A stone memorial constructed in remembrance of lives lost during the 2011 earthquake. (all photos by Koji Fujii/Nacasa & Partners )

All over the country, lives sputtered, flickered, and went out. Japan will never forget March 11, 2011, when a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami left the country devastated.

Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture was one of those hit the hardest. As the quake tremors hit the city, waves over 10 meters (33 ft) high surged up from the nearby Kitakamigawa River, killing more than 3,000 people and razing 20,000 homes. Reconstruction has been slow during the last five years, with governmental officials misappropriating restoration funds to push whaling and tourism instead of rebuilding the Ishinomaki community.

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Recently, the community commissioned Koishikawa Architects for a memorial that would remember those lives lost in the great tragedy. This circular fan-shaped monument is built with hundreds of reused stone shingles taken from wrecked building sites, and is meant to stand as a symbol for dispersing prayers throughout the country. The Japanese believe firmly in praying for the dead, to guide their lost souls to a gentler fate and keep them from turning into vengeful spirits.


The memorial, set into the hillside, looks out over rice paddies and farmhouses. It won the 2015 Good Design Award for its innovative design and community impact.

Each stone memorializes a single deceased Ishinomaki community member. A concave stainless steel plate at the memorial’s center is etched with a map of eastern Japan. Standing before the memorial, visitors can send their prayers out towards the entirety of eastern Japan, honoring deceased family members, friends, and strangers who have shared the same loss.

In Japanese, this memorial is called “Ishi no kinendo,” meaning stone memorial.

Stones typically used in roofing were collected from the wreckage and re-used for the stone memorial

A diagram showing the various directions that prayers made from the memorial will travel.