The City of Natori Celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Yuriage Reconstruction Project with a Gratitude Festival for Canada

Shawn Lawlor

By: Shawn Lawlor

Managing Director, Canada Wood Japan/COFI Japan

Of all the projects that I’ve had the good fortune to be a part of, the Yuriage Public Market post-tsunami reconstruction project in Natori City, Miyagi Prefecture is perhaps the most memorable. This past Golden Week marked the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Yuriage Public Market, a signature project under the Canada Tohoku Reconstruction Project humanitarian relief effort.

This seaside community to the east of Sendai suffered tremendous damage and loss of life in the Great Eastern Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011. The once-vibrant public market hub was entirely destroyed by the subsequent tsunami. Following this disaster, Canada Wood reached out to the town of Natori to see if we could assist them with rebuilding. Prior to the disaster, Natori’s Yuriage Public Market served as a vital economic hub, drawing tens of thousands of shoppers and visitors weekly.

Through discussions with the City of Natori and the Yuriage Public Market Cooperative, we came up with the idea of building a signature building for the public market to help restart Natori’s commercial hub. With the funding support of the Government of Canada, British Columbia, and Alberta, as well as Canada’s forest products industry, and thanks to the generous support of local builder Selco Homes Co., Ltd., Canada Wood built the Canada-Tohoku Friendship Pavilion (known to locals as Maple Pavilion), along with two other buildings to house shops where merchants could sell local seafood and produce.

Completed in May of 2013, the buildings have greatly contributed to the revitalization of the Natori community. The public market has since expanded with additional structures and has become a popular tourist destination, with visitors now regularly averaging 30 to 40% above the levels prior to the tsunami. In fact, this reconstruction project has been so successful that it has now become part of the curriculum of Kyoto’s Ritsumei University’s studies in social innovation as a case study for revitalizing local economies.

To thank Canada, the City of Natori held a “Thanks Canada Celebration” on May 4th to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the completion of Yuriage. As the brass band played “Oh Canada” and with the Canadian flag flying high over the Maple Pavilion, I felt such a sense of pride in what we were able to accomplish with our friends in Natori and the enduring friendship that remains strong between our two nations.