Japan Recovery: Okushiri, Rebuilt After Quake, Is Cautionary Tale

Okushiri, Japan — On the night of July 12, 1993, the remote island of Okushiri was ripped apart by a huge earthquake and tsunami that now seem an eerie harbinger of the much larger disaster that struck northeastern Japan last March. Islanders still recall with horror how a wall of frothing black water raced out of the darkness to consume entire communities, leaving almost 200 people dead.

Officials hope to glean lessons from Okushiri’s experience.

In the half decade that followed, the Japanese government rebuilt the island, erecting 35-foot concrete walls on long stretches of its coast, making it look more like a fortress than a fishing outpost. The billion dollars’ worth of construction projects included not just the hefty wave defenses but also entire neighborhoods built on higher ground and a few flourishes, like a futuristic $15 million tsunami memorial hall featuring a stained glass panel for each victim.

But today, as Japan begins a decade-long $300 billion reconstruction of the northeast coast, Okushiri has become something of a cautionary tale. Instead of restoring the island to its vibrant past, many residents now say, the $1 billion spending spree just may have helped kill its revival.

Read the rest of the story: In Japan, Okushiri, Rebuilt After Quake, Is Cautionary Tale.

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