Tying the bonds of friendship even tighter

When a small fishing boat used by Rikuzentakata’s Takata High School washed up on the shores of Crescent City, California, two years after the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami, no one could have predicted the lasting effect it would have on those two communities.

Swirling and unpredictable ocean tides could have deposited the fishing boat, named Kamome (“seagull”), anywhere along the western coast of North America, but the fact that it ended its two-year maritime journey in Crescent City of all places is a stunning act of fate. As it turns out, the two cities have much in common: population, geography, industries, and a long history of earthquakes and tsunami (in fact, Crescent City was also affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, to the tune of $50 million in damages to their harbor). Another thing the two cities have in common: at the moment, neither has an official Sister City. But, hopefully, that is about to change.

After four years of an international exchange program between high schools in each city, a delegation from Crescent City finally visited Rikuzentakata this February to meet with the mayor, city council, and school representatives and formally request the creation of Sister City and Sister School relationships. The Sister School relation ship between Del Norte High School (in Crescent City) and Takata High School was finalized, but the Sister Cities relationship still has a way to go before being finalized, including a visit to Crescent City by the mayor of Rikuzentakata and other city officials.

While in Rikuzentakata, the delegation also took the time to see the sights and interact with the locals. They took part in several activities including a tour of the disaster zone, riding in an oyster fishing boat, visiting a local sake brewery, and more, and they brought gifts–lapel pins, wood carvings, knit hats–to hand out to every Rikuzentakata resident they met. It was an impactful experience for all involved, and everyone, from Rikuzentakata locals to the delegation from Crescent City, walked away with new life long friends and memories that will last forever.

For more reading, check out the news articles below:

Sister City: Delegation to Japanese city formalizes partnership

Saga of lost Rikuzentakata tsunami boat forges pan-Pacific friendship

Del Norte High School welcomes Japanese students



Konno Chokubai Center – Delicious Simplicity


We’ve already written on this blog about Hota-waka Go-zen, Rikuzentakata’s new signature cuisine that showcases the delicious local scallops of Hirota Bay, but that is far from the only way to enjoy scallops in Rikuzentakata.

For something a little more classic and traditional, one could stop by Konno Chokubai Center in the Otomo district, a popular lunchtime spot among the locals. The menu is small, but specialization leads to perfection, and every item on the menu reflects the bounty of fresh seafood available in Rikuzentakata.

Konno Chokubai Cener’s signature dish is Iso Ramen, a local variety of the well-known Japanese noodle soup, which adds a giant scallop and multiple varieties of fresh, local seaweed to a simple salt-based soup broth. Scallop-lovers can also order huge scallops grilled in the shell (either a la carte or as a set meal with rice and miso soup), or hotate-don, which consists of scallops in a sweet-salty sauce and egg over rice.

Iso Ramen – ¥600
Grilled Giant Scallop – ¥400

The “chokubai” in the restaurant’s name means “direct sale” and it refers to the fact that the scallops are caught and sold, “ocean to table,” directly from the source. Not only does that make them delicious, it also helps keep the costs low. And with the freshness, the taste, and the price, it’s no wonder that the locals keep coming back for more.

Rikuzentakata, un luogo inaspettato

Ho avuto l’occasione di visitare Rikuzentakata nel corso della mia ricerca sulla ripresa dei territori colpiti dallo tsunami. La città è stata duramente danneggiata dal disastro. Ciononostante è un luogo molto vivo, dove i cittadini si stanno dando molto da fare per ricostruire il loro territorio e la loro comunità. Tra le cose speciali che si possono fare a Rikuzentakata, c’è sicuramente quella di sperimentare un delizioso menù a base di frutti di mare locali. In particolare, nella zona si producono votate (capesante) e wakame (un tipo di alga). I ristoratori locali hanno messo a punto un menù comune, è quindi possibile magiare in posti diversi per provare le differenze.

La città di Rikuzentakata è divenuta famosa, dopo il disastro del 2011, per il suo “pino miracoloso”, l’unico ad essere rimasto in piedi dopo essere stato in balia dello tsunami. L’albero faceva parte di una pineta centenaria che è andata completamente distrutta, ma che si sta cercando il modo di ripiantare. Al momento l’area è al centro di lavori di ricostruzione, ma il pino, che è stato messo in sicurezza per garantirne la preservazione, è visibile. Il pino è diventato ben presto il simbolo della forza di resistenza di questa città e per questo si è deciso di trasformarlo in un monumento, realizzando un’opera di conservazione grazie all’uso della tecnologia. L’albero infatti, non avrebbe resistito naturalmente alle infiltrazioni di sale dovute subite durante il disastro.

Ma Rikuzentakata non è solo mare. Sulle colline intorno alla città ci sono altrettanti luoghi meravigliosi. Uno di questi è il Fumonji, un tempio buddista che è un luogo magico e affascinante, custode della tradizione locale e diventato, dopo il disastro, anche il luogo dove riposano molte delle vittime di quel terribile evento. Nel bellissimo bosco antistante il tempio, sono state disposte le statue dei rakan. Rakan è la parola giapponese che indica gli illuminati che hanno raggiunto il nirvana nella religione buddista. In molti templi buddisti se ne trovano 500. Seguendo questa tradizione, il Fumonji, ha creato un’iniziativa che ha visto gli stessi abitanti di Rikuzentakata scolpire le statue come tributo ai concittadini che hanno perso la vita durante lo tsunami. Il workshop di arte terapia, viene organizzato due volte all’anno finché il numero di 500 non sarà raggiunto. Quest’anno ho partecipato anche io, insieme ad alcuni amici, al laboratorio e ora anche il mio rakan veglia su questa terra alle pendici di un cedro centenario. Mi piace molto l’idea di aver costruito, attraverso di lui, un legame eterno con questa terra bellissima.

Flavia Fulco – Roma

Careful What You Ask For: Best Case Scenario

For the third year, Rikkyo University in Tokyo and Stanford University from California (USA) have sent students to Rikuzentakata.  Fourteen bright, young, energetic, smart, and compassionate students visited two weeks ago.

We asked them to create three specific items.  We are happy to share the first here:

We should also mention Rikuzentakata also now has our own multi-lingual YouTube site where we will share videos made by our visitors and for our city.  (If you would like your video shared on this site please e-mail us at visit@city.rikuzentakata.iwate.jp.)

A huge thank you to Rikkyo University and Stanford University students.  You’re welcome back any time.



The Miracle Pine – more than just a tree

The Takata Matsubara pine forest was planted in the Edo Period (1600s Japan) in what is present day Rikuzentakata in order to block strong coastal winds from interfering with local agriculture. Over centuries the 6,200 saplings grew both in height and number, and by the Twentieth Century the Takata Matsubara pine forest was a marvel, seventy thousand trees strong and a favorite location of locals and travelers alike. It was even officially designated as one of the top 100 views in Japan.

However, March 11, 2011, was the day that nobody saw coming. The pine forest that Rikuzentakata held so dear was washed away, cruelly and suddenly, by the fifteen-meter waves of a tsunami, along with hundreds of buildings and almost two thousand lives. All that was left was a single tree, standing bold and solitary against a now unobstructed view of the ocean.

While the citizens of Rikuzentakata of course mourned the loss of their forest, as they mourned the losses of their homes and loved ones, they looked to the single pine tree to remind themselves that they could not be completely destroyed. They looked to the pine tree to remind themselves, “After all of this, we are still here.”

A little while after the tsunami, the Miracle Pine, as it had been named, died from taking in too much sea water. However, a fundraising project was started to preserve the tree and turn the site into a monument, honoring those lost in the disaster and inspiring hope for future and present generations.

Now, the tree stands strong, with its original bark but a new iron center and artificial leaves. Thanks to the generosity of its donors, the tree will continue to stand, to inspire hope, and to remind the world that Rikuzentakata is still here, and we can’t be knocked down or washed away.

kiseki no ippon matsu



The Faces of Recovery

As a mother, educator and a Rotarian, I am particularly drawn to Rikuzentakata due to the uniqueness of the area and the kindness and perseverance of its people. I visited Rikuzentakata in January 2016. One of the first buildings rebuilt is the beautiful Takata High School. It stands stoically on the mountain and is a constant reminder that education is of great importance to the people of Rikuzentakata. They have invested heavily in their future by providing a wonderful learning environment for their children.

During my visit I had the pleasure of meeting Rotarian businessmen and women who are in various stages of rebuilding. The oyster beds located in the bay are a main staple to the economic recovery. It was particularly heartwarming to see the pride in Katsuji Chiba as he took us out on the smooth waters to see the off bottom oyster farming he and his sons are doing. There is a strong sense of community in talking with Katsuji. His passion for the town and the importance of providing a stable economic future for his employees and his family is very evident.

The kindness of the people of Rikuzentakata is inspiring. I am unsure if the people are close knit and care about each other because they have lived through a devastating disaster or because it is a rural town but the people are very close and help each other.

Coleen Parker, California, USA

Kesen-cha, a local tea with that personal touch

Once a month, Riku Cafe offers a tea tasting experience, where visitors can taste a selection of local teas served in a Taiwanese style for ¥300. In addition to the tea, the visitors also receive knowledge and conversation from Chikako Maeda, a former government worker and Takata local who decided to devote her life to tea. After leaving her job at the prefectural office in Morioka, she spent three years in total (two in Taiwan, one in China) studying all aspects of tea craft, from planting and harvesting to roasting and brewing.


This month, there were four teas available for tasting, and Maeda-san went through them one by one, explaining everything as she went. First, there was a cold-brewed green tea, refreshing and fragrant. Then came a traditional green tea, one that was lightly roasted (called hi-ire), and then a black tea. All four teas were made using the same leaf (locally grown Kesen-cha), however different treating processes led them to have wildly different flavor profiles and tasting experiences.


The Taiwanese style of tea tasting involves pouring the tea into the taller vessel on the right, and then immediately pouring it into the sipping vessel on the left. The vessel on the right is then held to the nose and sniffed to allow the taster to inhale the scent of the tea without burning their fingers. Finally, the tea is tasted from the sipping vessel on the left. It’s a unique and well-conceived tasting experiences that allow the taster go fully savor both the taste and the fragrance of the fresh-brewed tea.