The Resilient Fishing Village of Akasaki

Japan’s Noto Peninsula was devastated by the New Year’s Day earthquake, resulting in the destruction of numerous wooden buildings. However, amidst the chaos, the small fishing village of Akasaki remained standing, thanks to its smart and resilient architecture. This article will explore the unique design of Akasaki’s houses and sheds, highlighting their ability to withstand natural disasters.

Unlike the fragile glass windows commonly found in modern architecture, the houses in Akasaki prioritize sturdiness. Their exterior walls are constructed using sturdy wooden slats, layered horizontally, providing a strong foundation. Additionally, the structure is supported by thick beams crisscrossing the ceiling, ensuring stability.

Despite the magnitude 7.5 earthquake, followed by numerous aftershocks, there were no casualties reported in the tight-knit village of Akasaki. Even the tsunami waves triggered by the earthquake did not reach the houses, thanks to their strategic location on slightly elevated land and the presence of concrete tetrapods protecting them from the sea.

In the aftermath of the disaster, Akasaki’s residents found solace in the fact that their village remained intact. Masaki Sato, a homeowner and owner of a summer B&B, expressed his gratitude for the design and structure of the houses. Sato’s 85-year-old house, which he drove all night from Tokyo to check on, only suffered minor damages, including loose roof tiles, ceramic dishes, and a broken wooden sliding door.

The village of Akasaki follows a traditional architectural layout that has been passed down through generations. According to resident Seiya Shinagawa, the houses are designed with a shed on the coast acting as a windshield, followed by a narrow main house behind it. This design hails from the days when fishermen would launch their boats directly from their sheds into the sea.

Following a devastating fire in the late 1930s, which razed a significant part of the village, the houses were rebuilt with a unified and stronger design. This collective effort to reinforce the structures ensured their resilience against future disasters.

Despite withstanding natural disasters, Akasaki now faces a different challenge – a severely aging population. The majority of residents are over 65 years old, with many living alone. The high cost of house repairs poses a problem for the elderly population, who often question the viability of investing in their houses when there is no one to inherit them.

One resident, Akiyo Wakasa, expresses concern about the erosion of Akasaki’s charm due to the declining population. She emphasizes that maintaining and fixing houses require financial resources, and many individuals are unsure if it is worth the investment when there is no one to pass it down to.

For Masaki Sato, witnessing the slow decline of Akasaki’s village is agonizing. As an IT firm employee and real-estate renovation business owner, he recognizes the value of preserving the village’s unique character. Sato has taken matters into his own hands by purchasing five houses and sheds. He envisions opening cafes and restaurants in these structures to breathe new life into the village.

The resilient fishing village of Akasaki serves as a testament to the power of smart architecture in the face of natural disasters. Its unique design, steeped in tradition, has protected its residents for decades. However, the village now grapples with an aging population and the need to preserve its cultural heritage. Masaki Sato’s determination to save Akasaki serves as an inspiration for the community, as they navigate the challenges of the present while honoring their past.


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