When we talk about the candidate site for the ILC, we mostly refer to the area of the Kitakami mountains that lies in the city limits of Oshu and Ichinoseki. These are the places we imagine many researchers and related parties will live, and will be the most affected by the creation of the ILC. But Iwate is a big place, and there’s a lot more that we’d like to share with all our readers! How about a trip to the ocean shore?

Iwate borders the Pacific Ocean, and many of the cities and towns on the coast are looking into how they can be of help to the ILC project. The hopes are that the ILC will boost lagging economies and shrinking populations, two challenges that have grown even tougher since the tsunami of 2011. One of those cities is Ofunato, which has shown its support for the ILC in a number of different ways.

Ofunato Port and the 3.11 Tsunami

Ofunato literally means “large ship crossing.” While Ofunato does stretch out into the mountains, the busy area of town is right by the port, as the area has long been supported by the fishing industry. Ofunato’s port can accept ships large and small, and could be used as an inspection point and way-station for shipping parts to the ILC site.

Construction underway in Ofunato

If you were to visit the port of Ofunato right now, you’d see a lot of construction. The area is still rebuilding from the damage of the tsunami, and large sea walls are being constructed all around the harbor. There’s a lot of new things: new factories, new buildings, new shopping complexes like the recently completed Kyassen outdoor mall (where we incidentally ate a phenomenal sushi platter when we did the reporting for this article). There is still much to be done, but the realization of the ILC would be another boost to the region.

Mr. Kunio Niinuma, managing director of the Ofunato Chamber of Commerce, has high hopes: “I’d like for the ILC to help develop local industry and in particular be a place of employment for our young adults. Also, I hope that the ILC will help raise the next generation to have a global perspective through their interactions with the research facility.”

An Ofunato that supports the realization of the ILC

In May 2017, the Chambers of Commerce of Ofunato City, Rikuzentakata City, and Sumita Town (otherwise known as the Kesen region, the southeastern area of Iwate) formed a Liaison Committee. The Liaison Committee has positioned the ILC as a project that will truly help the reconstruction of the Kesen region, as it will bring immeasurable good to the region – not just economically, through industrial growth and an increase in jobs, but in science, education, and many other fields.

Then, on June 9, the Federation of Ofunato City Assemblymen for the ILC was formed, similar to the FDMILC at the National Diet level. The ILC will lead to the development and revitalizations of the city through increased usage of Ofunato Port, the promotion of new infrastructure like roads, as well as increase employment and population. To help support this, the city assemblymen will work to link the city government, city residents, and related organizations together, hold ILC seminars, gather information, and make formal requests to the government.

The ILC Assembly for the Kesen region

Most recently, on June 12, an ILC assembly for the people of Ofunato and the rest of the Kesen region was held by the aforementioned Liaison Committee. Executive Director Jun Sasaki of the Iwate Prefecture Office of Science and ILC Promotion gave the keynote speech, where he gave an overview of the ILC project and its current progress. Economic effects of the ILC are calculated at a gain of 4.4 trillion yen in GDP over 20 years, and an estimated increase of 255,000 jobs involved with construction and other related business. However, Mr. Sasaki stressed that what was important was not waiting for the region to change because of the ILC, but to change it ourselves in preparation for the ILC.

Mr. Sasaki’s presentation

After the assembly ended, Mr. Hiroshi Hashizume, the CEO of a local construction materials and industrial chemicals firm, was one of the first in line to buy some Science Kitty goods on sale. He was pleased with the event, saying, “I’m personally fascinated by particle physics. It is a little difficult to get your head around it, but I think these sort of events will raise the ILC’s profile (with the local people).”

Mr. Hashizume at the Science Kitty booth

For the future

Ofunato Chamber of Commerce’s Mr. Niinuma states that they will continue to work to help bring about the ILC in whatever way they can. “We will strive to deepen understanding of the project among the local citizens, through workshops and seminars for city workers, Chamber of Commerce staff, local women-centric groups and youth groups, and more. We’re also hoping to start up a DMO (destination management organization) in the future to drive more tourism to the area, not only for the ILC, but in preparation for the Rugby World Cup 2019 (in Kamaishi City, a little farther up north) and the 2020 Olympics.”

Kaminari-iwa at the Goishi Coast of Ofunato

Indeed, tourism may be the biggest tool in Ofunato’s arsenal. Should the ILC be built in the mountains of Kitakami, researchers would only have to travel for about an hour to reach the Goishi coast of Ofunato, where you can listen to the waves crash against the Kaminari-iwa (lit. “thundering rock”). You can also ride a small boat, called a Sappa-sen, with an expert sailor, in order to see the rocks up close. A flower garden and museum are also close by. Top it all off with a bowl of Sanma ramen at the nearby rest house – ramen noodles topped with a charred saury fish.

Sanma ramen

Mr. Hashizume had a number of recommendations for foreign visitors: “We’re surrounded by both the ocean and the mountains, so you could come with your family and spend all morning by the sea, and then head to the mountains to try a farming activity and meet local farmers.” Mr. Niinuma also spoke of his fellow Ofunatoans, saying, “The people of Ofunato are really good people. Their hearts are full of peace and humanity.”

One thing is clear: Ofunato will continue to be a pillar of support for the ILC project.








大船渡の字を英語に訳すと、「large ship crossing(大きな船が渡る)」になっています。 そのように、昔から水産業に支えられている大船渡では、港が街の中でも活発的な地区になっています。港は小さい船から大きい船まで受け入れることができ、将来、ILC部品の受け入れ検査や保管するストックヤードとして活用される可能性があります。