SENDAI – The slow construction of makeshift malls undertaken by a government-linked group has frustrated shopkeepers and restaurateurs who are still unable to reopen their businesses four months after the March disasters.
Construction has begun at two locations, but none has been completed, due largely to the difficulties the Organization for Small & Medium Enterprises and Regional Innovation has had in finding suitable locations.
About 270 business operators in 40 municipalities have submitted requests to the group for makeshift facilities, including offices and factories, to resume their businesses.
Makeshift malls are being developed in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, and Shiogama, Miyagi Prefecture, with plans to open the first one in mid-August at the earliest.
Locations for building the makeshift facilities are hard to find, largely because priority has so far been given to constructing temporary housing units when building facilities on public land. Locations are also limited by their potential to draw customers.
More time is also needed because the quasi-government body, which operates under the supervision of the industry ministry, plans to build the facilities tailored to tenants’ requests, including their preferences for floor space.
In Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, construction of a makeshift mall will begin soon and shops are expected to open in September, according to the municipal government.
But an official at the local chamber of commerce said the process is taking too long.
“Owners who lost their shops in the disaster will have had no income at all for up to half a year,” the official said. “Some of them have already abandoned their businesses and left Kamaishi, being unable to wait.”
In Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, a project is under way to build prefabricated facilities on shopping streets in two locations. But it took time to decide where to build them because of the debris left and the sinking of land caused by the magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami.
With no concrete timetable set for the project, a city official said, some shop owners “may give up taking up tenancy because they will not be able to run their businesses for a long time.”
Rainy season over
The rainy season appears to be over in quake-hit areas in the Tohoku region, with the archipelago fully entering summer earlier than usual, the Meteorological Agency said Monday.
If the end of the rainy season is confirmed, it will be 14 days earlier than usual and the fourth-earliest on record for southern Tohoku, and 17 days earlier than usual and the third-earliest on record for northern Tohoku, according to the weather agency, which started compiling the data in 1951.
The season usually starts and ends from the southwest, and covers the whole of Japan except for Hokkaido.