Although the loss caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 must never be forgotten, there has been remarkable progress towards recovery. In the wake of the devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami, entire towns have had to rebuild. The legacy of the disaster has made longtime residents gain a new appreciation for their communities and has brought in new people with new ideas, a combination which has sparked many creative initiatives and businesses.
Visitors have a positive role to play in the recovery. While some towns previously had little history as tourist destinations, the disaster prompted a diversification beyond relying solely on fishing and farming. For example, local residents have revived a storytelling tradition known as kataribe to tell stories related to the disaster and share important lessons of survival. These guides can be booked through the Iwanuma Millennium Hope Hills, Hotel Kanyo, and elsewhere. New events began after the tsunami, such as the Tour de Tohoku cycling event and the Seven Beach Festival. New experiential tourism programs have launched, including fishing tours and sushi-making workshops in Kesennuma. Some reconstructed towns have become destinations in their own right, like Onagawa, with its contemporary shopping area and Shigeru Ban-designed train station and hot springs complex. Each visit is an opportunity to interact with locals, see the state of the recovery, and contribute directly to its ongoing progress.
It is our hope that the events of 2011 will not be cause to avoid the coast, but become an incentive to visit, learn, enjoy its timeless beauty, support local businesses, and above all, bring pictures and stories of the reality of this area back home. Even as the disaster and recovery fade from the headlines, conscientious visitors can ensure that the Sanriku Coast, with its legacy of hardship and hope, will not be forgotten.