A walk along a favourite beach on the Miura peninsula recently offered the usual stunning tableau of the Japanese seaside in winter: horses thundering along the empty dunes, racks of daikon drying under the chilly sun and rank after rank of 12-ton concrete blocks being craned into the lapping surf.
For all its ugliness, this third activity does not encounter much public pushback. With decades of practice, and backed by the inarguable frequency of quakes, tsunamis and typhoons, Japan’s local and central governments have thoroughly convinced generations of taxpayers of the need to defend the island nation’s coastline with ever higher and thicker dollops of concrete.
Collectively, these nationwide ramparts may provide Japan with a formidable physical and psychological shield. The pandemic, though, has begun to expose some fragility in all that strength.