Crescent City and Rikuzentakata Commemorate Sister City Status

Jan 11, 2019

Japanese delegates from Rikuzentakata are welcomed to the North Coast.
Credit Natalya Estrada

The story of Kamome has spread throughout the world as a story of resilience, community and hope. Kamome was a small fishing boat that drifted on to the shores of Crescent City from the Japanese city of Rikuzentakata after a Tsunami destroyed much of their region in 2011. The boat showed up on a beach in Crescent City in 2013 and through the efforts of Del Norte High School students, community members and a local geologist, Kamome was cleaned up and returned to Japan as an act of kindness beyond borders.

On Thursday, Crescent City commemorated nine months of officially becoming sister cities with Rikuzentakata in a ceremony involving their own coastal community and delegates from Japan.

Crescent City mayor Blake Inscore hosted the event which welcomed the Japanese officials to the North Coast. Inscore said he’s been able to visit Rikuzentakata three times and greatly values these experiences.

“I see what they’ve been through and for them to want to build this relationship, I think, says an awful lot to us about being able to reach out beyond our own borders, and beyond our own problems and realize that we can be a hope and inspiring to other people that we didn’t even know,” Inscore said.  

And Kiyoshi Murakami, the senior executive advisor for Rikuzentakata agrees. He said this relationship, which has spanned several years, will keep growing and developing as the cities continue to build stronger bonds.

“This exchange of a people is very important to understand each other. But I think as time goes by we should be able to expand more in our relationship, not only in our relationship in exchange of people but also in our businesses and our industries,” he said and also noted that the story of Kamome holds a special place in the world.

“This is a very great, very beautiful story. This was also introduced not only to the United States and Japan, but also the rest of the world. The beautiful story initiated the disaster of the Tsunami into a beautiful situation.”

Japanese delegates arrive at the Cultural Center in Crescent City on January 11, 2019.
Credit Natalya Estrada

And the story of Kamome connecting two small coastal cities has made an impact, especially with Lori Dengler and Amya Miller, who both worked to publish a book based on the boat called The Extraordinary Voyage of Kamome: A Tsunami Boat Comes Home. The book is published in multiple languages including Japanese, English, Russian, Spanish and now they're working to translate it into traditional Indigenous langauges, like Yurok, from the North Coast. 

As a local geologist in the region, Dengler was deeply involved with the return of Kamome. She said the 2011 Tsunami that struck Northeastern Japan, and particularly Rikuzentakata, was devastating. Thousands of lives were lost and a huge amount of the city was destroyed. However, the relationship between the two cities has inspired many people. 

"You have to realize that this is the only sister city relationship that started because of a tsunami and because of a group of high school kids," she said. "We can connect, despite differences in languages, (and) differences in culture, because we share both a common hazard and a common humanity." 

This March will mark the 6th anniversary of Kamome washing up on the shores of Crescent City, solidifying a bond that intends to expand and  inspire the world.