Reconnecting communities: Stunning new Onagawa Station by Shigeru Ban



Four years ago, the North east coast of Japan’s Miyagi district, the town of Onagawa was badly hit by a tsunami that destroyed over 70% of homes and most of the town centre, including the railway station and public baths. Disconnecting the town from the rest of the district, after a four year wait a new railway station and public bath reopened last week. Designed by ingenious Japanese architect Shigeru Ban, the reopening of the railway station and public baths means the community can take another step towards returning to normality.


Situated on the Eastern coast of Japan, the town of Onagawa is predominantly a fishing town. In 2011, a major tsunami hit the coastal town leaving behind destruction. As well as over 8% of the town’s population perished, the town centre, government buildings, homes, schools, the public baths and the railway station were also destroyed. The reopening of the railways station and public baths represents a new beginning to reforming the town and aiding the local community to put the past behind and look to the future. The new structure integrates both a railway station and public baths, recreating a social hub for the community.

The work undertaken by Shigeru Ban architects presents one of the leading insights into disaster relief, designing temporary and innovative structures from common, everyday materials. The design of Onagawa station presents distinctive qualities of Ban’s signature style. The formidable use of materials, from the light toned timber used here combined with pure white metal frames and tiles allows the structure to stand with modesty against the backdrop of mountains and the sea.

Onagawa stattion architecture interiors Spaceist blogpost Image Credit: Shigeru Ban Architects


Inside, the interior sees a stunning lattice roof, another distinctive trademark style of Ban’s work. The public baths present a tranquil environment with floor to ceiling height space. The public bath features a range of murals created in cooperation of people from the local community who have been involved in the project since the tsunami recovery began. A scene of trees lined with wild animals lines the entrance to the spa area and interior hallways, whilst a stunning mountain standing tall above the spa area. The simplicity of the interior of the spaces gives the new railways station and public baths a calming and soothing ambience.

The reopened railway terminus is a key milestone that has enabled the community to reconnect through the rebuilding of their town. The railway station also plays a vital part in aiding in the development of the rest of the town.