This article was written by the staff at Ofunato City, and translated by Olivia Lee. 

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami: An Enormous Unprecedented Disaster

On March 11, 2011, the eastern region of Japan that faces the Pacific Ocean, including Ofunato City, was hit by an unprecedented disaster which snatched away countless irreplaceable treasures and lives.

Due to the massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, in Ofunato 340 people were confirmed dead, and 79 people were declared missing. A total of 5,592 buildings in the city suffered damage, with 2,791 of them being completely destroyed—the city’s economic costs from the damage surpassed 107.7 billion yen.

The great tsunami pulverized the coastal area of Ofunato, including the townscape, the main roads and the port facilities. It destroyed numerous key foundations and industries which were core to the city’s development, and wreaked havoc on the region’s economy.

The tsunami approaching.

Support we received from both within Japan, and the world

For those of us in Ofunato, we were struck by uncertainty and despair following the disaster.

However, immediately after, many people from within Japan, and all over the world came to do search and rescue activities in our city, and supplied us with relief supplies.

We are truly grateful for the immense, borderless support we’ve received. We will never forget our gratitude for this support.

Our Steps Towards Recovery

Following the disaster, more than 8,700 residents throughout Ofunato had to live in 60 evacuation centers. In addition to establishing and building the evacuation centers, Ofunato City also had to ensure 1,800 emergency housing units. These efforts were held alongside the management and disposal of roughly 854 thousand tons of debris left from the tsunami damage.

After this, in October of 2011, Ofunato City created a 10-year rebuilding plan, and the city began to work towards recovery and development. The plan covered a wide range of reconstruction issues, and had 258 sections in it.

Ten years have passed since then.

Now, 99% of recovery projects have been finished. However, we now face new issues for the future, such as how to make use of the empty land left from the disaster, and how we should develop our city in its post-disaster stage.

People living in the evacuation center.

The emergency disaster housing.

Onto the next stage

Ofunato is currently facing issues including decreasing population and decreasing birthrate alongside the need for technological advancement and internationalization in the city. In particular, the working (people aged 15~64) population is decreasing, which comes with the large issue of decreasing local activity. To combat this, we are working on emergency plans that utilize available resources and increase local activity, in order to form a sustainable society.

While the implementation of Ofunato’s rebuilding plan is now almost completely finished, we must now work towards creating a framework so we can continuously develop our post-disaster city in new ways.

We have high hopes that the ILC will be an important framework for future development, and that it will contribute to production and revitalization in the region. Furthermore, we believe that the ILC will fulfil the dreams and wishes of local children and young adults, and that it will create crucial possibilities for the future.

We will continue to strive for the betterment of our city as it enters its post-disaster stage. While COVID-19 is currently making travel difficult, we hope that you can come to see the newly rebuilt Ofunato once the pandemic calms down. We sincerely look forward to seeing you.

The downtown area, 10 years after the tsunami