The Michinoku Coastal Trail is a remarkable achievement that stretches over 1,000 kilometers from Kaburajima in Hachinohe City, Aomori Prefecture to Matsukawaura in Soma City, Fukushima Prefecture. The trail has been opened in stages and completed in 2019, offering visitors breathtaking views of the Pacific coast and connecting the lives and culture of the region’s residents with its natural environment. It is a prime example of the efforts being made to promote tourism, agriculture, and other industries in the region.

The Michinoku Coastal Trail connects various initiatives and cultural sites along the coast, providing visitors a unique opportunity to witness the region’s natural beauty and cultural heritage while showcasing its resilience and post-earthquake progress, allowing visitors to witness firsthand the region’s recovery efforts. It serves as a symbol of hope and recovery, reflecting the power of nature, human ingenuity, and community spirit. As the world faces increasing risks from natural disasters and climate change, the Michinoku Coastal Trail emphasizes the importance of disaster reduction and preparedness.

The Michinoku Coastal Trail is part of the Green Reconstruction Project established by the Ministry of the Environment to contribute to the region’s recovery. The initiative has been instrumental in highlighting the region’s progress and resilience following the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred more than ten years ago on March 11, 2011. Despite the loss of more than 15,000 lives and extensive destruction, the region’s recovery efforts have made significant strides, as evidenced by the Michinoku Coastal Trail, which serves as a testament to the region’s spirit of community and human ingenuity, and underscores the importance of disaster reduction and preparedness.  These recovery efforts are truly remarkable.

In addition to the Michinoku Coastal Trail, other efforts are underway to raise awareness of radiation and environmental issues in the wake of the earthquake, and to pass on local history and lessons from the disaster to future generations.

In this article, we will explore the various recovery efforts underway in the Tohoku region, including initiatives to promote agriculture, disaster prevention, environmental recovery, and more, all of which have become points of light and hope along a path to a brighter future.

Ukedo Elementary School

The Michinoku Coastal Trail showcases both the region’s natural beauty and passes through areas that experienced more fortunate fates than others during the disasters of 2011. One such area is Namie Town, where Ukedo Elementary School is located. The school serves as a poignant reminder of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck the area as well as the importance of disaster prevention.

Despite the severity of the disaster, the quick actions of the teachers at Ukedo Elementary School ensured that all of the 83 students in the building were able to evacuate safely. The school has since been maintained and preserved as a facility for earthquake disaster relics, and it was opened to the public in 2021 as an earthquake remnant. It serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of disaster prevention and preparedness, particularly in areas prone to earthquakes and tsunamis.

Visitors to the Michinoku Coastal Trail can witness the resilience of communities impacted by past disasters and explore sites like Ukedo Elementary School to learn about local history, culture, and disaster prevention. The trail symbolizes hope as communities work together to rebuild, recover, and prepare for future challenges.

Sendai 3.11 Memorial Exchange Center

The Sendai 3.11 Memorial Exchange Center and the Sendai 3.11 Memorial Community Center are both important facilities that serve as gateways to the eastern coastal area of Sendai, where the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami caused devastating damage. These centers are not only places to learn about the disaster, but also to convey the history of the region, the memory of the disaster, and the lessons learned from it to the world.

Through various exhibits, workshops, and events, these centers aim to communicate the wisdom and lessons derived from the disaster to future generations. They serve as a reminder of the importance of disaster preparedness and resilience, while also offering hope for the future.

The use of hieroglyphic motifs in the design of the centers’ symbol marks is particularly noteworthy. Hieroglyphs are a system of characters used to communicate meaning, and they are a fitting representation of the memory and experience of the disaster that the centers seek to preserve and pass on to future generations.

In a world that is increasingly facing natural disasters and other crises, these centers serve as beacons of hope and resilience, offering valuable lessons that can help us prepare for and overcome future challenges. These centers show us that by learning from the past, we can build a stronger and more resilient future for ourselves and for generations to come.

Oraga-Otsuchi Dreams

Oraga-Otsuchi Dreams, a local association, is leading the charge in rebuilding the town of Otsuchi after the devastating Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. One of their most exciting programs is the English Guided Tour, where visitors can listen and learn directly from 3.11 survivors’ stories, strength, and spirits. The tour offers a unique opportunity for in-depth learning experiences, including lectures and discussions with local residents on the town’s reconstruction plan and process. By participating in this program, visitors not only gain a better understanding of the ongoing reconstruction efforts but also contribute to the development of tourism, commerce, agriculture, and fisheries, and the rebuilding of the lives of the people of Otsuchi Town. The English Guided Tour by Oraga Otsuchi is an incredible way to connect with the community and support their efforts towards a brighter future.

JR Fruit Park Sendai Arahama

The Michinoku Coastal Trail takes visitors from sites marked with remnants of disaster to beacons of hope for a better future.  The opening of the JR Fruit Park Sendai Arahama, while not necessarily traditional for the area, is part of efforts to promote agriculture and generate income for the area. Using advanced technology, the park offers more than 150 varieties of eight different fruits, including apples and grapes.  Visitors can pick fresh strawberries and blueberries, and in 2022 the farm expanded to include eight more types of fruit year-round, many of which can be enjoyed at the park’s cafe/restaurant, which serves dishes made with seasonal fruits and vegetables.

Aiming to revitalize the region and contribute to disaster recovery, JR Fruit Park Sendai Arahama has become another point of hope for the people of Tohoku. By cooperating with local agricultural producers and companies involved in reconstruction projects, the park is developing a more vibrant and dynamic Tohoku region.

The region’s efforts to those ends are evident in the preservation of Ukedo Elementary School as an earthquake disaster relic, as well as the establishment of facilities such as the Sendai 3.11 Memorial Exchange Center. These facilities serve as important platforms for educating the public and raising awareness about environmental issues, while also conveying the history and lessons learned from the disaster to future generations.

As disasters continue to affect communities around the world, it is important to share knowledge and experiences related to disaster reduction and resilience. Organizations such as the World Disaster Reduction Forum (WDRF) play a crucial role in promoting international cooperation and best practices in disaster risk reduction. We encourage readers to learn more about the WDRF and its initiatives and to join in the global efforts to build a safer and more resilient future for all.

This year, the World Disaster Reduction Forum was held on March 4, and focused on learning from earthquake disasters. Discussion centered on how to provide support and relief to areas such as southern Turkey and northern Syria, which were recently devastated by a major earthquake. Forum organizers discussed what actions can be taken and how to provide assistance when such a disaster strikes.

Participants also discussed how to encourage more active participation from the private sector and younger generations, as well as how to increase the number of participants and promote exchange through well-planned sessions on various topics, especially on integrated and interdisciplinary approaches.

The Michinoku Coastal Trail in the Tohoku region of Japan is a project of the Green Reconstruction Project established by the Ministry of the Environment that showcases the natural beauty of the Pacific coast and links the region’s residents with the natural environment. The trail is a symbol of hope, resilience, and regrowth for communities impacted by past disasters. Other initiatives that are promoting the recovery of the Tohoku region include agriculture promotion, disaster prevention, environmental recovery, and awareness raising about radiation and environmental issues. Centers like the Sendai 3.11 Memorial Exchange Center serve as gateways to the region and offer a glimpse into the history, memory, and lessons learned from the disasters of 2011.