Rikuzentakata Unveils Tile Mural Gifted by U.S. City; Officials Committed to Further Deepening Ties

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Rikuzentakata Mayor Taku Sasaki, second from left, and others unveil a tile mural from Crescent City, Calif. in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, on March 27.

RIKUZENTAKATA, Iwate — The city of Rikuzentakata in Iwate Prefecture has received a mural from a city in the U.S. where a boat drifted ashore following the tsunami triggered by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

The tile mural, donated by Crescent City, Calif., was unveiled during a ceremony last month at the Rikuzentakata City Museum. The two cities have nurtured ties since the Kamome, a training boat belonging to Iwate Prefectural Takata High School, washed ashore 7,538 kilometers away along the U.S. coast about two years after the disaster.

Officials from both cities attended the ceremony during which they renewed their commitment to further deepening exchanges.

The artwork, measuring about 2 square meters, has been placed outside the front of the museum. It was created by Crescent City artists Harley Munger, 81, and his wife Jill, 65. It shows giant waves inspired by Katsushika Hokusai’s “36 Views of Mt. Fuji” and flying seagulls, as well as the “miracle lone pine,” a symbolic tree that remained standing after the 2011 disaster. A red lighthouse, the symbol of Crescent City, is also featured. Children from both cities holding up the Kamome are also depicted.

The mural has been set up in a location where the Kamome — the museum’s prime exhibit — can be seen clearly while also being easily viewed from the street. In addition to an information board, a sign showing the direction to the U.S. city and the distance between the cities, 7,538 kilometers, is also present. The artwork has now become the face of the museum.

The two cities began exchanges as a result of events caused by the tsunami that occurred on March 11, 2011. The Kamome drifted away from the Mutsugaura fishing port in Rikuzentakata, eventually washing up on the other side of the Pacific Ocean on a beach in Crescent City in April 2013.

The boat was returned to Rikuzentakata in October of that year after local high school students and others conducted cleanup and fundraising activities. Through the Kamome, the two cities developed ties in economy, education and other areas.

In April last year, an event was held in Crescent City to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the boat’s discovery. An artwork was installed to symbolize the friendship of the two cities. Later in June, a delegation from Crescent City visited Rikuzentakata to donate a similar artwork to its sister city. It was the first such visit in four years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Blake Inscore, 62, a former mayor of Crescent City, said at the time that if people of the two cities put their hands on the artworks, they would think about each other.

The installation of the tile mural was not completed until March due to delays in shipping and the time required to prepare the framework that holds the artwork in place. The mural was finally unveiled at the ceremony, attended by 30 residents eager to see it, on March 27.

Rikuzentakata Mayor Taku Sasaki, who was elected for the first time in a mayoral election in February last year, made his first visit to Crescent City in mid-April this year to express his gratitude directly to those involved in the Kamome project.

“I believe the tile mural will become a symbol of exchange and further strengthen the ties between the two cities,” Sasaki said.

Yasumori Matsuzaka, director of the museum, said, “Our cities both have been plagued by tsunami repeatedly, so we must pass on to people in the future our desire not to be afraid of the sea even if we fear tsunami.”