The Flying Fijians flew into Iwate province last Sunday ahead of their second Rugby World Cup match against Uruguay to be played tonight at the Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium.
Kamaishi Memorial Stadium is a proud symbol of Iwate’s recovery from the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, and it will play host to two RWC matches in a tribute to the region and its people.
The relationship between Kamaishi and Fiji has been developed over the last 12 months since the Rugby World Cup fixture revealed Fiji would play their 2nd round at the iconic stadium, and with so much shared history through natural disaster, the Flying Fijians have found strength and humility in the environment.
On Tuesday the Flying Fijians took time out to visit one of the ruins from the 2011 Tsunami, the Taro Kanko Hotel near the coastal city of Miyako.
Miyako is 45 minutes north of Kamaishi and one of the areas seriously devastated by the disaster.
The team they sang a song for the local community members as an expression of their compassion.
Head coach John McKee Fiji’s coach emphasized how important it was for the team to be engaged with the local community
“Rugby is bigger than the game and it is important for our team to integrate with the community, which is why we allowed some people to go to the community activity for the afternoon.
McKee said that interacting with the local people is good to mix the two cultures of Japanese and Fijian, and also remembering what has happened in the region.
“To think of what happened when they had the tsunami and to see the redevelopment going on is quite incredible.”
The RWC 2019 has united the people of Kamaishi showing how such event can bring people together despite the tragedy they went through, something that Fijians can empathise with considering the Rio 2016 Olympics united our own country after Cyclone Winston.
About 28,000 people from 386 organizations inside and outside the prefecture have registered for the Iwate Kamaishi Rugby Cheering Squad volunteer group.
Flying Fijians captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu said that visiting the affected area would help the boys to better understand the devastating events in 2011.
“Some of the boys have been learning about the history of this town and what happened here and it has been a new experience to hear what those people affected felt,”
He added that its such an honor to be there and to experience what the victims and the people of Kamaishi felt.
“It is quite special for us and a unique experience for the players.”