The city of Kamaishi is betting on soft power to fight the demographic drain plaguing its tsunami-fractured community.

Once known for its thriving steel industry and peerless rugby team, the population of this coastal city in Iwate Prefecture was already graying and shrinking when a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off Japan's northeastern shore on March 11, 2011, triggering enormous tsunami that surmounted its seawall and submerged the downtown area, killing more than 1,000 people and destroying nearly 3,700 buildings.

This was not the first time in modern history that Kamaishi was devastated: It experienced major tsunami in 1896 and 1933, and its steel plant was the target of heavy artillery fire from U.S. warships in the closing days of World War II.