Onagawa, in the prefecture of Miyagi, was devastated by the March 2011 tsunami. Of a population of a little over 10,000 at the time disaster struck, 827 were killed or reported missing. Fully 60 percent of the town’s buildings were completely destroyed, and a further 25 percent were badly damaged.
Among other public buildings destroyed were 20 out of 25 of Onagawa’s community centers. These centers play a vital role in Japanese society. In the aftermath of the disaster, many residents living in temporary accommodation in Onagawa prioritized the need for a temporary community center.
Similar to community centers, traditional hot springs are an important focus for community life, particularly for the elderly: some 33 per cent of the population of Onagawa is over 65 years of age.
Prior to the disaster, the hot springs were an important tourist attraction in the area. Building and furnishing a temporary facility at the springs boosted local tourism and created employment opportunities, providing a stimulus to Onagawa’s wider economy.