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Iwate: Time capsule unsealed 30 yrs after tunnel opening

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Former students of the now-closed Okirai Junior High School and others look at items from a time capsule in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, on Oct. 29.

OFUNATO, Iwate — A time capsule has been opened some 30 years after it was buried to mark the opening of the Shin-Sanriku Tunnel in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture.

Twelve people who had been students and teachers at the now-closed Okirai Junior High School and placed items in the time capsule when they buried it in March 1993 were among the attendees of a ceremony at the Sanriku Michi-no-Eki roadside rest area in the city on Oct. 29.

The 2,226-meter-long tunnel is located between the Ofunato-Kita Interchange and the Sanriku Interchange on the Sanriku Expressway. The tunnel has been used as a bypass connecting Ofunato and an area that used to be part of the town of Sanriku, part of which has been merged into Ofunato. After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake hit the Tohoku region, work to construct other parts of the expressway accelerated in a drive to facilitate the reconstruction of areas affected by the disaster.

The entire route of the 359-kilometer expressway, which links Sendai and Hachinohe, Aomori Prefecture, was opened last December. The ceremony to open the time capsule was held to celebrate the completion of the expressway, which has been dubbed “Reconstruction Road.”

The capsule was unearthed near a parking lot at the roadside area. It contained 21 items, such as documents from the Sanriku town government, as well as photos and writings from the school’s students. Looking over these memorabilia, the school’s former students and other attendees reminisced about days past.

“As a child, I was grateful for the opening of the tunnel that connects Sanriku with Ofunato, a big city,” said Yuki Sakamoto, 45, who was a third-year junior high school student at the time. “I feel grateful once more for how convenient things have become thanks to the efforts of so many people.”