Making shelter— Japan


An association of housing manufacturers and builders is providing prefabricated homes for people in the areas worst hit by Japan’s tsunami and earthquake. Monocle visits Rikuzen-Takata, where over a third of the town needs shelter.

Disasters, Earthquake, Housing, Rikuzen-Takata

Rikuzen-Takata was once a picturesque fishing town, a popular if offbeat stop on the tourist trail boasting a 900-year-old festival of floats and a coastline bathed in the azure-blue Pacific waters. Today it exists only in name. The muddy deluge of 11 March has torn the town from its roots, leaving a gaping wound of smashed cars, pulverised wooden houses and twisted metal girders. Car navigation systems still direct visitors to the post office and the local government building, which are no longer there.

Mayor Futoshi Toba surveys the ruins from…

Prefab to the rescue

The day after the earthquake and tsunami, the Japan Prefabricated Construction Suppliers and Manufacturers Association was already taking orders for prefab homes from the worst affected areas: 10,000 for Miyagi Prefecture, 8,800 for Iwate and 14,000 for Fukushima. They also received orders for a small number of houses directly from two towns, Rikuzen-Takata in Iwate and Kunimi in Fukushima, and started building those shortly after.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism has been collaborating with the 14 housing manufacturers and builders who make up the Association, asking the companies for their cooperation just three days after the quake. Although the Association had drilled for emergencies, there have been many complications and logistical challenges, including inaccessible locations and fuel scarcity. Plans have inevitably been delayed. “We’re up against it with time and getting our hands on the materials,” says the Association’s PR Kazuo Shimazu.


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