As of January 1, 2011, the town has an estimated population of 20,396. The total area is 13.27 km².
The town itself is situated on a peninsula in the middle of Miyagi Prefecture between the cities of Tagajo in the west and Shiogama in the north and east, and about halfway between Sendai and Matsushima. Shichigahama is the smallest city, town or village by land area in the whole Tōhoku region. The climate is relatively mild compared to its surrounding area and temperatures do not greatly fluctuate.
The name Shichigahama literally means "seven beaches", and this is in fact a nickname that some townspeople use to refer to the town "セブンビーチ", or se-bun-bi-chi. The name comes from the seven seaside villages that originally combined to form the town. The seven beaches of Shichigahama are: Minatohama (湊浜), Matsugahama (松ヶ浜), Shobutahama (菖蒲田浜), Hanabuchihama (花渕浜), Yoshidahama (吉田浜), Yokasakihama (代ヶ崎浜) and Toguhama (東宮浜). In addition to the seven beaches, a number of neighborhoods located inland on the peninsula house a large portion of the population. These split into older neighborhoods: Yogai (要害), and Toyama (遠山), which sit close to the border with Tagajo and Shiogama, and newer neighborhoods, Shiomidai (汐見台) and Shiomidai Minami (汐見台南), which were built in the late 20th Century.
Shichigahama was first inhabited as long ago as the Jōmon period of Japanese pre-history. The Shichigahama-Matsushima area is thought to have been the centre of civilization in Japan in this era. One of the largest shell mounds to be discovered in Japan is located at the Shichigahama Jōmon History Museum (Daigigakoikaizuka, 大木囲貝塚).
During the Nara period in the 7th Century, the neighbouring city of Tagajō was the capital of the entire Mutsu country/province, which forms the majority of modern Tōhoku. During this time, Shichigahama was recorded as sending a wealth of marine produce to the nearby capital.
Modern Shichigahama developed as the seven beach settlements that now give the town its name and the village of Shichigahama was officially established in 1889. The village became a town on January 1, 1959. The population grew steadily, with the neighbourhoods of Shiomidai and Shiomidai Minami being developed in the late 20th Century, to a current peak population of 21,131 people in 2000.
The town is well known in the region for its beaches, and Shobutahama is a popular summer day-trip location for people from across Miyagi. During the summer season, a handful of shops named "Umi no ie" (海の家) or "sea houses" are temporarily constructed on the beach, selling drinks and beach toys.
Azukihama (小豆浜) in Hanabuchihama (花渕浜), is frequented almost year-round by the surfing community in Miyagi and northern Japan.
Despite its size, Shichigahama has a number of international ties. The town is a Sister City of Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA, and coordinates frequent summer home-stay and exchange activities between the two communities. The sister-city relationship was established on October 3, 1990. Shichigahama is also home to the Takayama colony, which is a summer resort for foreign missionaries that was established in 1889 when the town leased the land to the colony. The colony is located on a fenced hill overlooking Azukihama and Shobutahama beaches.
Shichigahama is also home to the International Village ("Kokusaimura", 国際村 in Japanese), a public facility that holds both locally and internationally themed events and shows. This facility gets its name from the original name of the Takayama resort. Like many other towns in Japan, Shichigahama employs an international Assistant Language Teacher to work in the town's two junior high schools assisting in English lessons. More unusually for its size, the town also employs a Coordinator for International Relations (CIR) from the JET Programme to work at the International Village coordinating events and supporting the sister city relationship.
Business & Industry
Traditionally, Shichigahama was an ocean-driven economy with a large number of the population working in fishing, seaweed production, and also rice farming. This pattern has changed significantly in recent years with younger residents increasingly commuting to manufacturing and service jobs outside Shichigahama. A survey in 2000 indicated that working residents worked in the following industry sectors:
Farming & Fishing
The professional fishing industry is largely located in Hanabuchihama with a harbour, boats and related services located there. The majority of farmland in Shichigahama is family-owned. Family members work other main jobs in addition to growing rice, this leads a lot of the farming work to be performed by retirees and grandparents. Rice is produced primarily for family consumption with surplus production sold to local agricultural cooperatives. There is significant concern that this farming tradition will be lost in subsequent generations as younger family members choose not to farm or have moved to neighbouring cities and are not available for the daily farming activities. The tsunami is reported to have flooded up to 93% of Shichigahama's rice-fields with the salt-water rendering them unusable for a considerable period of time. The long-term implications of this for Shichigahama's farming are unclear.
Shichigahama Power Plant
The Sendai Thermal Power Plant is located in Yogasakihama, Shichigahama. The plant was built as a coal-fired power plant with four generating turbines but has since been converted to run on cleaner natural gas. Three turbines were decommissioned and the forth was redesigned as a natural gas-powered combined-cycle generator. The building was also redesigned with the coals smoke stacks remove to reduce the visual profile on the scenic Matsushima Coastline. The redesigned plant began operation on July 29, 2010. The plant is owned and operated by Tohoku Electric Power Company. Employees are often transferred from other company plants and relocate to the town either temporarily or semi-permanently.
A handful of factories are located in Toguhama, employing townspeople as well as workers from neighbouring Shiogama and Tagajo. The most notable are the Sony Supply Chain Solutions Centre, Yochan Foods Factory.
Town Buildings & Facilities
In addition to the kokusaimura, Shichigahama has a number of public buildings.
Shichigahama has two junior high schools and three elementary schools.
- Junior High Schools
- Shichigahama Junior High School (七ヶ浜中学校)
- Kōyō Junior High School (向洋中学校)
- Elementary Schools
- Matsugahama Elementary School (松ヶ浜小学校)
- Ekiraku Elementary School (赤楽小学校)
- Shiomi Elementary School (汐見小学校)
Shichigahama Junior High school is nicknamed "Nana-chu" and Kōyō Junior High School is nicknamed "Koyo-chu". Students are assigned to a school based on the location of their family home. Therefore, Shiomi Elementary feeds students into Koyo-chu and Ekiraku Elementary feeds into Nana-chu, Matsugahama Elementary students are split between the two junior highs.
Sports and Leisure
Shichigahama contains a number of sports facilities clustered in the centre of the town.
The Aquarena (アクアリーナ) is a modern leisure centre located in the middle of Shichigahama. The Aquarena contains a main gym hall with arena seating, an indoor running track around the gym, weight and cardio exercise equipment, a hydro-therapy centre (a pool for walking) and a restaurant. Below the Aquarena sits Shichigahama Soccer Stadium (七ヶ浜サッカースタジアム) with a well-maintained grass pitch and a stand for 2,300 spectators. The stadium hosts a small number of amateur club teams, such as Sony Sendai, and school tournaments. Next to the soccer stadium are the town playing fields (七ヶ浜スポーツ広場) which have a gravel soccer pitch, baseball field and hard-court tennis courts.
Shichigahama has three post offices.
- Shiomidai Post Office
- Yoshidahama Post Office (destroyed by tsunami)
- Shoubutahama Post Office (destroyed by tsunami)
2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami
On 11 March 2011 at 2:46 p.m. local time, the town was badly damaged by the tsunami caused by the 2011 Tohoku-Pacific Great Earthquake. The tsunami was as tall as 10 m as it hit the town, destroying the majority of homes in Shobutahama and Hanabuchihama, as well as washing away or severely damaging many houses and buildings in the other coastal neighborhoods. The town estimates that over 1,000 houses were destroyed or damaged beyond use. The wave reached over 2 km inland, flooding the fields in front of Koyo Junior High School and Shiomidai and scattering the debris of the homes from Shobutahama. Approximately 95% of the town's rice fields were also flooded with seawater.
90 Shichigahama townspeople were confirmed to have died in the tsunami, 58 in Shichigahama and 32 in other locations, 6 townspeople were still missing and 7 non-townspeople were confirmed to have died in Shichigahama. Power, water and natural gas lines were damaged and many roads were impassable for days, except to rescue workers and self-defense forces. During this time, relief was delivered to the town by aid agencies. The conditions varied considerably between centres with Yoshidahama Community Centre evacuees going without meat for over a month while the Kokusaimura received the bulk of the aid and frequent visits from celebrities.
Over 4,000 people were initially evacuated to thirteen evacuation centres. People were slowly able to return to their homes, find alternative rental accommodation or relocate to the homes of family members, leaving 715 people in three shelters by April 27 and 229 people in two shelters (the Kokusaimura and Community Centre) by June 3. By Mid-June, everyone had been moved out of evacuation centres into alternative existing accommodation or town-provided temporary housing.
As the rescue activities were completed, relief and rebuilding efforts began. Temporary housing was built for 877 people at two sites: Shichigahama Sports Fields (151 homes, housing 569 people) and Shichigahama Junior High School Baseball Field (106 homes, housing 308 people). The homes are available to the residents for 2–3 years. The Japanese Self-Defence Force, who were instrumental in initial rescue and relief activities, continued to provide widespread support to the town. They cooked the food at the evacuation centres, provided temporary bathing facilities, and assisted in clearing debris. A volunteer centre was also established at the town community center, operated by volunteers and NGO's. The center coordinates the volunteer activities for hundreds of daily volunteers performing a range of tasks such as collecting and cleaning photos recovered from the debris, delivering donated items to the temporary homes, and clearing rubble and debris from sites of former homes.
Shichigahama's national and international relationships also provided particular support. The sister town of Plymouth, Massachusetts organized a number of fundraising events capped by a 3-hour telethon which raised over $85,000. Shichigahama's ocean-to-mountain sister town of Asahi, Yamagata-ken sent dozens of volunteers by bus every day to join the volunteer centre activities.
A huge pile of debris rapidly accumulated opposite the Aquarena leisure centre as sites were cleared. The plan for this debris, and for similar mountains throughout Tohoku, is still to be determined.
Shichigahama Junior High School was also severely damaged by the earthquake and was forced to close due to the structural damage. The students and staff were re-located to Koyo Junior High School, where the two schools share facilities until alternative arrangements can be made in the medium-term. Shichigahama Junior High School must be torn down and rebuilt.
- 手掛かりひたすら求め 仙台・荒浜 七ヶ浜 東松島 Kahoku Shimpo news report, 14 March 2011 (Japanese)
- Plymouth waiting to hear from Shichigahama friends eye-witness accounts on sister-town website
- Martin, Alex, "JET post best, not 'pityfest'", Japan Times, 7 April 2011, p. 3.
Media related to Shichigahama, Miyagi at Wikimedia Commons
- Official website (Japanese)