Nearly five years after a massive earthquake struck Japan, causing a tsunami and power plant meltdown, a memorial has been erected near the earthquake’s epicenter. Designed by Tokyo-based studio Koishikawa Architects, the lovely fan-shaped structure is composed of 18,000 stones that represent the victims who died or were declared missing as a result of the triple disaster.
To mirror the local vernacular, architects Hiroya Kobiki and Noritaka Ishikawa built the structure using only materials taken from a nearby house after it was demolished by the earthquake. The walls are made of thousands of stacked stones and topped with laminated slate shingles. In the center, a mirrored surface shaped like a cherry blossom is inscribed with radiating lines that represent other areas impacted by the earthquake. The memorial faces east, toward the part of the country most wrecked after the strongest recorded earthquake in Japan’s history triggered a tsunami and caused a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It overlooks Ishinomaki, the city that was closest to the earthquake’s epicenter.
Ishinomaki, located in the Miyagi prefecture, was the worst affected of all the tsunami-hit communities. And although much has been done to rebuild the city, it’s still a long way from normal. (In 2014, the Guardian reported that rebuilding it would take at least 10 years and cost more than 1 trillion yen, or about $8 billion.) As we approach the fifth anniversary of the tsunami, the simple stone memorial seems to represent a solid step forward while still remembering the past.