An artist’s drawing of the “Soma Idobata Nagaya.” (Courtesy of the Soma Municipal Government)
SOMA, Fukushima — The municipal government here will build “nagaya” or traditional and convivial Japanese tenement houses to prevent mainly elderly evacuees from dying solitary deaths in the aftermath of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.
Drawing a lesson from the lonely deaths of elderly people in temporary housing following the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, the city decided to build the tenements called “Soma Idobata Nagaya” (Soma gossip tenement house).
Each building in the project, unveiled June 9, features 12 units each with about 23 square meters of floor space covering two bedrooms plus a dining room and kitchen. Also in the building will be a common dining room, a tatami parlor, a laundry and a large public bath. The aisles will be equipped with rails, and toilets for the handicapped will be installed, city officials said.
The buildings will accommodate elderly people and couples taking refuge in evacuation centers or temporary housing units due to the earthquake and tsunami. The city will not set a move-in deadline.
Once the city gets the city assembly’s blessing in June, it will start building five of the tenement houses in the heart of the city this fall.
Soma Mayor Hidekiyo Tachiya said, “Elderly households will live together by helping each other, so there will be no solitary deaths.”