Rikuzentakata (陸前高田) in southern Iwate Prefecture was one of the cities hardest hit by the 2011 Tsunami. Caught unprepared for an event of such magnitude, the city center was virtually wiped off the map as the 13 meter high waves swept away the majority of the buildings and homes. Today the former city center remains empty, however a new city hall and new shopping centers were set up in temporary buildings further inland.
Before the earthquake, Rikuzentakata was known for the Takata Matsubara, a two kilometer long stretch of shoreline covered by some 70,000 pine trees. The beautiful tree-lined coast was ranked among the top 100 landscapes of Japan. Unfortunately, the tsunami washed away all of the pine trees save one.
The sole surviving tree, a 27 meter tall, 200 year old specimen, was dubbed the Miracle Pine and became a symbol of the people's resilience and perseverance. Sadly, the tree was unable to survive and eventually died 18 months later from salt toxicity. It was removed temporarily, and has since been preserved and reinstalled as a memorial to the disaster victims. People can visit the tree, which stands at the end of a walking path from a nearby parking lot.
As part of the reconstruction efforts, a network of enormous conveyor belts has been constructed near the Miracle Pine to transport large volumes of soil from the neighboring mountains into the city center. The conveyor belt reduces the number of truck trips into the city by several thousands per day and is expected to speed up the construction of the new seawall and the process of raising the ground of the former city center.