On the morning of March 11 2011 an earthquake struck Japan leaving a small coastal town 500 miles north of Tokyo devastated by the resulting tsunami.
In a town with a population of 35,000 people 1,300 lost their lives, to bring rugby into the equation may seem crass and inappropriate, but in the months that followed the total devastation, locals wanted to give the town a sense of purpose, a start to the healing process and restore pride, rugby was at the very heart of the process.
The Kamaishi Recovery stadium was built on the exact spot where the local school was washed away.
Stadium director Takeshita Nagata “We wanted to build something that would symbolise hope for the future, it’s not just rebuilding something physically it’s about rebuilding hearts”.
Last Wednesday a group of men from 11,500 miles away ensured that Kamaishi will always be remembered for a joyous uplifting heart pounding event to counteract that soul and life destroying event of March 2011.
Before Wednesday’s game, local woman Rui Horaguchi (pictured above) gave an emotional account of the tsunami that swept away her home, and her school, which once stood on the site where the new stadium has been built.
“My house was washed away in the waves, and after that I remember we had donations from across the world”
“It is all of that support that allowed us to look forward, and once it was decided that Kamaishi would host the Rugby World Cup there was huge increase in the construction of the city”
“That was when we began to understand why Kamaishi was chosen, to help grow the area again, this has really helped the community to come together, and I am hopeful that we will maintain that unity to make it even better”
For once the gods smiled kindly on Kamaishi a glorious sunny day with a temperature of 22 degrees and a rugby match that is now enshrined in Rugby World Cup history.
Sport has an amazing power to unite and inspire, and more often than not it can provide comfort and a platform for healing, Rui Horaguchi and the people of Kamaishi will never forget March 11 2011, but thankfully they will also never forget September 25 2019, when the rugby world held them in its arms in the warm Japanese sunshine, and for a short while everything was alright with the world.