Eight years after the devastating effects of the 2011 Great Eastern Earthquake and Tsunami, Iwate Prefecture has been steadily rebuilding. Over 5,000 people died across the prefecture, more than 25,000 homes were destroyed and over ¥10 billion worth of damage to industrial and public facilities. In the mining town of Kamaishi, more than 1,000 people perished and the majority of its buildings were destroyed; two of the schools on the banks of the river, the three-story high Kamaishi East Junior High School and Unosumai Elementary School, were almost entirely engulfed by the rising sea water.
In their place now stands a symbol of hope: The Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium. Kamaishi has a strong rugby heritage and its nomination and selection as one of the host cities for the upcoming 2019 Rugby World Cup was wildly celebrated by the town’s residents. The state-of-the-art 6,000-seat stadium (with 10,000 additional temporary seats) was completed in 2108 and is the competition’s only purpose-built venue. It will host two games: Fiji vs Uruguay and Namibia vs Canada.
Other areas such as Ofunato and Rikuzentakata have also been making great strides. The 2-kilometer long shoreline of Takata-matsubara in Rikuzentakata, which was listed as Place of Scenic Beauty before the disaster, will be the site of a memorial park constructed by the Government of Japan and the government of Iwate Prefecture to remember the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. The park is aiming to be in full service by the beginning of 2021.
The remains of a seawall on the Minamisanriku coastline in neighboring Miyagi Prefecture two months after the 2011 Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.
A ferry entering the bay of Ofunato in Iwate on the morning of Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. The area was devastated by the tsunami with 419 residents dead and nearly 4,000 buildings destroyed. Large-scale redevelopment projects have since been undertaken, including the construction of Kyassen Ofunato, a new mall comprising of multiple, low-rise buildings linked by patios and pedestrian walkways (seen in the foreground), and a new, controversial seawall and floodgate along the perimeter of the bay.
The presevered remains of Kesen Middle School at the entrance of the under-construction Takata-matsubara Memorial Park for Tsunami Disaster in Rikuzentakata, Iwate. The site will contain the Iwate Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Museum and the Miracle Pine sculpture (middle distance) — a memorial of the shoreline's sole surviving pine tree following the tsunami before itself dying 18 months later. The museum will be open to the public from Sept. 22, 2019 and the whole park is scheduled for completion by the beginning of 2021.
The new, higher seawall stretching across the 2-kilometer front of Hirota Bay in Takata-matsubara.
Workers maintain a stretch of the redeveloped Takata-matsubara shoreline. New pine trees have been planted to replace the original forest, which was completely destroyed by the tsunami, and the sandy beach also restored.
Young pine trees growing along the restored Takata-matsubara shoreline. The original forest contained 70,000 trees and all but one was initially destroyed during the tsunami.
The new 14-meter-high seawall and floodgate that shields Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium and the surrounding area from the ocean. The original wall was listed as the world’s largest of its kind but failed to hold back the waves during the 2011 disaster.
The main stand of Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium and its large sweeping 67-meter-long canopy. The design is intended to evoke the image of a bird's wingspan or the sails of a boat, symbolizing Kamaishi "taking flight/setting sail into the future."
In an effort to further promote the connection with its natural surroundings, some of Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium's seats have been made from repurposed damaged wood following a forest fire in the nearby Ozaki Peninsula during 2017.
Mayor Takenori Noda of Kamaishi (center), Masatoshi Mukouyama (Representative Director of International Corporation for the Japan Rugby Football Association and former professional international rugby player), volunteers and participants of KAMAISHI KIDS TRY (a tag rugby competition between local and international exchange children) pose for a photo in Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium.
Local and international exchange children work together pulling out weeds from under a stand at the Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium. The cross culture exchanges are intended to cultivate an awareness of diversity through sport to both children and adults alike. The stadium is part of the Kamaishi Open Field Museum — a city initiative providing outdoor activities to promote the environment, history, culture and disaster prevention — and will also hold a variety of non-sporting events such as concerts and performing arts.
All photos by Stephan Jarvis