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7 years after tsunami, Japanese live uneasily with seawalls

39 Comments
By Megumi Lim

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Since the disaster, some towns have forbidden construction in flat areas nearest the coast and have relocated residents to higher land.

Sad that it took this disaster to get this done. Generations before them people took the time to erect stone monuments in numerous places warning the people who came after that a tsunami had reached that level, and those warnings were both forgotten and ignored.

Hopefully future generations will heed the warnings this time!

Others, such as Rikuzentakata, have raised the level of their land by several meters before constructing new buildings.

Several meters...they think they can "out-think" mother nature. I dont think they learned their lesson!

A common thread, though, is the construction of seawalls to replace breakwaters that were overwhelmed by the tsunami. Some 395 km of walls have been built at a cost of 1.35 trillion yen

Better to have left the land as it is and move the people. This money could have been used elsewhere.

"Even if the tsunami is bigger than the wall, the wall will delay flooding and guarantee more time for evacuation."

IF? Again, you didnt learn?

3 ( +7 / -4 )

What's the point of living near the sea if you can't see it? Concrete companies have made a fortune turning a once beautiful coastline into a replica of a Palestinian village.

17 ( +20 / -3 )

I often wonder how they test sea walls. The one in the photo with the bus going by looks high enough, but could it withstand the power of a tsunami? Would a tsunami crash through it?

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Japan's coastlines all over Japan have ugly concrete walls and tetrapods that not only destroy views but destroy the natural environment and deplete beaches.

These giant walls in the formerly tsunami hit areas look awful. You can't even see the sea which is one of the reasons I usually visit seaside villages. They're not worth it.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

When you have an alternative to either have a beautiful coast to watch daily, "Speed", which is dying to tsunami one morning, then the survivors of the last one, who lost their families, will quite knowledgeably tell you that they are very much worth it.

-3 ( +5 / -8 )

Should have listen to the ancients. I would be very sad living next to the sea but can't see it. Should have gates that close when there's a tsunami warning like we have here in Kobe.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

I often wonder how they test sea walls. The one in the photo with the bus going by looks high enough, but could it withstand the power of a tsunami? Would a tsunami crash through it?

Obviously they can't , and one other thing that seems to get forgotten by the folks who had these things built, will they withstand the earthquake that will be the predecessor to the tsunami itself.

Maybe these walls will stop one that started across the ocean, but if it was an earthquake the magnitude of the one that caused this tsunami only God knows what will happen.

Better to have no walls, and everyone else live somewhere else!

2 ( +5 / -3 )

I'm confused here. On one hand trillions spent on walls due to fear of another quake/tsunami but on the other continuing to restart nuclear power plants because they're safe? Is anything safe from a major quake that researchers/scientists have said will strike sometime in the next decade or so? How gullible does the government think the public is?

4 ( +6 / -2 )

It's only not the height of the walls but also the strength of the wall which is achieved by the thickness of the wall which needs to be several meters thick which it isn't in some of the photos. The 2011 tsunami smashed through the thick concrete walls. They could create a false of security.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

The wall looks awful. Really you would need to make one of those hideous walls around the whole country to make the country safe. No. I wouldn't want to live with that.

Andneither can you move everyone away from the coast as several suggest above - a very large percentage of the population lives near the coast near sea level.

Japan will forget and tear the walls down eventually.

Better to have evacuation strategies and towers that are high enough for those that are trapped.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

No fun, cant see beach, wave, water,,, at all.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

When we look back the past, Japan repeated big earthquakes and tsunami periodically historically at most of the country. My ancestors lived in the Noto peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture but after a big earthquake and tsunami hit the area during the Edo period, they moved to a new place further in the north in Akita deserting the place they used to live. They did not think restore the place and live there again. It is too costly to rebuild and they may have the same disaster again.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Good job for Tokyo City to build the sea walls along the rivers and waterways in Tokyo when the 21 meter tsunami comes anytime soon

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The wall does look awful but better than dying though. Don't you worry about the performance of it since it must have been designed by engineers who knows their stuff.

-5 ( +3 / -8 )

Don't you worry about the performance of it since it must have been designed by engineers who knows their stuff.

That's what they said about the Fukushima nuclear plant, look what happened there.

Better to have spent the money on moving people out and improving early warning systems and evacuations. In 2011 some people ran in the wrong direction or thought they would be safe on higher floors.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Possibly a bit of a knee jerk reaction building those monstrosity’s. I would have thought either building individual platforms for houses or landscaping the surrounding area above 20 meters above sea level to accommodate the current local population would have been a better long term solution. No blocking of views and loads of available ground for everyone to grow vegetables. Immediate access to higher ground etc etc. With The high risk of coastal tsunamis in Japan those making a living off the sea should really be commuting to work from safe areas, just as city folk do to their jobs in the city.

I can’t help thinking there was too much quick money to be made by government fat cats with ties to construction companies by simply building a giant sea wall. Doing it like this needs the communities input and approval first.

I am sure the Japanese could come up with a very novel way to design a community that can service these coastal areas without the risk of tsunamis wether be from a new way of looking at location or construction design or transportation to the coast or all three. Really Japan should be at the forefront of this technology being the most vulnerable to it.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

smartacus - They test them with scale models and I imagine also by computer simulation.

goodlucktoyou - Tokyo has never been hit with 21m tsunami and has never been predicted to as far as I know.

The shallowness of Tokyo bay and its protection from the Pacific ocean by the Miura and Boso peninsulas mean that it is a relatively safe place regarding tsunami. The worst prediction I have heard is of a tsunami of about 2m hitting the Shinagawa area in the case of a magnitude 7 earthquake.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Probably more chance of being killed by the bus than a Tsunami. As others have said cheeper, safer to move people inland as suggested by past residents.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

I remember there was one town that had a 20m seawall, but when the quake struck the town sunk by a meter allowing the 20m tsunami to breech the wall. These walls may offer some protection, but they are not the be all and end all of surviving a large tsunami. These walls also act as a funnel and push the water further inland to inundate areas without a seawall. Many countries use seawalls for different reasons, but I think Japan is the only country that uses them for tsunamis.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

This is an utter disgrace!! Sheer lunacy!

And surely some earthquake(without a tsunami) will topple bits of these walls & rain death on those below.....

Japan has learned next to NOTHING from 3/11!

May those that lost there lives 7yrs ago today RIP!!!

Even though i am not a religious person i pray for those that live near these walls, some of you WILL  have to pay the price for it sadly....

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

I can’t help thinking there was too much quick money to be made by government fat cats with ties to construction companies by simply building a giant sea wall. Doing it like this needs the communities input and approval first.

Spot on.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

well, people dont learn .. that whole area had warnings from ancient times to not live near the sea, people ignored it and built.

now they complain about protection walls?

anyone complaining and still living there should sign a paper absolving government from any help responsibility in the future.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

The concrete at other parts of the Japanese coastline is bad enough but that is atrocious. In the age of the motor car, no-one needs to live right next to a coastline prone to tsunami. Fishermen etc. will need to travel there, but they don't have to live there with the elderly and children.

This was built with other people's money and will require huge amounts of extra money to maintain in the future. There is no guarantee that it will even protect people. If it doesn't, the wall means people will be at sea level when the water comes, not 20 or 30 meters above.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

can’t help thinking there was too much quick money to be made by government fat cats with ties to construction companies by simply building a giant sea wall.

Dukeleto - exactly. Seismologists described the Tohoku earthquake as a one in 1000 year event, in fact there was a similar event in the 9th century. This is an extraordinarily damaging and expensive way of protecting communities.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Oh what a surprise.

There is a problem. What is the solution?

Concrete every time.

This country is a cartel.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

I'm sure an expert government panel has studied this and come to the conclusion that it's best for a LDP members family business to be awarded a government contract for 400kms of 12.5 meters tall wall. As an aside wasn't the tsunami 30meters tall? Next panel might address that. Or the next.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This looks like a money grab by the concrete companies and contractors, kind of like the tetrapod eyesore throughout the beautiful Japanese coastline. The solution is simple. move to higher ground away from the see and covert the "sacred" rice fields to liveable areas. Rice can be imported.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Not sure you can stop a tsunami. And not sure if the water will recede so quick either.

very unsightly. Should have hired local architects to submit designs for tsunami towers of steel and concrete that would blend in with the areas. They would save lives, look better, and probably be cheaper too.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Mind boggling waste of money.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The only way to stop a tsunami is by creating a land based tsunami generating machine which will be sent out to sea in the opposite direction and crash into the oncoming tsunami.

-10 ( +0 / -10 )

Don't you worry about the performance of it since it must have been designed by engineers who knows their stuff.

I honestly hope this was said with tongue-in-cheek sarcasm in mind.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The only way to stop a tsunami is by creating a land based tsunami generating machine which will be sent out to sea in the opposite direction and crash into the oncoming tsunami.

Ahh, so we just need to build machines that put out the power of a tsunami.

The only problem with your theory (besides not being even remotely realistic) is that the waves would only cancel each other out at the exact point at which they crossed. Before and after that point you’d have two tsunami rushing in opposite directions.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

StrangerlandToday 12:37 pm JST

Timing is everything!

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

"They're a parody," said Yuichiro Ito

Couldn't have said it better. The wall reminds me of the Attack on Titan walls. I can't believe a sane person, much less a whole committee would do something so expensive, stupid and harmful.

Aside from the question of whether they will even stop a tsunami is this: Nobody wants to live behind prison walls. And certainly, no tourists want to visit a place where the scenery is a concrete wall. For a once in 100 year event.

A town behind a wall like this will die off as people leave and nobody new arrives. Eventually, maybe 50 years from now, the remaining residents will balk at the enormous cost of maintaining the wall and its unsightliness. They will wonder what idiots decided to build it, and they will vote to tear it down.

Stuff like this makes me despair for the whole country.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Are these walls earthquake proof or will they crumble when they are needed?

I expect they have a steel mesh inside, so should hold structurally but a quake could let in a lot of water.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Agree the sea walls don’t look good. And it must be very oppressive living near to one. But, these walls will be the result of a hazard and cost/benefit analysis. As expensive as they are, it is simply cheaper to design and build sea defences rather than relocate a whole population including all its infrastructure.

The defences wont be designed to defeat every possible situation, just those events experienced and any reasonably foreseeable ones. Japan has more technical ability than any other nation in the design of earthquake and tsunami defences. So as long as the structural engineers have got their sums right and the contractors have built to the design spec, the sea walls will do what they are designed to do.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

A lot of places have been completely ruined by these walls; nobody in their right mind would ever visit them for tourism. There is an island near Shiogama, called Sabusawajima, where the walls have destroyed the beaches and all they protect is a few barren fields. Take a look on Google maps and you can see the walls don't even face the open ocean. It's a scandalous waste of money and also means there is no point in visiting the island any more, unless you like looking at concrete walls.

I doubt walls like the one in the picture will provide any protection at all. The blocks are stacked vertically: anyone who ever had a lego set knows such a wall will collapse when pressure is applied to one side. The tsunami is a huge volume of water that can travel several kilometres inland. That flimsy little wall would be utterly useless against such a thing. It may even lead to more deaths as people might think they were safe and not evacuate.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some of the walls can be climbed over to reach the beach or walk along the top. The ugly ones are the walls straight up.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Here's a really good clip showing the feelings of the locals who have to look at and live with these things.

https://www.theepochtimes.com/japanese-divided-over-huge-anti-tsunami-seawalls_2462135.html

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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