KAMAISHI, 25 Sep - With their tournament picking up pace, the Flying Fijians took time out to reflect on the reason Rugby World Cup 2019 has brought them to the Kamaishi region.
On the eve of their Pool D meeting with Uruguay, which takes place at the symbolic Kamaishi Recovery Memorial Stadium on Wednesday, members of Fiji's non-playing squad paid a solemn visit to one of its lasting ruins from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011.
The remnants of the Taro Kanko Hotel near Japan's coastal city of Miyako, 45 minutes north of Kamaishi, is now an educational facility for the reduction of risk around disasters such as the one felt by the region, which suffered the brunt of a 17-metre seawall that engulfed large swathes of the nation's northern prefectures.
On the fourth floor, the team, including prop Peni Ravai (pictured), reached the highest point to which the tsunami climbed, and also sang a song for the local community members present as an expression of compassion for their plight.
Speaking in Kamaishi, captain Dominiko Waqaniburotu said the experience would help the squad to better understand the devastating events of eight years ago through an entirely different lens.
"Some of the boys have been learning about the history of this town and what happened here and I think they will see it with a new experience and hear what those people affected felt," Waqaniburotu said.
"It's humbling to be here 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."
John McKee, Fiji’s coach, echoed similar sentiments to those he has made since the team arrived in the Iwate prefecture, describing how important it was for rugby to integrate with local communities when serving on the global stage.
"To think of what happened when they had the tsunami and to see the redevelopment going on is quite incredible," McKee said. "Even in the small time that I have been here, during site visits, over two years I have seen a lot of redevelopment. I remember my first site visit and it was pretty emotional.
"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. We made time to do that because, particularly in the areas such as this, to interact with the local people, it is good to mix the two cultures of Japanese and Fijian, but to also remember what has happened here."