The Tsunami Ruins of
Arahama Elementary School

震災遺構 仙台市立荒浜小学校 | Ruins of the Great East Japan Earthquake: Arahama Elementary School

A school turned disaster memorial conveys powerful stories

Photo by Roger Smith

Photo by Roger Smith

Photo by Roger Smith

Photo by Roger Smith

  • Roger Smith

    Writer & Inaugural editor

    Last Update
    November 22, 2022


  • The coast of Sendai is a low-lying plain once beloved for its wide sandy beaches, pine forest, and peaceful neighborhoods. Unfortunately, the 2011 tsunami has irrevocably changed this area. The Arahama neighborhood was once home to eight hundred households. Today, the only building still standing is the former Arahama Elementary School. During the disaster it served as a shelter for more than three hundred students and local residents. Now, it has been preserved as a museum to educate visitors about the danger of tsunami. The neighborhood has been designated a high-risk area for disasters, so many former residents have resettled further inland, in the Arai Station area.

    The first and second floors of the school were flooded by the tsunami. Visitors can see the ripped floor tiles and bowed blackboards in the first-floor classrooms, and the high water mark of the tsunami on the second floor. On the undamaged upper floors, each classroom has been converted into an exhibition space. There is a room which plays films showing how people survived at Arahama on March 11, with footage of the school surrounded by the ocean. In another room, a detailed 3D model memoralizes the homes and businesses that once stood in Arahama. I squatted down, eyes level with the inland canal running through the miniature neighborhood to imagine what the scene must have looked like in real life. From the roof there are clear views of the ocean, the ongoing recovery-related construction taking place and, ten kilometers in the distance, downtown Sendai.

    Periodic visits to the coast with former residents are offered in cooperation with the 3.11 Memorial Archive (3.11メモイデアーカイブ). English-friendly tours to Arahama and Arai to meet local residents are also available, through the Sendai Tourist Information Desk.

    Looking out over the ruins of Arahama, it is hard not to feel a sense of loss over the perished neighborhoods. If there is any solace, it is that 2011 is not the end of the story. As I walked around the neighborhood I was happy to see activity: the people who came to the school to learn about the tsunami; the people who came to pay their respects; the surfers riding the crashing waves at nearby Fukanuma Beach; and the couples strolling across the sand, able to enjoy the coast once again.


  • Sendai


    Do & See Earthquake & Tsunami Recovery Gallery/Museum History Sendai



32-1 Shinborihata Arahama-Aza, Wakabayashi-ku,Sendai, Miyagi, 984-0033


About 15 minutes by bus from Arai Station (荒井駅).
From Arai Station Bus Platform 2 (荒井駅2番のりば), board bus bound for Kyu-Arahama Shogakko (旧荒浜小学校). Alight at Kyu-Arahama Shogakko-mae (旧荒浜小学校前), the final stop. Timetable here.




Limited English




September–June: 9:30–16:00
July & August: 9:30–17:00


Mondays, 4th Thursdays of every month* & the New Year's holiday period (Dec. 29–Jan. 4)
*If the Monday or Thursday is a national holiday, it will remain open.



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