Asia

Tsunami-hit town gets ready to welcome the world

TOKYO: Fiji's clash with Uruguay on Wednesday (Sep 25) may seem like just another Rugby World Cup group fixture, but for the people of Kamaishi, where the match will be played, it is an event packed with significance.

The small, rugby-mad town was devastated by the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan's north-eastern coastline on Mar 11, 2011.

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More than 1,000 people were killed or went missing in Kamaishi that day, leaving the community on its knees.

In the aftermath of the disaster, the local club, Kamaishi Seawaves, became a beacon of hope for the town as it gathered around the team and began to rebuild.

After Japan was awarded the rights to host the 2019 World Cup, Kamaishi was chosen as a tournament venue.

Since then, infrastructure projects, including the construction of a new expressway and trainline in the region, have boosted the economy and brought jobs and dynamism to the region.

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The Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium was built on the site of schools destroyed by the quake and tsunami, and will play host to the match on Wednesday.

LOOKING FOR CLOSURE

For locals such as 63-year-old Masaaki Kimura, Wednesday's match might just bring a little bit of closure.

Kimura lost his wife, mother and mother-in-law in the tsunami. His wife Takako, whose body has never been found, worked in the elementary school that was completely destroyed in the disaster.

As adults and children fled, Takako stayed.

Kimura still doesn't know why.

"She was the only one who was left behind at the school," Kimura told Reuters at his newly built house on the outskirts of town.

The Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial stadium will host two matches at the Rugby World Cup. (Photo: AFP/Charly Triballeau)

Hearing that all those from the school were safe, Kimura, who survived because his office was in a building that didnt collapse, spent five hours searching for his mother.

"I walked along the rail track looking for her," said Kimura, who needs crutches to walk.

"On the rail track, there were sleepers and gravel, so it was difficult for me.

"My boss who was walking with me said he is worried about his wife but he could not leave me alone so he kindly came with me. I said he did not have to, but he came along."

Kimura has had Sep 25 circled on his calendar all year, and will have a seat in an area near where the school's staff room was located.

That was the last place Takako was seen alive. Kimura says he can imagine himself watching the rugby match with her.

"It is not exactly where it was … I will be sitting just off the spot," he said.

"But I think it is correct (to say) that I will be sitting close to staff room where she worked."

FISHERMEN

As well as rugby, the region is known for its steel and fishing industries.

The steel industry may be almost completely gone, but there are still plenty of fisherman hunting for the premium produce that enRead More – Source

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