anniversary, asahi shinbun, cultural heritage, japan government, memorial, minami sanriku

Gutted structure to be preserved as reminder of tsunami devastation, asahi shinbun, 1/8/15

SENDAI–The shell of a municipal building that stands as a symbol of the devastation caused by the 2011 tsunami disaster is to be taken over by the Miyagi prefectural government with an eye on preservation.

The 12-meter-high three-story disaster-management center building in Minami-Sanriku’s coastal Shizugawa district was gutted by waves of up to 15.5 m after the magnitude-9.0 Great East Japan Earthquake struck.

Forty-three residents and town employees were swept away.

The building withstood the onslaught, but was stripped bare with only its skeletal structure remaining. It became a site of mourning for many people.

However, the town government struggled to keep up with maintenance costs and decided in September 2013 to dismantle the structure.

Minami-Sanriku residents are divided over the building’s fate. Some believe it should be left as it is so future generations understand the extent of devastation, while others say the mere sight of it brings back painful memories.

To address these concerns, the prefectural government held a meeting of an advisory council in December to discuss preservation of other sites as well.

The council concluded that the structure had become “well-known around the world as a symbol of the disaster,” and that it was on par in terms of symbolic power with the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, or Atomic Bomb Dome. It recommended that the Miyagi prefectural government undertake its management.

The prefectural government decided to preserve the building on behalf of the town government out of consideration for survivors, as well as the economic strains faced by Minami-Sanriku. The town government is expected to accept its decision.

As public opinion remains divided on whether or not to permanently preserve the structure, the prefectural government will manage the building until 2031, the 20th anniversary of the disaster, before making a final decision on the fate of the structure.

The prefectural government’s decision reflects similar delays that affected the Atomic Bomb Dome, now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The Hiroshima city council made its final decision to preserve the structure only in 1966, 21 years after the city was leveled in the atomic bombing.

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About liz

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

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