When a devastating tsunami struck Japan on March 11, 2011, the northern city of Rikuzentakata was among the hardest hit regions. One in 10 residents died, and thousands lost their homes. The city is still in the early phases of recovery from the disaster with years of construction ahead to reinforce and rebuild the area.
“Three years have passed since the earthquake and tsunami devastated the region. There is barely any news coverage anymore,” says Deputy Mayor Takashi Kubota.
The city created a Facebook Page, Rikuzentakata / がんばっぺし陸前高田【陸前高田市】, (meaning “We Can Do It, Rikuzentakata!”) to communicate to its citizens and people around the world.
“By using Facebook, we can convey information on our own,” Kubota says. “As a result of fully utilizing Facebook we have received support from various corporations and non-profit organizations who know what we need the most.”
No one could have expected the connection that would result from Facebook two years later.
In April 2013, a small boat washed ashore in Crescent City, Calif., and was soon found to be a piece of debris from the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Humboldt State University professor Lori Dengler, a tsunami expert, learned that the boat might have belonged to Takata High School in Rikuzentakata, so she sent a message to the city's Facebook Page, which she had been following since her own visit to the area for research.
Someone quickly replied and was able to find a teacher who recognized the boat as the school's.
The boat had traveled about 5,000 miles over two years before it landed in Crescent City, a town that also experienced a tsunami that same day in 2011. A group of Del Norte High School students were struck by the many similarities between Crescent City and Rikuzentakata, so they volunteered to clean up the boat and return it to Takata High School. Last month, the city of Rikuzentakata and Takata High hosted the Del Norte students in Japan and thanked them for their friendship and for providing a reminder that their struggle has not been forgotten.
Watch the full story of the boat and the connection between Rikuzentakata and Crescent City in the video above.