Visit a town reborn after 3.11 – Onagawa
A year-old station in the town of Onagawa in Miyagi prefecture may be a new mecca for young architects, who are eager to learn from the work by Shigeru Ban; a winner of Prtizker Architecture Prize in 2014 and especially known for his innovative works using cardboard tubes to house disaster affected population.
One of Ban’s latest works, Onagawa Station, is an extension of his commitment in serving the people of Onagawa, where he provided temporary houses for those affected by the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011. The station building, which is built of sturdy materials and structure and not cardboard tubes, houses a hot-spring facility (Yupoppo) and an observatory deck, which is designed in the way that the sunrise over the horizon on the new year’s day beams straight ahead.
With the reconstruction of the JR Ishinomaki-line and the completion of the new Onagawa Station building, the town is now only 1.5 hour train ride from Sendai.
The town of Onagawa that lost nearly 10% of its population, has been striving to “build back better”. In fact, the newly completed shopping promenade in front of the station gives a feel as if you’re in a small town in a Nordic country; well-designed with one-floor buildings and wide open space intended for the pedestrians. While a fish market is about to re-open as a brand new facility in this complex, variety of events are held almost every weekend, attracting both the locals and the tourists. Winter fireworks was one of the most successful events that took place for the first time, last year, which will take place again, this year.
Onagawa had always been famous for its fisheries and the breathtaking views of the bay and that has not changed. Adding people’s enormous friendliness to those factors, one would feel being embraced in a good-old Japanese village. However, the visit to Onagawa today, does not end there. As the scars of 3.11 is yet to be vanished and which most probably never will, busy construction sites are on-going, changing the view of the town almost every month. The town is busy filling the lands before it can build the buildings while building passages to the high lands in every corner of the town in case of the next once-in-a-hundred- years tsunami.
Onagawa is one of the few towns that decided not to depend its life on the high walls of tsunami barriers. Despite all of what the tsunami took from the town five and a half years ago, the town still wants to live with the view of the ocean. They strongly believe that blocking the view does not help them run from the next tsunami. And while living lives in between once-in-a-hundred-years earthquake/tsunami, the people of Onagawa are committed to living with the beauty of the sceneries that it has embraced throughout the history.
They simply refuse to live with the walls that not only limit the view and the liveliness of the town but also take the opportunity to share the beauty of its town with the visitors from outside Onagawa. After all, “hospitality” is the purpose of life for many in this small town and they want to make sure that everything is there for their guests including the sceneries and the fresh fish cuisine.
This will not be your ordinary trip. A visit to Onagawa will give you the traces of 3.11 and could give you a heart-wrenching moments, just like one may feel visiting Hiroshima. It will be an unforgettable trip to have a glimpse of the reality that we most commonly face today, the natural disaster, and at the same time, simply appreciate the hospitality of the people of Onagawa and the beauty of the town that is very much alive.