National

Section of East Japan Railways' Joban Line, suspended since 2011 quake, partially reopens

Kyodo

A 23-km-long section of East Japan Railway Co.’s Joban Line reopened Saturday, some five years and nine months after the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck.

The reopened section runs between Soma Station in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, and Hamayoshida Station in Watari, Miyagi Prefecture, both in Tohoku, the region hardest hit by the disaster.

There are six stations on the section. Following severe damage from the tsunami, three of the six — Shinchi, Yamashita and Sakamoto stations — were moved inland by up to 1.1 km.

“This station is a symbol of recovery. I pray that many people visit this place,” said Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as he attended an opening ceremony for the new Shinchi Station.

At 6 a.m. the first train to Sendai departed from Yamashita Station in Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture.

“I become overwhelmed by emotion when I think about the roads after the quake. I celebrate the start of the first train,” Yamamoto Mayor Toshio Saito said at the ceremony.

“I want to go to Sendai for shopping,” said Tamaki Fujikawa, 12, who was at Yamashita Station with her mother and younger sister to see the train off.

Of the whole Joban Line, chiefly running along the Pacific coast to connect Tokyo and Miyagi Prefecture, only a section in Fukushima Prefecture between Tatsuta Station in the town of Naraha and Odaka Station in Minamisoma, remains suspended.

The government hopes to enable the resumption of services between Tomioka and Namie stations, the section running closest to the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power station that suffered meltdowns in the disaster, by the spring of 2020 after reopening other sections next year.

“I hope that the interrupted services restart soon,” said Yutaka Sugano, a resident of the town of Shinchi, 69, who was aboard the train going to Sendai.