On barren land in the Kamiosabe district of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, where many homes were swept away by the tsunami spawned by the March 2011 earthquake, a brand new wooden building has become the local community center.

Sporting a sky blue exterior, the facility known as Berlin Haus was completed in December 2012 with about ¥15 million in donations from Deutsch-Japanische Gesellschaft Berlin, an association aimed at promoting exchanges between Japan and Germany.

"It's nice here as I can relax and feel refreshed since it is more spacious than the community hall at our temporary housing," 74-year-old Katsuko Yamada, who lives in a shelter nearby, said with a smile on her face.