Thursday, December 08, 2011

To build or not to build, that is the question.

I have made several visits to the tsunami devastated areas in Tohoku. The damages have been tremendous and heartbreaking. Now that the sorrow of lost lives and memories start to sink deep into the psyche, a hard question emerges.

To build or not to build, that is the question.

Historical records show that the area has been hit repeatedly by massive tsunamis in the past. Measures have been taken, including towering concrete walls to fend off the waves. While these precautions have helped to diminish and delay the effect of tsunami in some places, the size of the massive waves caused by the earthquake on 11th March meant many such walls were destroyed and/or overcome, with the water coming into the land with a brutal force.

The hardest choice to make now is whether to go ahead with rebuilding in the tsunami devastated areas. If it were not for the risk of tsunami, the seaside areas provide the most beautiful and comfortable living opportunities, with a convenient access to the sea for those people involved in fishery and related industries. On the other hand, the probabilities of future tsunami damages are understandably very real in people’s minds.

To complicate matters, no coastal area in Japan can be said to be safe from the threats of tsunami. Although the Tohoku area might stand out because of recent events, the possibility of a tsunami attack exist, both in theory and practice, throughout the land of Japan. Thus, making the choice of building and not building poses a hard question not only for people in Tohoku, but also for the rest of us all over Japan. It is a case where one’s philosophy of life is tested, on top of the probability estimates by seismology experts.


Unknown said...

I have not visited this area and cannot really feel the pain created by the devastation and so I do not wish to "comment" without empathy. Having said I wonder that maybe the question is not to build or not, but rather the question is how to build.
The area in question has been inhabited for 1,000 of years. Even though the risk of further devastation is real and present, one of the strengths of the Japanese character is to accept what cannot be changed with equanimity. After all isn't this idea and approach the root of the expression 仕方がない .
Japanese historical architecture and construction is full of techniques and skills that reflect the hard reality of earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes and typhoons. I hope that the reconstruction of Tohoku leads to a renaissance of this "realistic" approach. Not one that will try to stop the effects of nature but one that will allow the best possible accommodation with nature. We have all seen that the forces that can and will be brought to bare on Japan are largely unstoppable.
In all likely hood I do not know enough about, or understand the sad reality of life in Tohoku right now. Still I would like to think that the ability to recover in the face of terrible adversity is still a real and vital part of the Japanese psyche. Ultimately many other parts of the world need and can learn from this leadership.

Tsumabenicho said...

That's a timely question how to face nature.
Retreat from the front often beats do-or-die resistance. I feel the Japanese Archipelago can't be a fortress.