Tsunami-hit wedding hall in Japan to be preserved

Tsunami-hit wedding hall in Japan to be preserved
Work to raise the ground level is under way around the Takano Kaikan building in Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture.
PHOTO: The Yomiuri Shimbun

MINAMI-SANRIKU, Miyagi - A tsunami-hit wedding hall building in Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, is to be preserved as a remnant of the March 2011 disaster, according to sources.

The company that owns the four-story Takano Kaikan building has decided to maintain it with private funds and plans to open it to the public in the future.

The building still retains the damage it suffered from the tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake.

"Buildings in devastated areas have been demolished one after another. We must prevent it [Takano Kaikan] from wearing away," a company official said.

According to the Reconstruction Agency, it is rare for a large private building to be preserved without public funds.

Located about 200 meters inland, Takano Kaikan was flooded up to the ceiling of the third floor by the 15-meter tsunami.

A total of 327 people took refuge in the building, including employees, members of a senior citizens club that was meeting in the hall and local residents.

All evacuated to safety in rooms on the fourth floor or on the rooftop.

The central government pays reconstruction subsidies to cover the initial preservation cost of one disaster-hit location in each municipality.

In Minami-Sanriku, the ruins of the town's disaster management headquarters building are a candidate for preservation.

A total of 43 people, including town government officials, died or went missing in the building.

Local residents are divided over the plan to preserve it, but the town government has decided to put the building under prefectural ownership until 2031, or 20 years after the quake.

The town government has been reluctant to subsidize the costs for preserving Takano Kaikan, so Abecho Shoten Co., the seafood processing and tourism company in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, that owns the building, has decided to use its own funds.

Abecho Shoten plans to preserve the tsunami-damaged walls and pillars as they are, but also plans to repair and fortify the building so people can visit the interior.

It expects initial preservation costs alone to run into tens of millions of yen.

Among the private facilities damaged by the disaster, the Taro Kanko Hotel in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, is to be preserved as a disaster remnant by that city.

The municipal government is preparing to take up ownership of the hotel.

According to a Reconstruction Agency official, it is rare for a damaged building to be preserved with private funds, as in the case of Takano Kaikan.

Takano Kaikan is located in the central area of the town, and the number of tsunami-damaged buildings that still exist is decreasing.

The municipality-run Shizugawa Hospital was one of those demolished, for example.

Construction to raise the ground level is under way in the area.

"We'd like to preserve the building so people can get a full view of the reconstructed coastal area from the rooftop, making it a place where people can pass the lessons from the disaster from generation to generation," said Abecho Shoten Vice President Ryujiro Abe, 55.

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