How rugby is re-energising Japan’s Iwate prefecture, eight years after the tsunami
Ahead of a Rugby World Cup fixture in the remote prefecture, Rob Goss visits the area that was devastated by the 2011 tsunami
A gentle breeze ruffles the surface of Yamada Bay as our fishing boat idles among a flotilla of scallop beds. Around us, patches of water glint like signalling mirrors. Sat on deck in the mid-morning sun, only the occasional chug of a passing boat breaking the tranquillity, it’s difficult to imagine the devastation wrought here eight years earlier.
Back then, on the afternoon of 11 March 2011, the tsunami hit. Not a foaming mega-wave like you see in movies, but an unrelenting dark mass of water that chewed and churned everything in its path. When it had finished, close to 20,000 people in Japan’s northern Tohoku region had lost their lives.
The tsunami doesn’t get much coverage outside Japan these days, but on 25 September, when Fiji take on Uruguay in the Rugby World Cup in the town of Kamaishi – 15 miles down the coast from Yamada Bay – Tohoku will be back in the spotlight. And as I found during a trip around Iwate, one of the six prefectures in Tohoku, it won’t just be a time for remembrance. Many locals hope it will highlight both their recovery and all the region has to offer travellers.