National | Regional Voices: Tohoku

Rebuild or relocate? Miyagi city residents face post-typhoon dilemma

Kahoku Shimpo

Residents in the Shidayachi district in Osaki, Miyagi Prefecture, who were affected by last October’s typhoon are facing a decision over whether to rebuild their ruined properties or to relocate.

Due to Typhoon Hagibis, 185 households in the district were flooded.

Although the damaged houses are now starting to be demolished, more and more people are considering living elsewhere, as they are anxious over the possibility of floods hitting the area again in the future.

“I don’t want my children and grandchildren to experience something like this,” Yoshiyuki Hoshi, 53, whose house was inundated 2 meters above the floor, as he looked down at his furniture and the toys his children used to play with, covered in mud.

While his house will be demolished at the end of this month, he cannot decide whether to rebuild it at the same place or not. Hoshi, his wife and his father have evacuated to a rented house, but they are thinking of the circumstances in which their children might take over the house.

According to residents of the district, this area has suffered from flooding in the past — including during the unprecedented downpour that hit the prefecture in August 1986 known as the “Aug. 5 heavy rain” — but many had chosen to stay.

Yet this time, it is said that 20 to 30 households are considering moving out, particularly those of people in their 40s and 50s who are worried about another flood.

The aging of the local residents plays a role in decision-making as well.

“I feel bad for my ancestors, but I am not going back,” said Keiichi Seino, who has demolished his fully damaged house, which was built during the Taisho Era (1912-26).

He moved to an apartment near Kashimadai Station last December with his 86-year-old wife. Seino was a farmer but has asked an acquaintance to manage the farm land, as they wanted to focus on rebuilding their own lives.

Some people, including Seino, are not too attached to their land. “When I was young, I (had the energy to) rebuild the house with my family and the neighbors even if there was flood damage.”

According to the Osaki city office, it has received 93 applications from residents of the Kashimadai area for subsidies to scrap houses.

The city has decided to construct 20 public housing units on high ground for affected people. Subdivided lands are also under development, although it is still unclear how many lots will be prepared because of concerns over the cost of reconstruction.

As the dismantling work has been in progress, many vacant lots have become more noticeable in the Shidayachi district. Some local residents wonder if the district itself will disappear after several decades.

“Everyone tries to make their decision based on what’s best for their lives from now on. No one can blame them for that,” said Sho Itagaki, 81, the head of the administrative district.

“We cannot just count on the government. Those who chose to stay here need to unite,” he added.

This section features topics and issues from the Tohoku region covered by the Kahoku Shimpo, the largest newspaper in Tohoku. The original article was published April 12.

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