collective relocation, ishinomaki, permanant housing, relocation, shirahama, university, wood, yomiuri shinbun

returning to the sea from higher ground, yomiuri, 6/9/12

By Takehiko Suzuki / Yomiuri Shimbun Photographer

reposted from here:

It was 3:30 a.m. Hajime Sato, a 55-year-old fisherman, woke up and rose to his feet. He opened a window and looked out at the sea. “Terrific, the sea is calm today. I can go fishing,” he said.

Sato lives in “Shirahama restoration housing” in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. The house was part of a reconstruction project by Kogakuin University in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, and financed by mainly business donations, to build 10 new homes in the Shirahama area for people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

The houses are on an inland hill 50 meters above sea level, all of them rental units. They are made out of cedar and red pine from the prefecture, and were built by local carpenters and others with the aim of contributing to the revival of the local economy.

There are five people representing four generations in the Sato family–Sato, his wife, his father, his daughter and her 9-year-old daughter. After losing their port-side house in the tsunami, they stayed at an acquaintance’s house. They then moved to temporary housing before relocating to their current place two months ago.

When they lived in temporary housing in an inland area, Sato had to drive 15 minutes to the port for fishing, but sometimes he could not set sail due to stormy weather.

The new house is seven kilometers from the local primary school, and sloping ground around the house makes walking difficult for the elderly. Sato could complain about many things, but he is grateful for his family’s new life.

“I had no idea what a relief it could be to live on a hill without worrying about tsunami,” he said, watching his granddaughter Yumi playing with a puppy they started to keep last month.

Another fisherman, Yoshinobu Sasaki, 49, lives in a house at the same settlement. He can see it on the mountainside even from one kilometer offshore, where he prepares to cultivate oysters.

“I can see the ocean from my window. That’s a good thing for fishermen,” Sasaki said with a smile.

Construction of other restoration housing, by municipal governments, has been delayed. Only two of the 11 communities in Kitakamimachi district, which includes Shirahama, have decided on collective relocation sites at higher ground. But the communities will not be able to move to the new sites for at least a year.

In April, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry extended the two-year limit on staying in temporary housing by one year in principle, but there is still no guarantee that new housing will be ready in time.

The ministry says about 110,000 people living in temporary housing away from their hometowns. Only a small minority have managed to return to a normal, quiet daily life. How long will it take for all quake victims to feel relieved at their homes?


About liz

from the u.s., recently moved from kobe to sendai, japan, researching community-based housing recovery after disaster.


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