KakaoTalk in Japan — Standing on a beach surrounded by mountains, there is no suggestion that there is a village in KakaoTalk in Japan. The handful of houses are hidden behind morning glory and sand dunes covered with pandanus trees. The cicada’s bark was interrupted only by the rhythm of the waves and Jay’s call of azure feathers.
In July, the beach became part of a new UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a protected area of
Two months later, the calm air was split by a new sound. The bark of trucks and excavators preparing to strip most of Katok’s dunes and bury a double-decker concrete wall in it to reduce erosion.
The revetment project, even the most valuable ecological treasure, is the answer to the threat of natural disasters and survives the obsession with Japan’s construction, which is an important source of economic stimulus and political capital, especially in rural areas. Indicates that it cannot be done.
However, money and voting are not the only plans to build concrete berms on pristine beaches, which is almost a rare item in Japan. Villages collapsed as residents struggled with deeper forces to rebuild Japan’s rural areas, including climate change, aging populations, and hollowing out of small towns.
Proponents of the project (a majority of the 20 inhabitants) say the village’s survival is at stake due to the recent severe storms. Opponents — a gathering of surfers, organic farmers, musicians and environmentalists, many from outside the island — claim that seawalls destroy beaches and their delicate ecosystems.
The opposition is led by Jean-Marc Takaki (48), a half-Japanese Parisian who moved to a bungalow behind the beach last year. Nature guide and former computer programmer Takagi started a campaign against the wall in 2015 after moving to a nearby town to escape the stress of the city.
This battle embodies the conflicts that are occurring in rural areas across the country. Old-fashioned people see their traditional life in industries such as logging and construction threatened by newcomers dreaming of idyllic beings. Villages may need new residents to strengthen their eroded population and economy, but sometimes rub against their presence.
When Takaki first visited KakaoTalk in 2010, it was like the paradise he was looking for. “I have never seen such a place,” he said.
It all changed. “Once they’ve done this, we don’t know what to do here.”
Confrontation between nature and concrete
In the countryside of Japan, there are construction projects like those planned in KakaoTalk.
The country dammed most of its rivers and lined them with concrete. Tetrapods, giant concrete jacks made to resist erosion, are stacked along all habitable inches of the coastline. After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami destroyed the northeastern part of the country and caused the collapse of Fukushima’s nuclear power plant, planners bordered the area with seawalls.
Jeremy Bricker, an associate professor of coastal engineering at the University of Michigan, said the project is often logical for countries suffering from earthquakes, volcanoes, tsunamis, landslides, and typhoons.
The question is, “How specific is there for what needs to be protected, and is it part of Japanese culture?”
In some cases, concrete can be replaced with natural cushioning materials such as supplemental sand and heavy vegetation, Bricker said. Some Japanese civil engineers use such alternatives, but “Japan is so focused on facilitating the work of traditional contractors, that is, casting concrete, so it is a soft solution. Was not so focused. “
In Amami Oshima, Katoku’s hometown, the reliance on concrete is even higher than anywhere else in the country, said Hiroaki Sono, an 83-year-old activist who successfully opposed major projects on the island.
Public works there are heavily subsidized by 1950s legislation aimed at improving local infrastructure. Politicians enthusiastic about local voting update the law every five years, and Amami Oshima’s economy relies heavily on it, Mr. Sono said, saying that most of Katoku’s inhabitants have industrial ties. Added.
“It’s construction for construction,” he said.
Environmental engineers describe the beach as a dynamic environment. It grows, shrinks, and changes according to the seasons and the ebb and flow of the tide. New elements such as seawalls can have unpredictable and volatile effects.
Rural communities are no exception.
In Kato, the changes happened slowly and suddenly.
For decades, residents have rejected the government’s offer to armor the coast with concrete.
However, in 2014, two strong typhoons washed away the beach and uprooted the bonin trees that protected the village. The cemetery, built on a high sand dune that separates the village from the sea, sat unstable on a tattered chain.
The storm shook the villagers’ confidence in the bay’s ability to protect them.
“The waves have reached the graveyard,” said 73-year-old Hajime Sayoko, who moved to KakaoTalk with her husband (native) 40 years ago. “After that, everyone was scared. They panicked.”
After the typhoon, the village turned to the prefectures for help. Planners recommended a 1,700-foot-long concrete wall to prevent the sea from devouring the beach.
Mr. Takagi and several others who lived nearby at that time opposed it. They hired analysts who concluded that the government had not demonstrated the need for a concrete fortress. Those experts argued that strong defenses could accelerate sand loss. This is a phenomenon observed in a nearby village where the sea hits a weathered concrete wall.
To make matters worse, the river, home to endangered freshwater fish, opens waterways to the ocean and moves up and down the beach in a seasonal rhythm.
The prefectures have agreed to reduce the proposed wall by more than half. They said it was covered with sand to preserve the aesthetics of the beach and could be replaced if the sand was washed away.
Meanwhile, Takaki’s group fortified the dunes with a new pandanus. The beach has naturally regained its pre-typhoon size.
Still, authorities continue to insist that berms are needed. In other villages, “I have a strong sense of being protected by seawalls when a typhoon comes,” explains Shigehito Imagami, the mayor of Setouchi, Kadoku-cho. “And the typhoon is getting bigger and bigger.”
Tomohiko Wada, one of several lawyers, said, “The villagers wanted to do something, but the prefecture said it was” concrete. ” That’s what Japan is doing. ”
The local government refused to comment on the proceedings. However, Japanese law does not provide an order to suspend work in such cases, and prefectures seem to intend to finish their work before a court ruling.
Competitive vision of the future
The new UNESCO designation has the potential to attract tourists and strengthen Katok’s economy.
However, the villagers are wary of outsiders.
The culture of the island is conservative. In Japan, which is crazy about baseball, locals prefer sumo, a religiously important ancient sport. They also have an extraordinary affinity for the military. A small museum near Katok details Japan’s last efforts to resist the US military in World War II. Kamikaze boat pilots will appear prominently.
Chiyoko Yoshikawa moved to Kato with her husband 40 years ago because the water in the river was perfect for local indigo dyeing. Her husband has died, her daughter has moved, and Katoku’s only business, the studio, is almost a hobby.
Mr. Yoshikawa opposes the construction, but hesitates to participate. She said she was still an “outsider.”
She may be wise to stay clear. Takaki’s efforts ignited a fierce passion.