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.

ramen-1
Iso Ramen – ¥600
scallop1
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.

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

 

 

On The Ball

As we prepare for a major typhoon to hit the city today we want to bring attention to our emergency evacuation notification methods.  The city has a robust Facebook page here:  https://www.facebook.com/RikuzentakataCity/ and we post announcements when there are weather reports that need to be known by residents and visitors.  Today is no exception.

City hall employees have been on the ball since last night (August 29th, 2016).  All morning we have posted notifications in English and Japanese.  With the scale of the typhoon expected to hit the city directly later this evening we see informing people and preparing evacuation shelters as a very high priority.  Being on the ball, prompt, and insisting upon advance preparation is one of the many things we do well.

We take disaster preparedness VERY seriously and hope you will do the same.

In the mean time, we hope and pray for safety of everyone in the region.

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

How to Bow (and why you should visit Japan)

A handshake is a worthy introduction when meeting someone for the first time or sealing an agreement. A hug can express gratitude or say farewell to a good friend. A courtesy is a polite way of accepting a compliment and also bestowing honor to another. But the action that can do all this and speak a legion of words is a bow.

The western hemisphere may have claimed a victory when they preferred the uncomplicated fork rather than acquire the more intricate niceties of chopstick technique, but I feel that they in turn have also sorely missed out on a treasure. That is, the art and practice of bowing. While it’s not uncommon to see a dainty bob of the head in an apology or acknowledgment in a country such as America, a deep, stiff bow at the waist might draw curious glances. During my visit to Japan, I was introduced to an entirely new culture. If you’re going to spend any amount of time among the locals in Japan, you will very quickly become acquainted to the world of bowing.

I’ll admit, my bows were a little awkward and graceless the first few days.  The appropriate and expected times to bow are bound to confuse a foreigner. My personal experience taught me that if in doubt, it’s always better to bow than not. This rings especially true in formal circumstances. Also, if someone else bows to you first, it’s modest for you to return the bow with one of your own that dips lower than theirs. The deeper your bow, the more sincere your expression. The action displays a sense of respect and manners that is so reflective of the values of the Japanese people themselves.

It didn’t take long me to recognize the brilliance of this simple motion and adopt it into my social routine. It only takes a few days of immersion into the culture for bowing to become a natural motion, and then second nature. It is a multi purposeful stroke of genius in my opinion. It can express thanks, acceptance, submission, confirmation, honor, agreement, greeting, parting, and friendship. I think many other countries could do well to take on this little manner, but I am compelled to voice my doubts on its ability to thrive in a different environment.

The custom of bowing has roots that run deep and strong in Japan, filled with a proud history of bows. I believe it is this noble, dutiful pride that is bound in the hearts of the Japanese people that sets them apart from the rest of the world. Their national concept of honor, respect, and community is one unparalleled to any other society I have known. The dignity of the people is what allows this tradition of bows to endure through the centuries, and the resulting kindness is what makes them special. The serene gardens, breathtaking views, and illuminated cities make Japan a wonder for any traveler, but the sights don’t capture the experience that can only be found in the details accredited to the spirit of the people.

In all my years to come, I’ll never forget how Japan knew how to cherish the strength in community. Visiting Japan is an encounter that is well-worth your time, and an adventure that will show you that there’s a certain grace and esteem in respecting the people in your life.

 

Olivia Jeffcoat, California, USA