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The towering sea wall legacy of Japan's 2011 tsunami

51 Comments
By Natsuko FUKUE

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Mostly a huge waste of money as in 30 years many of the areas affected will be depopulated. It would have been more cost effective to simply move those in danger inland.

25 ( +30 / -5 )

But the 16-meter wave that arrived on March 11 made quick work of those best-laid plans, streaming over the walls and partially destroying them as it carried away homes and cars.

> In Taro, the walls are now up to 14.7 meters high and run for over two kilometers

So they increased the height of the walls by 4.7 metres, but still to less than the height of the 2011 Tsunami?

17 ( +21 / -4 )

..but of course. I'd say - follow the money! Who were the corrupt politicias awarding fat contracts to what construction companies for such utterly useless projects? The wall was supposed to protect, it didn't, who got paid for that incompetence, and who reimbourses the money?

19 ( +22 / -3 )

if in doubt.... lay concrete

24 ( +24 / -0 )

Very ugly. Very expensive and very unnecessary. Part of living next to or near to the sea is being able to see it. I would feel more cut off if there was a huge concrete wall. There could be problems with powerful typhoons and the water building up inside the walls when previously it was able to run out to the sea.

19 ( +24 / -5 )

The town adopted sea walls as early as 1934, after being engulfed by huge tsunamis in 1896 and 1933. Well that didn't work! As above its politicians with links to the construction industry. Again personal profit before lives. A sound track for Japan. Build the towns further back, and why have a usless concrete wall blocking some of the most amazing views? The stupidity the stupidity just never ends. The firemen trying to close the Tsunami gate died trying to prevent a disaster that unbeknownst to them was a a usless effort. Those guys are heroes. It's just so sad that common sense is woefully lacking in decision making

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Mr Kipling you are correct.

However in many areas are already depopulated!!

I have seen multi million dollar walls protecting rice fields that will never be planted again (Nonojima), parks where there are no children (Ishinomachi), ports where there used to 70 fishing boats and now there are seven (Onagawa).

As Zichi has said, Very ugly. Very expensive and very unnecessary.

I would add , very wasteful of money, resources and manpower.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

The money should be spent on a better warning system. Designing and building escape routes from built-up areas. In 2011, there were about 40 minutes between the earthquake and tsunami.

14 ( +16 / -2 )

When the next great tsunami hits the region and if the wall saves lives, the opinions against the wall will disappear overnight.

1 ( +11 / -10 )

Better to move to higher ground, but Zichi is right warning systems and escape routes. A mad desire to cover everything in concrete simply isn’t going to cut the mustard.

12 ( +13 / -1 )

Japan...Land of cement.

10 ( +13 / -3 )

Human ingenuity and engineering can help protect human life but adding a bit of common sense can make all the difference. People are aware of the risks, especially now. If they are informed and exercise a little common sense the people of the region might realize it’s better moving private residences to higher ground. Nature cannot be tamed - it’s dangers can only be managed.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

The Great Wall" and came with 44 tsunami evacuation routes, 

What does this mean? A wall with evacuation routes?

Roads were designed with clear views for evacuees

And what are 'clear views' ? Shouldn't all roads be designed with clear views for the drivers?

Finally, if you experienced a 16-meter tsunami, why would you decide a 14-meter tsunami is the highest that will happen?

6 ( +9 / -3 )

It gets worse. If you look at the satelite image of Taro on Google maps, they have built a massive sea wall to protect . . . . . almost nothing.

The Google Maps imagery form 2021 show that alsmot nothing has been rebuilt in the old town. Almost all the locals have rebuilt on a new subdivision (Tarosanno) on a hill nearby.

https://www.google.com/maps/place/Taro,+Miyako,+Iwate,+Japan/@39.7402251,141.9922011,1891a,35y,247.82h,44.49t/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x5f844bf42eab0acb:0x398d1078202e6779!8m2!3d39.7546963!4d141.9372645

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Someone posted cheaper to just move upland. Agree what a waste of funding.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The problem of building homes in the mountains means finding the land. Most of the landowners don't want to sell. During the rebuilding, local authorities have run-up to the wall of not being able to obtain the land to build new apartments for those in need. There are no compulsory purchase laws here. Prefectures like Miyagi are more than 50% mountains for land space.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

Reminds me of "Easter Island."

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is just depressing. They’ve basically surrounded Tohoku with giant prison walls. Who would want to live there if they had a choice?

The unending grey ugliness continues to spread unabated across this country and it feels like they won’t stop until the archipelago is just a bunch of uninhabitable giant mounds of concrete poking out of the ocean.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

The town adopted sea walls as early as 1934, after being engulfed by huge tsunamis in 1896 and 1933.

So three times in 120 years. By agreeing to build the walls and paying for them, the government is enabling people to live in danger. The government is then expected to come up with evacuation plans for all the vulnerable people in what are elderly communities. It will have to build evacuation centers above the imagined tsunami water line even if people continue to live below it.

I guess it all comes down to the addiction to concrete due to the corruption and temporary jobs it creates. The walls are not permanent and will need maintenance, which will be impossible in any future carbon-zero society where cement and diesel fuel are not available on tap for printed money. This is ugly and environmentally disastrous, malinvestment on a huge scale.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

For some reason which I can't understand, people back home think that Japan is somehow a country in touch with nature. Yet living here, all you ever see is more trees cut down and never replaced, more roads built, more coast turned to concrete, with never a thought for green spaces or protecting nature.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

The 2011 tsunami was over 52 feet in height in places. That is monstrous.

Here is another idea. Instead of building 14 meter (46 feet) sea walls, miles long, it would be cheaper to build a series of reinforced "forts", capable of surviving the larger tsunamis, and also able to protect the civilian population that would hide inside them, if they did not have time to go to higher ground. At the same time, the people would not completely lose their view of the sea, and maybe the "forts" could also house a giant wind turbine atop each.

5 ( +8 / -3 )

Get some wonderful 3-D illusion Davy graffiti artists and make it look like Hawaii

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

Savvy not Davy

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Not just Japan. Many other countries are taking similar steps. Does that count?

When judging Japan on it's actions, does it count when other countries are doing the exact same move?

Building walls to protect against rising water levels. Can you guess how many countries are doing it? ?

-9 ( +3 / -12 )

People on JT concerned more with the View being affected. Won't be as beautiful anymore.

OK...

Let's focus on the view instead of people's life's, property and businesses.

Makes perfect sense as always.

-13 ( +2 / -15 )

Politicians connected to the concrete industry made serious bank on this.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

ReasonandWisdom

Building walls to protect against rising water levels. Can you guess how many countries are doing it?

Then Japan would need a sea wall around its entire coastline. What of the 4,000+ islands?

Let's focus on the view instead of people's life's, property and businesses.

The seawalls built in Miyagi and Iwate were done without consulting with the local people who live there. Many of them oppose their construction.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

The construction companies - w. ties to the govt. - must've jumped for joy when they got these giant contracts.

The pleasure and beauty of these coastal towns is based on the scenery they provide.

I've seen these walls and they look completely dystopian and ugly.

It's cutting off their nose to spite their face. It's not worth what they're losing.

Make better evacuation plans and routes. Don't destroy the charm of your town.

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Let's focus on the view instead of people's life's, property and businesses. I can confidently say the walls cost way more than the property or businesses will ever generate, and be usless in the event of another Tsunami. The walls if they stand the impact will only hold the water in! Then have to be breached to let the water out! Making the land Barron. But corruption not known for its family values?

5 ( +6 / -1 )

People on JT concerned more with the View being affected. Won't be as beautiful anymore.

OK... 

Let's focus on the view instead of people's life's, property and businesses.

Yeah, OK, lets focus on people’s lives, property and businesses.

Encasing communities in giant prison walls is not a good way to protect any of those.

Granted, they have the benefit of maybe (yes, maybe) offering some protection from once a century tsunami.

But in the other 99.999% of their existence when they are not being hit by tsunami, these communities have to exist behind gigantic prison walls, which imposes a steep cost on them. This isn’t just about views. It destroys the potential of entire regions to develop their tourism industry. Building and maintaining them them sucks up huge amounts of resources that could be put to better use. And it further alienates people, contributing to population flight that was already decimating those communities even before the tsunami.

This is just a massive squandering of resources that is helping to destroy people’s lives, property and business. It doesn’t help that it also destroys the view, but that isn’t the main problem the walls pose.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

When the next mega-tsunami strikes it will come over the walls and turn the plains into one giant reservoir. Better have a boat ready. Tsunami rushes in and then sweep out to sea again.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

The towering sea wall legacy of Japan's 2011 tsunami

More like a legacy of Japans out-of-control bureacracy and the govmt ties to construction companies.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

I personally know a professor involved in this topic. He told me that they use the radioactive waste collected in the so named decontamination efforts. Because of the high radiation they dispose of it via...guess...concrete.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Goodlucktoyou

I personally know a professor involved in this topic. He told me that they use the radioactive waste collected in the so named decontamination efforts. Because of the high radiation they dispose of it via...guess...concrete.

Actually not true. The low level decontamination waste is in plastic bags located at sites in Fukushima. Although I think it would have been a good idea to do that and also into major road construction.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I can only think of 2 words for this:

Stupid & idiotic!!

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This country has an insane overreaction to nature. Disasters happen, and afterwards you either rebuild or MOVE. Look at how the rivers, mountains, and seashores are all coated in concrete. The natural beauty of Japan has almost disappeared for the sake of convenience. Noone even seems to care, as they trade their local wildlife for 'kirei' concrete, tarmac, and miles and miles of railing. Well done Japan, you defeated nature.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Actually not true. The low level decontamination waste is in plastic bags located at sites in Fukushima. Although I think it would have been a good idea to do that and also into major road construction.

Been there 3 times. With the trusty Geiger counter. Waste is very high. Brand new places. If you live on some cloud, I went to J-Village and the show off sports place and new station, radiation is almost normal. Walk 100m away from the swank, 4.5 times above acceptable.

radiative concrete is spread all over japan for road building etc.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Is it something like the wall of China? The Mongols came anyway.

And now its nature to shield from, take care.

The genius hereabouts is still so new, before nothing global ever intruded.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

i wounder how many people will now be lulled into some sort of false security in thinking the great wall will protect us, so they wont evacuate, the wall get breached in the next tsunami so greater loss of life, if the defence was lower, people might respond to a tsunami warning quicker, as they know they are in danger. As for the wall right now, jees, thats ugly,

2 ( +2 / -0 )

How how some are uninformed about the world.

In North America there are hundreds of towns, cities that are on the coast get massive flooding every year from hurricanes and rebuild over and over this includes massive seawalls and in many cases they don't even finish rebuilding before the next hurricane hits and floods the area again.

Then there are the thousands of cities and towns flooded yearly by the major rivers over and over again with more and more levies and dykes constantly being built.

Then we have Europe with the Netherlands with their massive seawalls and Italy with Venice near constantly under more and more water and constructing bigger seawalls to keep it barely from fully disappearing despite the fact it is now nearly empty of actual citizens and is populated mostly by tourists and the few holdouts.

Do go ahead criticise Japan but as you do Frist look at your country before and ask,: is it any better or do I not know the facts about my country? Answer is probably you don't really know about your country.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Its not about criticising govts but the human spirit vs. nature’s forces.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I know my country very well. The sea walls in NE Japan are a concrete ugly.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

It shapes local lives.

can concrete protect against the elements we are suppost to live with?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I love GoToConcrete. They need to give out food coupons for tourists visiting.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Its really just an expensive exercise in making those still living in those areas feel "secure". The young have gone, the old are dying and we will be left with expensive ugly walls protecting empty old farm houses.

But the construction companies got paid and those seeking election were seen to be doing something.

The simple and cheap solution would be to set in place a system to evacuate those at risk to higher ground after a major earthquake.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Goodlucktoyou

Been there 3 times. With the trusty Geiger counter. Waste is very high. Brand new places. If you live on some cloud, I went to J-Village and the show off sports place and new station, radiation is almost normal. Walk 100m away from the swank, 4.5 times above acceptable.

How does your reading compare with the many hundreds of thousands of readings made by community groups and published online with radiation maps?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I lived right next to the ocean for over 25 years, the pleasant feeling of being so close to it is un describable. The People of Mone village are in my view and in the view many millions who respect the power and complexity of mother nature has made the right decision , Trillions are being spent, ocean views are blocked by ugly concrete walls, fighting an unpredictable ocean, instead of fighting it how about respecting it's mighty power.

Nothing wrong with moving out of it's path but still enjoy it's view, it's breeze, it's sound and sunrise.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A video about the seawalls. A bit late to the party but includes the voices of the people who must live behind those seawalls.

https://youtu.be/O8KQbZDatg0

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I would be inclined to let local communities decide such as to move, build seawalls, etc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

The walls if they stand the impact will only hold the water in! Then have to be breached to let the water out!

I don't think that is true. Several are depicted in the slide show that is part of the article that show flood gates that can be closed before the tsunami and opened afterwards to let any water inside the wall drain out.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Desert Tortoise

   The walls if they stand the impact will only hold the water in! Then have to be breached to let the water out!

I don't think that is true. Several are depicted in the slide show that is part of the article that show flood gates that can be closed before the tsunami and opened afterwards to let any water inside the wall drain out.

There are also kilometer after kilometers of seawalls without any gates in them, Suggest you take a look on Google street.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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