National

Wooden housing that sheltered Fukushima displaced now relocated for use in rain-hit western Japan

Kyodo

Purpose-built wooden emergency homes constructed using a traditional nail-less building technique and used by people displaced by the 2011 Fukushima nuclear crisis have been relocated to Soja, Okayama Prefecture, which was recently hit by torrential rains.

In early August, carpenters in Soja began putting together the temporary housing using a method called Itakura, in which thick boards of solid cedar are fastened together without nails to create roofs, walls and floors.

The 70-year-old head of Japan Itakura House Association, architect Kunihiro Ando, who oversaw the relocation of the homes from Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture, said the method allows people to dismantle the buildings easily and keeps the temperature and humidity stable inside, while enhancing the buildings’ resistance to fire and rot and making them able to last 100 years.

The Itakura method emerged in disaster-prone Japan as people are frequently forced to relocate their homes due to earthquakes, floods and other natural disasters. Ando said the method is often used for building shrines and traditional rice storehouses.

The temporary homes, which have already been used for seven years, were being dismantled in Iwaki when torrential rains hit the prefectures of Okayama, Hiroshima and Ehime in early July, causing floods and mudslides that killed over 220 people.

The city of Iwaki offered the housing to Soja for free, enabling the western city to save on costs as well as construction time.

The wooden homes are slightly larger than regular prefabricated housing and are equipped with a loft. A total of 44 households are scheduled to start living in the relocated housing by early October.

As of Tuesday more than 2,000 people remained in shelters, with about 1,200 of them in Okayama Prefecture, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

Ando said many of the homes hit by the massive rain storms are unable to be renovated or reused as much of their structure, such as support beams, insulation and chipboards, is likely to rot due to water damage.