Borrowed Scenery: Miyato Salt Farm Onsen

Shenpei Ha - YTAA Shortlist

Tracing back the past vernacular

"Set in the Tsunami struck area of Tohoku - Japan. A salt terrace farm/bath house hybrid that trace back the regional vernacular of rural Japan that is lost and has undergone a nativising discourse of hypermodernity after the 2011 Tsunami. This lyrical proposal also confronts the relationship of government’s ambition and Miyato island’s integrity."

In March 2011, an earthquake triggered a Tsunami that would go on to destroy thousands of homes and lives across north-west Japan. Efforts was made to restore the lost landscape of Miyato Island (one of the three mains view of Japan).


Although they know full well that things could not go back as before, their resilience sees them not forgetting the past and to carry the scars and restore, co-exist with the new. It is through these interaction that makes the site not only a natural disaster concern, but also a cultural concern as well. It is a landscape that combines both the urgency and long term planning needed to protect the way of Miyato Island; against the backdrop of a scenery that is important to the Japanese.

This proposal is for a salt farm onsen [lit. hot springs] that will facilitate the restoration of Miyato Island after the 2011 Tohoku Tsunami in Eastern Japan.

The seawall scheme by the Japanese government provided protection for the people living in coastal Japan. These structure however - ranging from 7 meters to 14 metres high - blocked off views out to the sea, putting the island’s local identity of being of unparalleled natural beauty at stake, something that the locals wanted to fiercely protect. This lyrical proposal explores in depth the relationship of government’s ambition and the locals’ wishes; the need for a concrete protection from the tsunami and the preservation of the natural landscape of what the island offers; an exercise in tracing back the regional vernacular of rural living and looking at the nativising discourse of concrete Japan which its influences can be dated back to mid-twentieth century.


The project does not seek to challenge but rather synthesize the existing life on the Miyato Island and considers to marry the seawall into the terraced landscape. The architectural intervention: a salt terrace farm and an open salt hot springs. It goes into effort in bringing the language of the seawater back inland [the government have ordered the islander to move away from the beaches/coasts] as well as augmenting the aspect of living with sea salt water into an industry. And thus, the project seeks to solve two main problems: it protects the identity of the island as well as the ambition for the government in building the seawalls, and it opened up a new industry for the islander to attract new tenants and visitors of a younger generation.


The proposal wishes to be an impetus for future development concerning the empirical experience as well as a call for challenging the notion of what is preservation and heritage as well as celebrating new developments.


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