The region of Kamaishi City was helped by preparations to host matches for Rugby World Cup 2019

Kamaishi City was devastated by natural disaster when a magnitude 9.1 earthquake struck on the morning of March 2011. But since then, life, and hope have returned to the city. And, rugby has played a role in the region’s remarkable recovery.

The match between Fiji and Uruguay at Kamashi Recovery Memorial Stadium served as a tangible sign of just how far the region has come in eight years.

In the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that stole thousands of lives, the region, like so many others in Japan’s northern prefectures appeared to be in a state of complete disrepair.

In the years since the disaster, rugby has represented a common thread throughout the recovery of Kamaishi. Its famous team, the Kamaishi Seawaves, have also played an important part in the revival of the region.

Kamaishi Tsunami
Kamaishi Tsunami

Prior to the World Cup match Miyuki, one of the teachers at Kamaishi High who survived the tsunami said;

“For most of the old people, the World Cup coming here is very meaningful. The local team were very strong a long time ago, when they won the championship seven years in a row, so rugby is especially popular with old people. But to tell the truth, young people are not so interested.” It’s a fact, she says, that the recovery has moved more quickly here than elsewhere because the World Cup has spurred it on. There are only around 20 local families left in temporary accommodation, and they will be rehoused by the end of the year. “So I don’t think many people were against the idea of the World Cup,” she says, “because of that, and because they knew how important rugby was to Kamaishi. It has given people new energy. But I know some kids have complicated feelings about it.”

“When I heard the stadium was being built I was shocked,” teacher Nodoka said, “because it felt like they were destroying my memories. I had such complicated feelings then, thinking about our school, and our lives, it was a big loss.” Over time, though, as she has watched the construction work, that has changed. “While I watched the stadium going up I started to digest all my feelings, the sadness, the guilt, the nostalgia. And I feel like they’ve settled now. It’s all passed. It’s just part of my history, of who I am. And I feel like if they hadn’t destroyed the school to make this new stadium, I never would have gone through that.”