I hope all is well and that the cold weather hasn’t gotten to best of you yet!

Taiga here from the Ofunato City Hall writing yet another post.

Today, I would like to share with you all one of the largest and most forward-looking town revitalization projects I’ve seen in my life. To be fair, it hasn’t been very long since I arrived in Japan and haven’t really traveled much due to the cold weather either… But nonetheless, it was a very interesting experience listening and learning about this Kyassen Ofunato Area, and I would like to take this opportunity to share it with you all as well.

Birds Eye View of the current Kyassen

This Kyassen Ofunato Area, located in the south eastern part of Ofunato, is a large outlet like shopping center with outdoor spaces filled with stores, restaurants, parks, a live house and more. The buildings are situated in a way they don’t feel cramped nor too spread apart that you become exhausted when walking around. Of course, I’m only mentioning the major landmarks, and in actuality, Kyassen Ofunato Area covers a large portion surrounding the Ofunato-cho (town) station where numerous events are held throughout the year to help revitalize the town. Even before I knew about the stories I had visited this place quite often; be it my usual grocery shopping, eating out with friends, attending events, or just taking a stroll on a sunny day.

So, you’ve understood that the place is great and all, so why am I writing about it to begin with? Perhaps some of you may have guessed from the sub-title, but this area was not how I described it years ago; especially after the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Disaster on March 2011. In fact, due to this area being so close to the Ofunato Bay which opens out to the Pacific Ocean, it had taken devastating damage from the Tsunami leaving wreckage everywhere. But despite the tragedy, this, was the beginning of the revitalization and the start of the Kyassen Ofunato Area.

Picture of Disaster Area in October of 2011

(Black line outlining the area that is part of the Land Readjustment Area)


Picture of Disaster Area in April of 2019

Now, before I continue allow me to restate that when I talk about “Kyassen Ofunato Area”, I am pointing to the 9 sub-areas colored in purple in the picture above. The reason why I am reiterate this is because these 9 sub-areas make up the key elements of a particular scheme the City had incorporated during the reconstruction which, in my opinion, makes this revitalization project so unique.

After the disaster, one of the City’s first action was to buy the land within the Land Readjustment Area in order to speed up debris clearing and the construction process. Additionally, in caution of future tsunamis which may come, the City had declared that the land on the ‘ocean side’ of the BRT(Bus routes) cannot be used for residency and can only be used to operate stores, factories, business buildings, hotels etc. This declaration states that the Kyassen Ofunato Area will become an area where there are no local residents, conclueding the City’s need of a special reconstruction plan that attracts people from the neighboring towns in order to bring back the liveliness that once filled the area.

With this in mind, the City, as the new land owner, was looking for businesses willing to rent the areas (numbered in above picture) and also have the mentality to flourish and help revitalize the Kyassen Ofunato Area all together. As such, the scheme in which they had concluded to is as follows:

to setup an agreement between the City and the borrowing business/association which drastically lowers the sub-area rental cost in exchange to tying an agreement with an entity called “Kyassen Co.,  Ltd.” (hereafter ‘KYASSEN’). The agreement with KYASSEN shall state that the borrower will provide an agreed upon percentage of the discounted amount to KYASSEN who will in turn use these funds for projects which will revitalize the Kyassen Ofunato Area.

What this means is that this newly established entity, built with the main goal to rebuild, manage, and revitalize the area, will be funded by these businesses/ association whom have chosen to borrow the sub-area (hereafter “Area Managers”.) In return, KYASSEN will provide services such as, maintenance of buildings and surrounding environment, town promotion to people via different platforms, hold events to call upon people from in and outside of the city, hold seminars for trainings, and share analyzed data of customer behaviors to support the local shops.

The funding provided by the Area Managers may look like a burden at first glance. But it should be noted that the amount they provide to KYASSEN is managed by the Area Managers themselves, in addition to the fact that this funding activity comes back with a quick return. By supporting KYASSEN through this scheme, KYASSEN will promote the Area Managers in order to increase their own branding. As such, as KYASSEN continues to grow their own brand, the investment the businesses have put in return as a promotion towards a wider range of audience since KYASSEN will hold stores in many industries each with their own audience. The scheme may seem quite simple, but you can see the depths of what this scheme can actually provide.

MAN WITH A MISSION Concert Picture

KYASSEN have officially started business in 2015 but the funding from the Area Managers began only in 2019. One may wonder how KYASSEN maintained their business until 2019, so allow me to add that the funds came from the City who provides grants to businesses actively pushing to support and revitalize the town. With these funds, KYASSEN held events, promotions, even concerts with famous rock bands like MAN WITH A MISSION to uplift the atmosphere and bring in customers. Additionally, KYASSEN have used funds to help rebuild and create many communities including communities which support mothers with younger children, communities for people with disabilities, etc. One very successful community they have created and one I am also assisting with is the community called Machimori Daigaku, which works to bring together local high school students and local businesses together to hold events/festivals within the Ofunato Kyassen Area with the goal to provide students with experiences they would not be able to experience at school.

It is also essential to note that these communities were not built from the ground up by KYASSEN alone, but rather made from the voices of the people within the area. As you can see from the different communities which have been formed, KYASSEN has not just built a path to create a community, but had built an atmosphere which allows for opinions, concerns, and questions to be heard.

Community related picture

Even when the area is designated as a non-residential area, KYASSEN continued to pushed and created reasons for people to visit the area and return. And to put the cheery on top, there is one more seedling they have planted to further sustain the development of the area. The seedling is to incorporate a wording within the agreement between the City and the Area Managers stating that the Area Manager must return the land as it was originally provided after an agreed upon term. I doubted my ears when I first heard this, but in conclusion the statement was incorporated in order to have an infrastructure which allows for an option to completely rebuild an area to reform with the new generation where culture, values, and necessities can change.

I hope this information has fascinated you as much as it did for me and that it left a small spark that you’ll consider visiting Ofunato when you come to the Tohoku Area! If you do want to find out more about Ofunato please feel free to follow me on Facebook, Instagram and or Twitter! You’ll find me posting things about area on a weekly basis under the name “Experience.Ofunato, Sanriku Japan”. Until next time!!


キャッセン大船渡 ~震災からのまちづくり~


【写真① 空から見たキャッセン大船渡】




【写真② 2011年10月時点の被災地(黒線部は土地区画整理事業区域)】
【写真③ 2019年4月時点の被災地】



【写真④ MAN WITH A MISSION コンサート】


【写真⑤ コミュニティの様子】



今回の記事を読んで少しでも興味を持ててもらえたら嬉しいですし、東北地方に寄った際には是非ともキャッセン大船渡エリアを見に立ち寄ってください!また、もっと大船渡の事が知りたい!と少しでも思った方は「Experience.Ofunato, Sanriku Japan」のFacebook, Instagram, Twitterでフォローして頂けると幸いです。