Kamome: The story of a Japanese boat that created a sister-city relationship with Crescent City

Kamome, the boat, arrived to Crescent City in 2013 two years after the tsunami in Rikuzentakata, Japan.

11 years ago a little boat called Kamome sailed from Japan to Crescent City after Rikuzentakata experienced a 9.1 earthquake that caused a historical tsunami. 

This created a relationship between Del Norte High School students and Takata High School in Rikuzentakata, Japan since they discovered the boat at the shore. Del Norte High discovered the name Kamome on the boat which means seagull in Japanese and learned that Takata High students used the boat to learn more about the ocean. Now, this connection is celebrated through the annual Kamome Festival. 

“The story between the two high schools really started with Kamome,” said Taku Sasaki, Mayor of Rikuzentakata. “When it arrived in Crescent City the students of Del Norte High School took it upon themselves to clean the boat.”

The Kamome Festival is the second annual event to remember Kamome the boat that arrived in Crescent City after a tsunami struck Rikuzentakata, Japan. The boat was discovered in 2013 covered in coral, two years after the tsunami in Rikuzentakata. 

Del Norte High students connected with the students in Japan and since then have had a relationship with what they call their sister city. After the discovery, the boat was sent back and now lives in the Tokyo National Museum.

“Through that act of kindness, it really developed that relationship with Rikuzentakata and since then we established a sister city relationship,” said Ashley Taylor, Director of Recreation and Economic Development. “We had exchanged students go back and forth between here and Rikuzentakata.”

The Kamome festival began Thursday and will have its big celebration on Saturday. There is a Japanese visiting delegation in honor of the second Kamome festival. 

“This is our second annual festival,” Taylor said. “It started last year to commemorate the 10-year anniversary. It had been 10 years since Kamome the boat had washed up here in Crescent City.” 

Last year’s festival focused on emergency preparedness. This year’s festival is focusing on cultural activities that will showcase the diversity of Crescent City. 

Del Norte High School’s Japan club met with the visiting Japanese delegates to talk about the exchange program, with hopes of traveling to Japan this summer. The students participated in a luncheon with the delegates.

“Our goal is to fundraise,” said Charleston Tygart, President of the Japan Club at Del Norte High School. “Seniors [are] our priority to get them over to Japan and then eventually, they’ll have their students come visit us.”

The mayor of Rikuzentakata, Taku Sasaki, told Redwood News that this trip inspired him to take this experience back and work on forming their version of a celebration. He also shared there is still work to be done after the tsunami and they are working to rebuild what they lost. The festival continues through Saturday starting at 1 p.m. and all are welcome.