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Creating Rikuzentakata’s Tomorrow Together with Young People

Rikuzentakata is a city not only abundant with beautiful nature as deeply-indented coastlines and mountains rising sheer from the coastline, but also soaked with rich history and culture including 900-year-old Kenka Tanabata festival and nationally-known versatile Kesendiku carpenters.

The massive tsunami triggered by the Great Eastern Earthquake struck the city, claiming the lives of more than 1,800 people and completely destroying more than half of the houses.

At present, with the intention to complete by around 2020, the city is working on building a town less vulnerable to disasters, development of residential land in upland areas that are not reached by tsunami and non-residential commercial land in lowland areas, as well as construction of coastal levees.

【The coastal area of Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture used as a temporary disposal site for waste soil, and road traffic is rerouted until March 3, 2019.】

However, challenging problems such as population aging and low birth rate are being faced by the city. Although young people had had a tendency to lose interest in returning to the city once leaving home for college education or work of their own choice, evacuees in the city are also losing confidence in continuing to live in their hometown due to prolonged life in shelters and industrial stagnation, resulting in 20% less population than before.

Nevertheless, some people chose to head for the city to help Rikuzentakata’s recovery after the disaster. Many of them still remain in the city, and you can often see young people among them working for the city hall or NPOs.

Mr. Sasaki, chairman of SAVETAKATA Association (JEN’s partner), had lived away from his hometown Rikuzentakata for education and work since graduating from high school, but it was on the first day after the disaster that he set up SAVETAKATA and started supportive activities in his hometown. Six years later, he and his staff members have been leading the city’s rebuilding efforts.

After completing high school, a little less than 200 students choose either entering a higher level of schooling or finding work. It came as a surprise to him to discover that a few students wonder if there is anything that they can do for the city’s recovery, but most of them leave their hometown without having an opportunity to think about building a career at home.

Accordingly, he thought as follows: although making a career choice is something for students to decide, it is shame that they leave and become distant with their hometown without knowing how many good points it has or how challenging it is to make a career at home; if students had firsthand experience of getting through issues of their hometown, it would not only help them have positive belief in themselves and enrich their lives, but also inspire the adults around them to show greater efforts to revitalize their hometown.

Consequently, he and local volunteers launched “Preparatory Committee to Support the Development of the Next Generation.” JEN is assisting the committee’s project.

In cooperation with school officials and people in the community, the committee members visited a junior school in Rikuzentakata to give a lecture on how attractive their hometown is and how wonderful it is to work at home.

【Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture( Ohsumi Tsudoinooka Temporary Shopping Street)】

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February 2, 2017 in Tohoku earthquake |