The Moai of Minamisanriku

Remembrance, Resilience, Souvenir

By Justin Velgus    - 2 min read

Moai are ancient statues found on Easter Island off the coast of Chile. So why can you find so many moai around the town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture?

It all started with a severe earthquake striking Chile in 1960. The quake sent a tsunami across the Pacific which slammed into Minamisanriku, causing terrible damage and many casualties. The town asked for a moai statue in order to remember the tsunami. The ocean the fishing village depends on must be respected. However, 50 years later another, even larger, tsunami would come wreak havoc on citizens. The tsunami triggered from the Great East Japan Earthquake even washed away the town's two moai statues. They were later recovered and now rest on a hill watching over residents and reconstruction efforts. 

When craftsmen and politicians in Chile heard this story, they decided to send another moai. This replica moai is very unique as it is the only one in modern history carved out of stone from Easter Island and has rare colored-in eyes. It can be found greeting visitors at the Sun Sun Shopping Village. The moai motif is now a symbol of remembrance, friendship, and resilience. Many moai designs and souvenirs can be found throughout town. Searching for them is half the fun. 

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Justin Velgus

Justin Velgus @justin.velgus

Justin Velgus (ジャスティン ベルガス) is a long-term resident and promoter in the Tohoku region. He has been a content producer for since 2012 and was the Miyagi Prefecture Regional Partner 2013-2015. Justin’s over 300 published travel and culture articles come from a background of studying in Akita, teaching English in Miyagi through the JET Program, and working for the government in Fukushima. He lives in the gyutan capital of the world, Sendai.   Justin is an expert in local culture and history. He was the first foreign volunteer at Sendai City Museum and regularly advises the local volunteer guide group GOZAIN , which he is a veteran member, on guiding techniques and hidden locations in the city even locals don't know about. In his free time he enjoys delivering original walking tours, such as his Dark Sendai Tour (ghost tour) or Kokubuncho Mystery Tour (redlight district tour). Justin is also a Certified Sake Professional.