Utatsu Market Initiative

October 15, 2011

This project supported the set up costs of a tented shopping area for the community in the tsunami affected Utatsu cho in Minami Sanriku. The tented market was provided with essential water supplies, electricity supply, hand-wash facilities etc, so that shops could open and trade from the start. Start up funds were given to five traders to open a fishmonger, a grocery shop, clothing and sports goods shop, barbers and a general clothing store.

The tsunami decimated the area, completely destroying the previous Isatomae shopping area.  At the time there were 14 temporary housing sites, accommodating 600 families or 2,000 people. There were no shops nearby and it costs 6,000 yen round-trip by taxi to the nearest shops. The tented market provided the local community with somewhere to trade, to shop and to meet, thus providing a much-needed focal centre .

This was also a community project – conceived by the community – set up by the community – run by the community – for the community. It offered opportunities for more people to become involved, as more shops opened in the tented market.

With this project, REI took a step outside the usual framework for support. This was reasoned with the need to do what REI does best, support people to rebuild their community.

Additional Information

Utatsu cho was merged with Shizugawa cho in 2005 and re-named Minami Sanriku cho. Utatsu cho represents 30% of the population of Minami Sanriku cho with 5,000 residents or 1,400 households. The major industry in Utatsu cho is (or was) fishing.

In the whole of Minami Sanriku cho, there were 17,665 people before the tsunami. 558 people died in the tsunami and 343 are still missing.

The long-term aim of the community is to build an “Ecological Village” in the mountain area behind Utatsu. The community owns a vast area of mountain forest and is considering allocating plots to all those now living in temporary housing.