Life continues in post-disaster Tohoku. Today we propose a new way to experience Japan, through off-the-beaten-path tours along the northeastern coastline and an opportunity to directly impact the lives of people in two towns ravaged by the tsunami of 2011.
A visit to coastal Tohoku combines the renowned cultural beauty of Matsushima with the chance to be truly involved in the challenging recovery effort underway.
A simple truth: foreigners stick out in rural Japan. In the towns of Minamisanriku and Rikuzentakata, where loss of life, homes, infrastructure, and jobs has voided all sense of normalcy, the presence of international visitors is a powerful visual reminder of relevancy.
The cause-and-effect relationship your visit to these towns has is potent. Your visit means means the lives of the residents matter. That they matter to someone, especially someone who came from a distance, turns into relevancy. Relevancy turns into self-worth. (“Hey! I’m still important after all!”) Self-worth easily translates into motivation, which in turn becomes the will to go on, one more day, one more week, one more month, one more quarter, one more year.
A unique experience for you becomes a life-changing event for the people of Tohoku.
Visit us. Connect with the locals. Seed the oysters. Harvest the apples. Plant onions and squash as well as seeds of friendship. Sit down next to the man at the local izakaya, buy him a beer and say, “Konnichiwa.” Have tea at a traditional tea house and smile at the group of women seated next to you.
Tohoku is beautiful. See for yourself. Make a difference.
At the memorial park being created on
the bayfront, visitors can learn about the
impact of the disaster while paying respect
to those who lost their lives. We hope the park
will be a gathering place for many who come to visit.
Rikuzentakata has officially declared its intention to become a city inclusive of people with all types of special needs. Those with physical, mental, and emotional challenges, the elderly and children, single parents, foreigners, LGBT persons, young families, and women will feel welcome here. Our goal is to become a hub of inclusiveness and a city that embraces all.
The southernmost city in Iwate Prefecture, Rikuzentakata is surrounded by beautiful mountains that rise up from its wide bay, creating a scenic effect unmatched on the Tohoku coast. The tsunami of 2011 destroyed the downtown area, and the city is in the process of rebuilding. In 2015 the main project is to raise the land to create a new commercial center. In 2016 business owners can begin rebuilding their shops, with the goal of full reconstruction by 2018.
One of the renowned Nihon Sankei, or Three Most Scenic Spots, of Japan, Matsushima Bay has charmed visitors for a millennium. Known for its 260 small pine-covered islands which rise from the pale blue sea, this is the landscape which initially left the famous haiku poet Basho at a loss for words, and stoked the love of travel in generations of visitors.
Matsushima is particularly indebted to the early-Edo period ruler of the Sendai area, Date Masamune, whose patronage of Matsushima left a legacy which includes Zuiganji Temple, Godaido Temple, Entsuin Temple, Kanrantei Tea House, and more.
Matsushima was affected by the earthquake and tsunami of 2011, but thanks to the many barrier islands, damage was relatively light. Train service, bay cruises, and tourist facilities have been completely restored.
The spiritual power and beauty of Matsushima attracted great monks, artists and powerful rulers who built impressive cultural heritage that can be enjoyed today.
Popular as a tourist destination among Japanese people for many decades, Minamisanriku was inundated and largely wiped out by the 2011 tsunami, with over a thousand people losing their lives. In the face of this devastation, the unshakeable bonds among the town’s people and their devotion to the land and sea are powering a revival that has inspired the nation.
Minamisanriku is no stranger to calamity, having experienced several tsunami over the centuries. The town’s indomitable spirit has inspired a lasting and unique relationship with the country of Chile. The tsunami of 1960, triggered by the Great Chilean Earthquake, swept across the Pacific and killed 142 people. In response, a replica of an Easter Island moai statue was sent by Chilean government, and a full-size moai was presented on the thirtieth anniversary of the quake. The two moai were swept away and damaged by the 2011 tsunami. This time, master artisans from Easter Island sent a moai sculpted from the island’s stone—the only such moai existing outside of Chile. Along with the kannon Buddha atop Mt. Tatsugane, the new moai keeps a vigilant watch over the town.
With reconstruction in the background, lantern boats flost on the bay representing the spirits of those lost in the 2011 disaster