Japan is tradition, modernity, a little bit of crazy, and always full of surprises. I found some of all that behind the story of the Moai of Minamisanriku Town.
Moai are mysterious ancient statues found on Eastern Island off the coast of Chile. There have been conflicting theories to their meanings and how they were constructed and moved, but everyone can agree they are a sight to behold. Just like seismically active Japan, Chile has had its share of earthquakes. One such earthquake in 1960 sent a tsunami half away across the world, slamming in Minamisanriku. Many people lost their lives, many more went homeless, and it took much time before the fishing industry could recover.
Thirty years later in an effort to create deeper ties with Minamisanriku, Chile decided to create and send a replica of one of the famous Moai statues to the town. However, that original Moai was badly damaged by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011. So, Chile promptly made another one–this time from stone taken from Easter Island–to send as its replacement.
The statue now sits in a newly constructed shopping area popular with locals and tourists alike. It is easy to find along the only main road through town, or just ask any local. The Moai’s eyes have been colored in to show it is always watching over the people and their efforts towards recovery. The Moai statue has become a symbol for friendship and hope again. The townspeople love the Moai and use it as an advertising point for their town. You’ll see several other Moai around the town made by locals. I thought the set of three at the shopping market was a true piece of art. Their gentle gaze produces a calming and insightful feeling.
The Moai in Minamisanriku don’t stop with just artwork. Before you return home, you’ll have to pick up some omiyage souvenirs. You can buy clothing, badges, and various goods with Moai motifs. Personally, I recommend the tea-cream filled cookies.