbach, you are hitting a nerve here. All the countryside can do is public works. And all the politicians of Tokyo like concrete. The perfect match.

Guard from an event that historicaly happens every 80 years by pouring concrete that may crumble by that time.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

kiyoshiMukai: Smithinjapan. Its not likely a si gle company will do this. Its almost certain that only local contractors will bid for these walls. And im 100% sure that most work will be done by locals. Believe me. I do concrete/steel construction for a living. Got a team of 6mig/tig welders and many smiths working for me

You are the expert, but we're hearing all the news about TEPCO cleanup and middlemen and Yakuza screwing over homeless guys and indebted guys and low-level indebted Yakuza on the cleanup, is that going to happen with this wall as a National Project, too?

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Simple, you don't live on the coast in a earthquake prone country. What are you expecting? No tsunamis? Pffft.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It is sad to see that the Abe government sticks to the old formula: more concrete, more megalomanic infrastructure projects, more pork to the construction industry.

The "living seawall" sounds like a much more sensible idea. Please encouraging relocating settlements to higher ground, building evacuation routes, and some mandatory evacuation structures in every town. Instead, they are opting for building these giant prison walls....

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Yep. LDP usually has the same solution to everything.

Pour concrete somewhere.

But what we really have to get rid of in this country is this...

"But even people who really don’t like the idea also feel as if they would be shunned if they don’t go along with those who support the plan!"

Come on Japan. From the PTA, to mamas in the park, to the upper echelons, THIS is what we have to change.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In this time of climate change and the tendency for ocean-quakes to happen in the seduction zone is highly predictable; it is not if but when the next tsunami will strike. Tsunamis have struck for countless generations in Japan and Asia, killing tens of thousands in its wake. Will Japan bury more of its dead in order to have the right to have "pristine" beaches uncluttered with ugly man-made structures? Will having every one move inland; till there is no more land to into, be the solution? This movement inland would be itself catastrophic; more people occupying less land. Less land to grow food; more imports to feed an aging population. Will the country be ready for the next tsunami; or will the cost be to high of a price to pay? One way or the other, you dance the tune; you pay the piper.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think all commenters here agree that concrete barriers are not a stunning visual attraction for the people living there as well as tourists, but who has time to think about that when a whole area is flooded?

Let me quote you some article I found on Marine Insight ("What are Sea Walls?"):

Sea walls are extremely utilitarian and since in these times, the threat of tsunami has increased substantially, it becomes important to build such preventive structures in order to lessen the menace of such natural calamities and to assure the people of their safety through a very visible, physically demonstrative and effective barrier.

I put this quote because the article was written out of the particular Japanese context. Now tell me, where does it say sea walls can stop the tsunami waves altogether? It can only lessen the losses. The only smart solution here would be just to move out of the endangered zone, but I am aware there are multiple reasons why people would rather stay.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Like Yoda said "Concrete or not concrete, there is no some concrete"..... :/

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Don't forget that these walls are also designed to keep Godzilla and any undeniable MUTO`s out...

1 ( +1 / -0 )

i hope that structure can gives 1 to 2 minutes ago for people who running to roof top. It doesnt feasible to stop the natural world cruel power but at least a bit secure feelings for japanese people .

0 ( +0 / -0 )

"Undesirable"

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Much like the "ice wall" it doesn't have to work, in fact it's preferable not to work so that after an expensive report that finds it not suitable they will "spend" more money to fix it.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A good, pro-active plan over there in Japan. It will keep the boo birds from stamping their feet and whining about how the Japanese government did nothing when -- not if -- the big one strikes.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Most of the uptakers here are reckless of assertion that this endeavor is riddled with corruption. Most of you do not live here in Japan who can obviously tell that your country's corruption is more severe than here in Japan ... for those who are living here, I ask you to present proof. Your assertion (about corruption) with no proof can also be denied without a proof.

You can read this link below. Or you Google FUDAI SEA WALL for more info.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1386978/The-Japanese-mayor-laughed-building-huge-sea-wall--village-left-untouched-tsunami.html

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

AU user

Yes its true govts are corrupt & inefficient however Japan is off the charts. Why do you think a tiny country with a large population get such low value for their taxes. Open your eyes, the cost of corruption in Japan is MASSIVE, haven't you read about all the labour scams wrt 3/11???

Its so bad & institutionalized that the govt etc have created bureaucracies, regulatory authorities who are solely designed to pilfer money for little or no benefit to the people of Japan.

I think the real question is when are you going to come to Japan see whats painfully obvious

2 ( +2 / -0 )

It is but humen to not learn from past history. If memory serves me well, this strategy had already failed once. The excuse was that "the wall was not high enough". When is it high enough? Where do we draw the line? Each time we estimate it wrong we pay a dear price, human lives, needless to say the cost of the failed tsunami defences and the long standing aftermath that follows.

Regardless of your beliefs on climate changes, it is a fact that the sea levels are rising. The March 11 earthquake that hit off the coast of Japan, had a magnitude reading that toppled all previous records, needless to say as did the tsunami that followed.

I would definitely scrap the wall project and put more emphasis on human lives. There is no sure way of stopping an tsunami making land. Our focus should be how to save lives with procedure and measures in place. I have just the right measures though I'll not disclose it in public for obvious reasons.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yeah and who will be paying for this? The taxpayers I presume.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

@AU...

"a $1.6-billion breakwater protecting the city of Kamaishi crumbled on impact, and some 1,000 people died there." http://rt.com/news/243045-japan-sea-wall-critics/

I don't think anyone can say with certainty that the project will be riddled with corruption. People are making educated guesses based on history. And even if there is no corruption in a legal sense, there is a serious concern that this is a white elephant. As a secondary issue, can we expect a concern for the environment, let alone aesthetics, when there is profit involved for the ruling party's wealthy backers? Perhaps systemic waste is worse than corruption.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

"It was so your great-granddad could have a job for a couple years. We are still paying for it - that's why you can't have new shoes."

Who needs shoes when you have a wall?

Some countries think they can solve any problem by throwing money at it. Japan is more open-minded: It's money AND concrete.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Absurd idea if one considers how those concrete walls will look like in 50 or 80 years. The salty seawater will take care of them and if the next tsunami is not kind enough to arrive within their short lifespan, they will just add a good portion of concrete to the tsunami debris.

To build them will pose a huge burden on society, to maintain them for a meaningful period is simply impossible and just imagine the task of taking them down or rebuilding them in the not too distant future. It will be a complete mess for the next generation (except maybe for the next LDP pork barrel generation, who will be happy to shift business from civil engineering to demolition).

I'm always stunned about the naivety and shortsightedness with which seemingly rational engineers plan such projects and believe they could provide any kind of long term protection against the unpredictable forces of nature with pouring concrete.

Awareness towards natural phenomena, education and sustainable town planning (including living seawalls) are the only long term strategies against disasters.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Visionaries are always mocked by fools. (Visionary Japan are always mocked by fools).

Just like some uptakers here are concerned that the life span of concrete will crumble in 50 to 80 years.

Heaven forbid, this is not the middle-ages. On the contrary, water-proof cement (in concrete-mixing technology) was invented by the Romans more than 2,000 years ago. Water-proof cement plus ANTI-sea-water corrosion was invented in the 18th centuries, applied to several lighthouses built in the middle of the sea which still stand to the present time.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Au_user_since1998. Agree with you. Also. These walls will be very thick and will withstand hundreds of years. They wiĺl not be submerged to seawater.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Looking at the pictures I see this will never work there is no footings and no foundation which has to be 1/3 the height of the wall, meaning the wall has to be built into the ground not lay it on top of the ground, the way it is built is clear that the massive wave will only PUSH the wall not hold back the pressure, I believed the engineers would be smarter then this, then we have no one or think tank thought about this, Just ask a question, we have a steel town here who makes steel, why are these people not thinking steel, why are they not building a wall of adjustable steel, 2 inch plates 20 feet long with three hydrological rams to lift them which are built into the ground where they can be raised at any time they choose, this way you do not lose the scenery and have the sights of the bays and SEA, I DO NOT BELIEVE THESE ENGINEERS AND THIS COUNTRY BUILDING SUCH AN EYE SORE, Has anyone really put some thought to this wall, Does anyone know how much pressure this will hold with the proper foundation, Why is it that Governments do first without thinking long term, the bright side of this is you have a steel town right there, you have man power and new Jobs and you have more people working because of maintaining the new wall which will be testing the sections every month, COME ON JAPAN YOUR BRIGHTER THEN THIS, with all the technology you build and design and you come up with an eye saw, Give me a break, IF YOU WANT A PLAN JUST CONTACT ME FOR A DESIGN AND YOU SHALL RECEIVE IT IN A MONTH !!!! Build what you need without destroying the View

Respectfully Joseph12345

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

(If... you are going to rebuild in the flood plain.)

Take a leaf out of history and build houses on stilts in areas liable to flooding. Reinforced concrete. Government subsidies for new business premises and housing. The top storey/story of each house to be a detachable Noah's ark which can float off in a tsunami. Forest wall to break the surges in and out. Yeah!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Couldn't a series of breakwaters strategically placed so as not to disrupt the current or harm the environment serve to reflect future tsunamis before they ever got to shallow water and strted to pile up?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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