Amami-Oshima under perpetual attack by the concrete industry

The threat of bulldozers always looming

While Amami-Oshima has applied for a coveted spot on UNESCO's list of World Heritage sites, it's seemingly destroying all that makes it unique and beautiful by rapidly concreting river beds, beaches and mountain sides.

While most onlookers would be outraged by such pointless and wasteful environmental destruction, in Japan it's business as usual, and Amami-Oshima is no exception. One could blame 60 years of propaganda by the one-party government of Japan which has managed to concrete more than 90% of all of Japan's coastline without any impact study.

Slogan such as "Concrete is here to protect the people" can still be seen on construction companies buildings, and the same tag-line is used again and again to coerce the public into accepting without compromises what construction companies and politicians have planned behind closed doors. Too often highly controversial construction projects are started before local residents have had suficient time to realise what's happening at their doorstep. If dirty money had a color and symbol, these ugly blocks of concrete growing like a cancer throughout Japan would best symbolize the extent of this corruption.


Can it be stopped?

Unfortunately the concrete industry is like a perpetual wheel with an endless supply of public funds. More than 3 times the amount of concrete produced by a country as large as the United States of America is used every year in Japan. In most cases the country side where jobs are scarce and people afraid to voice their opinion is where the construction industry strives. If the United States has a wasteful military industrial complex, Japan's equivalent is its konkurito industrial complex.

Putting a stop to this wasteful and destructive industry has been attempted during the very brief time the dominant political party, the LDP, was ousted. Unfortunately the 311 tsunami and nuclear crisis that followed was used as an opportunity for the LDP to stage a comeback. And what a comeback it has been! Taro Aso, the owner of the biggest concrete conglomerate in the world, Aso-Lafarge, has become Japan's finance minister. It goes without saying Japan's record public debt is now almost entirely funneled into the concrete industry.

But is there hope?

Despite the relentless attack on the natural environment by the concrete industry, I believe Japan is ripe for a change and a reversal of situation.

( More on that in another post )

In the meantime....

The following pictures taken in Amami-Oshima speak for themselves. If a good part of the island is still covered in jungle, the relentless concrete industry continues its destruction and removal of some of the most natural and treasured spots on the island.

Nase, the main town of Amami-Oshima was once as beautiful as Bora Bora, except it had a lot more beaches. While it could have preserved its exotic beauty for future generations and visitors, this is what it looks like today.

concrete shoreline in Nase

Roads built on top of beaches are protected by endless rows of terapods and concrete blocks

concrete shoreline

Bulldozer filling a truck with rocks and sand for a round trip to the factory. The result is what you see in the first row.


Small fishing villages with beautiful beaches and scenic views are transformed into giant harbors with no more than 2 or 3 tiny fishing boats

humongous harbors with no boat

An army of tetrapod clones in transit before extending a harbor or burying another pristine beach

army of tetrapod clones

What visitors from the look-out point of the "Virgin Mangrove Forest" don't see: A wood chip factory and a mining company have walled and monopolized the estuary.

virgin mangrove forest flow blocked by concrete blocks

A residential area with beautiful beaches in the calm interior sea. They chose to bury it and make it look like a war zone.

wave breakers where there is no wave ever

Big dam for a tiny stream. I asked the dam project chief if he knew that the stream brought sand and sediments to the beach. He had never heard of beach sand replenishment by rivers and streams.

big dam  tiny streams

Vertical sea walls are known to cause rapid sand erosion and destroy the shore ecosystem. This beach, according to local residents used to be 50m wide. Imagine how the dunes and Adan trees used to cover this portion of the beach. This is a remote beach in an uninhabited part of Kareroma Island.

vertical sea walls where high dunes once stood

Hiking in the jungle to find some solace from this perpetual destruction can be met with chock and horror: A brand new concrete wall breaking the gentle flow and curves of the river. Animal migration is also affected.

concrete walls in the middle of the jungle

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