A new Moai statue – those amazing human figure sculptures from Easter Island in Chile – is set to be unveiled on Saturday in the small Japanese fishing town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, more than 10,000 kilometers away from the famous sculptures’ original home. The statue is a gift – handmade by Rapa Nui sculptors from Easter Island – of the Chilean government to the town, in a gesture of hope and encouragement as the northeastern village rebuilds from the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated it.
The Moai statue is the town’s second – the first one marked the odd but touching connection between Chile and this small Japanese fishing town is remembered by the townsfolk when they see it. In 1960, an earthquake that struck the South American nation sent waves across the Pacific Ocean and caused a tsunami that slammed into Japan’s coast, killing 142 people in Minamisanriku after a 22-hour journey across the ocean. When the Chilean government heard of this, they sent over the first Moai statue to mark the disastrous connection and the future cooperation between the Japanese town and the South American nation’s government. Unfortunately, that one was destroyed the 20-meter high tsunami in 2011. This new statue is a symbol of Chile’s efforts to keep the connection alive.
“I’m very grateful for their sympathy,” Omori Ryuichi, a town official, said in a telephone interview. Reflecting on all the support that the town has received over the last two years, Omori said, “the time has come for us to stand on our own feet.” The Moai statue has become a very powerful symbol for the small Japanese town. Students at the local high school have already started using the Moai motif for a project to promote the town’s economy. “I have always thought students need to come up with initiatives to reinvigorate their home towns,” said Hiroaki Sasaki, a teacher helps the students with their Moai business project. “They chose Moai for the project themselves,” he added. The students have already raised funds and purchased a new bus for the town from Moai badges that they sold. Omori looks back at the effect of the strange friendship they have with the Chilean government and said that they can only be thankful for it. He said that the town was “genuinely moved” by the friendship offered by Chile. “We are very, very grateful for it,” he said.
[via Wall Street Journal]