Takeshi Suzuki (left with shovel) of Ritsumeikan University and Haley Sweeton (right with shovel) of University of Maryland Baltimore County plant a tree commemorating JASC 65’s visit to Miyako City.
The JASC 65 delegation spent August 14th, 2013 in Miyako City, learning more about the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami’s impact and participating in discussions on how to revitalize the city. The day started out with a visit to the Miyako Sea Wall and the Old Miyako Hotel.
Katherine Jordan of Wellesley College is interviewed by local press after viewing footage from the March 11th tsunami.
During the 2011 Tohoku Disaster, Miyako was devastated by a tsunami wave at least 37.9 metres (124 ft) above sea level that overcame the city’s sea walls. Some of the most iconic footage of the 2011 Japanese tsunami, repeatedly broadcast worldwide, was shot in Miyako.
JASCers viewed some of this footage on the 5th floor of the Old Miyako Hotel, where it was filmed by the hotel owner. The Old Miyako Hotel is one of the only structures in the lowest lying residential district of the city to remain standing after the tsunami, despite its first two floors being completely destroyed. The hotel now serves as an educational center for remembrance of the events of March 11th, 2011.
Yamato Komura of Akita International University looks out over what used to be a residential area in Miyako.
After the tour, JASCers ate lunch with guests from Miyako, including several high school students from the area. Following lunch, JASC hosted a forum on reconstruction with representatives from the fishing industry, local officials, and NGO leaders. After the forum, JASCers planted a ceremonial tree (top of the page) to commemorate their visit to Miyako.
Following the forum, JASCers, accompanied by local high school students, rode the Sanriku Railway’s Minami-Raisu Line from Taro to Miyako. The line was one of the first restored in the region following the Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami, providing much needed supplies and even housing rescue workers. Sanriku Railway expects full service to be restored on all its lines in the region some time during 2014. The short ride on the train was a chance for JASCers to explore the technical challenges of bringing the line back into operation as well as the psychological impact of its resumption.
The last event of the day was a trip to Joudogahama Rest House where JASCers were briefed by representatives from the Sanriku Railway as well as leaders in NGOs focused on organizing volunteers. JASCers also were given time to enjoy the beautiful coastline and interact with their hosts. The long day of programming in Miyako provided JASCers with background knowledge on the issues the region faces and hopefully spurred their interest in returning to the region to volunteer or contribute to the local economy as a visitor. The people of Iwate gained experience sharing their story and hopefully were left with thought-provoking ideas from the JASC delegates.