Three years after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the Tohoku region, a study of the disaster by professors at the University of Tokyo and Indiana's Purdue University suggests the region's hundreds of kilometers of seawalls did almost nothing to save lives, claiming instead it was social ties among community members that "influenced the rates of death during the disaster."

The analysis, according to a working draft of the paper obtained recently by Kyodo News, "found no support for the argument that the pre-existing seawalls provided any protection against mortality," which depended to a greater extent on communal bonds.

The study comes as Japan prepares to invest hundreds of billions of yen in seawall construction across the nation, a project that has faced popular opposition from coastal residents who claim the massive edifices block their views of and access to the sea.