As the March 11 earthquake and tsunami disasters reach their third year anniversary, the Japanese government has launched projects that would protect the country from being wrecked by another tsunami. Dubbed by the public as the “Great Wall of Japan,” a network of sea walls estimated to be 230 miles long, is already being constructed along port areas in the northeast region, starting in the prefecture of Miyagi.
In the city of Kesennuma, Miyagi, construction on the 17-foot high sea wall has already begun, to the dismay of the residents. Fisherman and tsunami survivor Makoto Hatakeyama expressed his concern on the high sea wall. “We love this scenery and we’re worried about the environmental impact of sea wall construction, which would affect my livelihood,” he said. Others in the city also dislike the idea of a sea wall, despite its supposed positive impact during a tsunami disaster. However, more than the aesthetics, planner Mitsutaka Kodama from Miyagi’s harbor restoration department feels that protecting the coast is more important. “Residential areas and evacuation routes must be protected by high walls,” he said. “We can set back the wall, away from the water to create more shoreline, or make it easy to climb to see the scenery, or cover it with greenery,” he suggested.
In Oya Beach, Miyagi, one of the famous beaches in the prefecture, residents are unsettled over the government’s plan to build a 30-feet high sea wall that would block out the view of the beach. Local resident Tomoyuki Miura said, “Lots of us went to the shore, locals and out-of-towners alike. It was the pride of our community.” He added, “Kids played there. Older folks strolled on the beach. We even had our own train station right next to it.” Many who oppose the sea walls think the government has not given other alternatives, such as moving neighborhoods to higher ground, much thought. The costs of the sea walls, though taken from the central government’s pocket, would burden local cities with maintenance fees, they fear. Even public forums show other citizens opposing the idea. However, the Miyagi regional government went along with the plan, and in the next two years the city will have a new 14-foot high sea wall.