Temporary fishing huts, in the shade of the sea wall, in Taro (Iwate prefecture), Japan, February 28, 2021.

Analysis. The nuclear disaster at the Daiichi nuclear power plant, in Fukushima, Japan, has focused media attention around the world as a pivotal event in states’ blindness to the risks of civilian nuclear power and a foreshadowing of what could happen elsewhere.

This hegemony of Fukushima in the perception of the earthquake followed by a tsunami of March 11, 2011 contrasts with the Japanese vision of a triple catastrophe (earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident), called “The great disaster of eastern Japan”. Above all, it leaves in the shade other effects, rich in lessons on the weight of the construction sector in the political choices of the Japanese government but also on the way to counter the risks of submersion due to climate change throughout the world.

The concreting of the coasts which has disfigured the coasts in rias [vallées fluviales envahies par la mer] of Tohoku (North-East), modifies the relationship of inhabitants to the sea and upsets the ecological balance, without fully guaranteeing the protection of the coast. To the loss of loved ones (18,500 dead and missing), to the memories, among the survivors, of those days when the names of their hamlets suddenly entered history is added, ten years later, the destruction of this that remained of their life: a familiar environment. The tsunami was followed by a wave of concrete.

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A wall which can reach 14 meters in 620 locations now extends over nearly 400 km, obstructing bays and creeks in three departments: Fukushima (68 km of dikes); Miyagi (239 km) and Iwate (85 km). “For us, it was the coup de grace”, says a resident of Ogatsu (Miyagi department) where 230 out of 4,200 inhabitants perished.

Following the disaster, the authorities revived the spirit of Prime Minister Kakuei Tanaka’s plan to “remodel the Archipelago” (1972-1974): leveling the mountains to create residential and industrial zones on a concrete coastline on tens of kilometers. This time, the dikes are higher, longer and more massive than those built before, “Without questioning their relevance or the adverse effects of initiatives to reweave the link between the sea and the wooded hills of fishermen in order to promote the discharge into the sea of ​​the rich nutrients that come from them” argues Rémi Scoccimarro, geographer and lecturer in Japanese language and civilization at the University of Toulouse Jean-Jaurès, currently a researcher at the Franco-Japanese House in Tokyo, and author of Concrete tsunami: from the footprint to the influence on coastal landscapes after the disasters of March 11, 2011 published in 2020 in the journal Landscape projects.

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