Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Koichi Furusho

【#379(Special)】Scallops and Seaweeds Are Weeping

Koichi Furusho / 2016.06.06 (Mon)

June 2, 2016

     On May 21, I had an opportunity to attend the fifth sea memorial service that took place in Kesennuma Bay of Miyagi Prefecture for victims in the Great East Japan Earthquake, having a chance to see the reconstruction of Kesennuma and also of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture. Private-sector volunteers have sponsored the annual memorial service with support from the Kesennuma municipal government and other organizations to pay homage to many people still missing since the disaster and think about the reconstruction of Kesennuma. When I looked at Oshima Island in the bay and Kesennuma from a ship after the sea memorial service, I was surprised to see unusual coastal scenes. My surprise deepened when I moved to Rikuzentakata later.

Seawall represents destruction of nature
     Kesennuma has adopted “living with the sea” as a catch-phrase for its reconstruction plan. However, 8-10-meter-high concrete seawalls have been built on the coast of Oshima and many other islands in Kesennuma Bay, hiding residents’ houses at some parts. Even unmanned islands are surrounded by seawalls under construction.
     “Such construction could kill the sea of Kesennuma in the near future,” I told a fishery union leader. “We also oppose the construction. But the national government provides funding and the prefectural government controls the bay. We cannot raise objection if we are told that seawalls are designed to protect human lives and livelihood from tsunami,” the fishery union leader said. I was worried about the construction’s effects on oysters, sea squirts, scallops and seaweeds that I saw aboard a ship.
     Coastal environment conservation is important for humans to live with the sea. Fishermen who live in Kesennuma are well aware that it is the most important to conserve the environment closer to nature in mountains, inland areas, rivers and river mouths.
     In Rikuzentakata’s Hirota Bay that had been surrounded by 70.000 pine trees including a miraculous one surviving the March 2011 tsunami, scallops and seaweeds may scream in the near future. Surprisingly, earth and rocks have been taken from mountains along the Kesen River flowing into Hirota Bay and moved to the Hirota Bay coast through conveyor belts for fills inside 8-10-meter-high seawalls. The miraculous pine tree surrounded by fills cannot be found unless someone clarifies its location. From Hirota Bay, we cannot see the land, which is concealed by the tall seawalls. As tsunami moved along with the Kesen River in the disaster, destroying the riverside, seawalls are now being constructed at the riverside. The seawall construction represents the destruction of nature rather than reconstruction from the disaster.

It is not too late to reconsider
     As a former member of Maritime Self-Defense Force who has lived at the sea, thought about marine environment conservation and use, and been well aware of the forces of nature, I have an opinion to give here. Humans have learned since ancient times that the sea has the forces of nature beyond human understanding and considered how to coexist with the sea. Instead of countering nature by constructing more-than-8-meter-high concrete seawalls to cope with future tsunami as high as 8-meter waves that hit the region, we should consider other measures to avoid tsunami and protect safety and human lives. It is not too late to reconsider the seawall construction plan

Koichi Furusho is Director, Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and former Chief of Staff, Maritime Self-Defense Force.