The Light of Breakthrough

The Light of Breakthrough

Daylight investigations - Region 4: Asia and Oceania

Sakura Kimura
Leon Akama

Nihon University


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11 years ago, The Great East Japan Earthquake took a particularly heavy toll on Miyagi and Iwate Prefecture. While the number of deaths and unaccounted for stood at 6,256 in Iwate, and 11,785 in Miyagi. 19,508 houses and buildings were destroyed in Iwate, while the figure for Miyagi reached 83,005. Today, the Tohoku coast, which is rugged, but also beautiful at times, is still recovering from the permanent damage of The Great East Japan Earthquake. Even though the Tohoku coast is full of stunning natural scenery, one of the most recent and unfortunately eye-catching features of the Tohoku coast are the unnatural vast concrete seawalls. After the Great East Japan Earthquake, the central government put together a five-year “intensive recovery program” to pay for reconstruction in six prefectures, including the hardest-hit Iwate and Miyagi. The construction of new sea walls and other coastal facilities took place at 621 sites, totaling 432 km in length, that in some places, standing more than 12-metres-tall. These visually striking gray giants are designed to protect the residents of Tohoku from any future tsunamis. However, residents today have mostly moved to higher grounds, and are no longer allowed to live in the low-lying areas along the coast, which are now designated as a hazardous zone. Even if there are communities near the hazardous zone, they are usually told to evacuate the area instead of relying on the sea walls to stop tsunamis. This completely takes away the only purpose of these walls, and leaves the detrimental effects to the coastal community. The construction of these sea walls has not only caused a huge amount of damage to marine ecosystems and local fisheries, it has also transformed Tohoku into a large prison complex, keeping residents locked inland separated completely from the ocean. The main goal of our project is to lessen the distance between the sea and the people of Tohoku, and to also give these sea walls a new purpose. For our proposal, we chose 18 locations in both Miyagi and Iwate prefecture where the most giant sea walls are created. We have also included several locations with different perspectives of the same sea wall. Our idea is to transform these sea walls into a part of the natural landscape by carving out various holes from the thick concrete. We have designed various kinds of holes to carve out for each location. Some of the shapes and positions of holes seem the same, but variation of depth is created from the types of walls. Window like holes can be achieved through default shaped walls while holes carved out from trapezium shaped walls can be transformed into narrow tunnels of light. Other holes are even big enough for people to easily pass through making it easier to reach the shore as if the wall never existed. The carved out concrete walls don’t only bring back the sunlight where it used to shine 11 years ago, but also bring fresh new, unique ways to enjoy the natural scenery of the Tohoku Coast.