I'm Trevor Williams, a photographer from Canada. I've lived in Okayama, Japan for 20 years. Now I've come to Iwate Prefecture. When the Great East Japan Earthquake happened, I was very concerned about the region. I'm here now to find out how the post-quake reconstruction is coming along. I rode the Sanriku Railway, which was heavily damaged in the earthquake. But now it's been fully rebuilt! I wanted to ask about how reconstruction has progressed.
Current status of reconstruction
All the lines suffered heavy damage, but people around Japan and the world offered so much support that we could reopen all the lines in only three years. The Sanriku Railway was heavily damaged in the earthquake, but we received major support also from Kuwait. With Kuwait's help, we built 8 new cars and reconstructed the station building. A message of gratitude is written at the door in English, Arabic, and Japanese. I'd like visitors from all over Japan and the world to visit Sanriku, to ride the Sanriku Railway, and to enjoy Sanriku. I look forward to many people coming over here.
I figure out why this small train is a symbol of Iwate's reconstruction. Not just the local community, but also people from around the world supported the railway's reconstruction. I was really struck by this.
My next stop was the city of Ofunato. I heard that the city took a lot of damage from the tsunami. I wanted to talk to someone working as a Local Vitalization Cooperator.
I was living in Japan when the tsunami happened and I just kept seeing on TV how bad the situation is and I feel like probably there’s something we can do and we need to help the people, because everything is so bad. So I decided to volunteer in Tohoku. This actually is an area of the city that was completely washed out. When I came, there was nothing. Everything was gone – completely gone. And I heard that it used to be like the commercial centre of the city, So now people are coming back and that’s good to see.
This part of town has been reborn. But some aspects of the old town remain, and their history is mixed with the new. I'm glad to know the town has regained its energy and that the people are leading their lives with a positive attitude.
I was worried about the sea urchins they harvest here in Iwate. I wondered what was actually going on there.
As far as the sea is concerned, reconstruction is mostly done. But because of the earthquake people left and industry declined, so I think the real reconstruction starts now. We routinely inspect all the seafood from this area, so they have no problems and many customers have praised it. I want to develop a fishing industry here that people in Japan and all around the world will recognize as having seafood of the highest quality.
Most people would've given up in such a situation, so I was moved by the great strength of the people of Sanriku to rebuild and now share their food with people in areas beyond. I want to come here again when sea urchins are in season
I wondered if the animals in the area were safe. I went to a ranch to find out for myself.
The farm is on somewhat higher ground, so none of our cows or other animals were hurt. Although we could recover quickly from the earthquake's physical damage, what hurt the most was harmful rumors. We started testing our products for radiation after the earthquake, and none was ever detected. My dream now is to do farm stays. I'd have people stay over at the farm. I'd like to have them take care of the goats or chop wood, so I'd invite guests to Miyako or draw people here.
The animals here are raised in a wonderful environment. If the milk from the goats grazing in the pastures here is safe, then the land itself must be safe. I was very much relieved to learn that.
Olympics for Reconstruction
They've built a stadium that has become a symbol of the area's reconstruction. I heard that rugby is a really big deal in town. They even held matches from the Rugby World Cup at the stadium.
I think a more important question than why this stadium was built is why the Rugby World Cup came to Kamaishi. The citizens suggested they'd all do their best to work toward that goal if the decision to also hold the World Cup in Kamaishi was made. The City of Kamaishi agreed, and bidding for the World Cup was written into our reconstruction plan. That's why the stadium itself is a building that is a symbol of reconstruction for the people of Kamaishi and this Sanriku region.
What's being done about the host town?
The Olympics aren't the end. Even after the Olympics are over, the host town will continue exchanges. Since Kamaishi became a host town for Australia and its ties with rugby are strong, we have Australian high school students come to Kamaishi and play rugby with local high schoolers. The reason we chose Australia is that at that time, an Australian rugby player, Scott Fardy, was in Kamaishi.
This stadium was built as a symbol of reconstruction: From my conversations today, I found out that the powerful spirit that comes from the love of rugby in Kamaishi's community is the driving force behind their reconstruction. I hope their development makes even more progress.
All the people I met were very nice, and they have a positive attitude, always looking to the future after reconstruction. I think I'll come back here again someday.