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“As if in prison”: in Japan, the walls were erected to protect against tsunamis – now the locals feel imprisoned

12-meter fortifications around the cities should prevent a catastrophe, but the Japanese do not like to see huge walls instead of the sea.

On March 11, 2011, the “Great Earthquake of East Japan” happened – a natural disaster with a magnitude of 9.0, which became the strongest in the history of the country. The earthquake caused a powerful tsunami that destroyed more than 160,000 homes in different cities, and also caused the death of 16,000 people and an accident at the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant.

To prevent a recurrence of the disaster, the Japanese authorities began to replace the standard breakwaters near coastal cities with 12-meter walls, which should take the brunt. By 2018 they built about 400 kilometers of fences – their value was more than 12 billion dollars.

“Even if the wave is higher than the wall, people will have more time to evacuate,” researcher Hiroyasu Kawai told Reuters. The construction of the walls has not yet been completed: according to the Japan Times, by 2017 only a fifth of the planned defenses have been built.

Initially, the local residents supported the construction of the walls. But eight years later they say that the authorities did not consult them during the works. Because of this, the fortifications were too high: they close the sea view, interfere with the fishermen and make the townspeople feel imprisoned.

It seems that we all live in a huge prison. Although we have not even done anything wrong.

Atsushi Fujita

Other residents stressed that huge concrete barriers frighten off tourists.

Some of the Japanese are well aware of the fortifications: in their opinion, people will be more willing to return to places destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami. The wall for them is a guarantee that the disaster of 2011 will not happen again. But not everyone agrees with them. “We all lived here next to the sea from generation to generation. Now the wall divides us. And this is unbearable, “said local businessman Sotaro Usui.

Photo by Kim Ken-hoon, Reuters
Photo by Kim Ken-hoon, Reuters

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