Rikuzentakata (陸前高田) in southern Iwate Prefecture was one of the cities hardest hit by the 2011 Tsunami. Its city center was virtually wiped off the map as the 13 meter high waves swept away a large majority of buildings and homes.
Today, the level of the former city center has been raised by over ten meters, and rebuilding efforts have proceeded quite far. The city is also home to one of the best memorial museums and parks along the coast.
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.
The Miracle Pine is now part of a memorial park along the city's waterfront. Also standing in the park is the Iwate Tsunami Memorial, an excellent museum about the tsunami, which was opened to the public in September 2019.
By train and bus
From Ichinoseki Station (150 minutes, about 13,000 yen by JR Tohoku Shinkansen from Tokyo), take the JR Ofunato Line to Kesennuma (about 80 minutes) and change to the JR bus to Rikuzentakata (about 30 minutes). With good connections, the one way trip from Ichinoseki to Rikuzentakata takes about two hours and costs 1580 yen. The trip is fully covered by the Japan Rail Pass and other JR passes covering the Tohoku Region. There is a connection every 1-2 hours.
In Rikuzentakata, the JR buses stop at the Kiseki no Ipponmatsu bus stop next to the Iwate Tsunami Memorial and at the Rikuzentakata bus stop in the city center.
Iwateken Kotsu operates infrequent buses between Ichinoseki (Ichinoseki Station) and Ofunato which stop at Rikuzentakata along the way. The one way trip between Ichinoseki and Rikuzentakata takes about two hours and costs 1630 yen. In Rikuzentakata, the buses stop at the Rikuzentakata bus stop in the city center, which they call Rikuzentakata-eki bus stop.