Japan: We Have Set Up Trailers in the Effort to Revive a Shopping Street in Rikuzen-takata City

In collaboration with international journalist Mr. Izuru SUGAWARA, AAR JAPAN is currently spearheading a project of delivering ready-to-build prefabricated container housing units in the disaster-affected areas of the Tohoku region. 30 trailers have already been put up in Onagawa Town, Miyagi Prefecture, which a part of them is being used as the “Onagawa Trailer Shopping Street”. Since then, AAR JAPAN has received requests for trailers from various parts of the Tohoku region. With the support from Roland Berger, Inc., 8 trailers will be delivered to a shopping street in Rikuzen-Takata City, Iwate Prefecture.

We Want to Restore a Shopping Street Where People Can Gather

October 20th, 2011- “The Pine Tree of Hope” overlooks the disaster-stricken city of Rikuzen-takata.

Rikuzen-Takata City is located at the southernmost tip of the coastline of Iwate Prefecture, right by the border of Miyagi Prefecture. One of Japan’s 100 most scenic spots of Japan, Takata Matsubara that arches ever so gently is also one of the prefecture’s best beach areas. Behind it, there once used to be houses, workplaces, schools, and a lively commercial zone.

However, areas as far as 3km inland were flooded by the massive tsunami waves on March 11th. The 70,000 pine trees of the Takata Matsubara pine forest were torn from the roots and swept away, and the city of Takata was completely destroyed. There are areas where the ground has sunk more than 80cm and the water would not subside as a result, even after more than 8 months have passed since the disaster. Today, “The Pine Tree of Hope”, the one and only pine tree that survived the tsunami waves, overlooks the scattered mounds of debris.

Under such difficult circumstances, Natsukashii Mirai Sozo, Inc. (literally translated as “creating a nostalgic future”) was established in Rikuzen-takata City in October. This company was made possible under the collaboration of the managers of the various local shops who gathered with hopes to rebuild the community. As one of the projects of this company, Mr. Shinji HASHIZUME, president of Hashikatsu Shoten, which runs wholesales of food items, initiated the Natsukashii Mirai Shotengai Project (literally translated as “shopping street from a nostalgic future”). Even though Mr. HASHIZUME had lost his office, warehouse, and vehicle in the tsunami, he is making every effort to use the trailers to recreate the shopping street that used to play an important part in the community, so that all community members, young and old, can enjoy it again as a place for relaxation and recreation.

The First Step Toward the Birth of a Trailer Shopping Street

November 2nd, 201- The construction of the trailers goes by quickly thanks to everyone’s cooperation.

While Mr. SUGAWARA and AAR JAPAN were in search of possible supporters that would be able to help us in the project, Roland Berger, Inc., a global consulting firm based in Germany, offered their support after recognizing Mr. HASHIZUME as well as the local vendors’ situation. It was decided that 8 trailers would be donated to the shopping street through the generous contributions gathered from Roland Berger employees across 30 countries.

November 2nd, 2011- The presentation ceremony was held in front of the 2 completed trailers. 

On November 2nd, 2 trailers arrived in Rikuzen-takata City. Central in the building process were the staff members of a Sendai-based prefabricated building company, Tohoku Grader, who had previously helped us with the construction of a trailer in Onagawa, as well as the people of Hachimangu, Osaki in Sendai City, Osaki, Hachimangu. Employees of Roland Berger, Inc. also came to the worksite to help us. The trailers were completed in about 2 hours and a presentation ceremony was held afterwards. Over 50 people gathered for the ceremony including Mr. Takashi KUBOTA, vice mayor of Rikuzen-takata City, Mr. Ken MORI, the Japan representative of the CEO of Roland Berger, Inc., Mr. Mitsuru TAMURA, the CEO and president of Natsukashii Mirai Sozo, Inc ., Mr. Shinji HASHIZUME, and community members of the shopping street. Sayako NOGIWA, Representative of AAR JAPAN’s Tohoku Office, represented AAR JAPAN and participated in the tape cutting event.

November 2nd, 2011- Users of Asunaro Home sell their handmade cookies at the event.

The 2 trailers that arrived on this day will be used for Shinnosuke, an okonomiyaki restaurant, and Asunaro Home, a social welfare facility for persons with disabilities (PWDs). Asunaro Home is a facility that has been receiving AAR JAPAN’s support like the recent reconstruction of its parking lot, and it currently produces and sells items such as pound cakes and yacón tea. The vendors had a chance to sell their products after the ceremony and the sales of Asunaro Home’s handmade cookies skyrocketed. The fact that a social welfare facility for PWDs was included in this sales event for local community members set out a good example that PWDs are not being left out in the larger recovery process.

The Road to a “Nostalgic Future”

An image of the completed first stage of Natsukashii Mirai Shotengai.

On November 15th, Mr. Isao ENDO, the chairman of Roland Berger, Inc., visited Rikuzen-takata and a roundtable discussion was held among the local shop owners. Surrounding a conceptional drawing of a “trailer shopping street”, plans for restoration of the area, ideas for the new shopping street, and strategies to revitalize the community were thrown around. Mr. ENDO has kindly called out for even more support ever since.

With the additional 6 trailers that are expected to arrive sometime in December, the Natsukashii Mirai Shotengai Project will be launched in full force with 8 trailers. Our long-term goal is to set up 30 trailers. Despite the project being incomplete, I have a feeling that the revival of a community center where people can gather, interact, and share their laughter like they used to before March 11th is not too far away. AAR JAPAN is very much looking forward to continue supporting this project, and we thank you for your ongoing support and generous contributions.

Kazuo OBARA (Morioka Office)
Joined the AAR JAPAN Morioka Office in September, 2011. After finishing his undergraduate studies, has held a researcher position for a collaborative project between industry, academia, and the government, worked for a for-profit company, and worked for a social welfare facility for the elderly until joining AAR JAPAN. Currently, enrolled in a distance-learning university program on social welfare. (Born in Iwate Prefecture)