Ōtsuchi, Iwate

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New Ōtsuchi Town Hall, June 2013
New Ōtsuchi Town Hall, June 2013
Flag of Ōtsuchi
Official seal of Ōtsuchi
Location of Ōtsuchi in Iwate Prefecture
Location of Ōtsuchi in Iwate Prefecture
Ōtsuchi is located in Japan
Coordinates: 39°21′29.7″N 141°53′58″E / 39.358250°N 141.89944°E / 39.358250; 141.89944Coordinates: 39°21′29.7″N 141°53′58″E / 39.358250°N 141.89944°E / 39.358250; 141.89944
 • Total200.42 km2 (77.38 sq mi)
 (June 1, 2019)
 • Total11,106
 • Density55/km2 (140/sq mi)
Time zoneUTC+9 (Japan Standard Time)
City symbols 
- TreeKeyaki
- FlowerRhododendron
- BirdCommon gull
- FishChum salmon
Phone number0193-42-2111
Address1-3 Uemachi Ōtsuchi-chō, Kamihei-gun, Iwate 028-1192
WebsiteOfficial website
Aerial view of damage to Kirikiri, Ōtsuchi, a week after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami. When viewed from above, the contrast between the largely-destroyed lower area and intact areas of the town on higher ground is fully visible.

Ōtsuchi (大槌町, Ōtsuchi-chō) is a town located in Kamihei District, Iwate Prefecture, in the Tōhoku region of northern Japan. As of 1 June 2019, the town had an estimated population of 11,106 and a population density of 55.4 persons per km² in 5,432 households.[1] The total area of the town is 200.42 square kilometres (77.38 sq mi).[2]

Since 1973, the University of Tokyo has maintained a marine research laboratory in Ōtsuchi. It is now called the International Coastal Research Center (ICRC) and is managed by the Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute.[3]


Ōtsuchi is a coastal mountainous community situated on the Sanriku Coast along the Pacific Ocean. The inland portion of the town is within the Kitakami Mountains

Neighboring municipalities[edit]


Ōtsuchi has a humid climate (Köppen Cfa) characterized by mild summers and cold winters. The average annual temperature in Ōtsuchi is 11.2 °C. The average annual rainfall is 1402 mm with September as the wettest month and February as the driest month. The temperatures are highest on average in August, at around 23.5 °C, and lowest in January, at around 0.4 °C.[4]


Per Japanese census data,[5] the population of Ōtsuchi has declined over the past 40 years.

Census Year Population
1970 20,489
1980 21,292
1990 19,074
2000 17,480
2010 15,277


The area of present-day Ōtsuchi was part of ancient Mutsu Province, dominated by the Nambu clan from the Muromachi period. It was part of Morioka Domain under the Edo period Tokugawa shogunate. The town of Ōtsuchi was created within Kamihei District with the Meiji period establishment of the municipality system on April 1, 1889. The town expanded by annexation of the neighboring village of Kanazawa on April 1, 1955..

2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami[edit]

On March 11, 2011, the town was devastated by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami.[6] The tsunami obliterated the harbor and low-lying areas, while higher parts of the town were spared, though they did suffer damage from the earthquake and the many aftershocks. About half the city was inundated by the tsunami.[7] The tsunami destroyed all but 30 of 650 fishing boats and completely wiped-out the town's sea farm industry.[8]

City firemen manually closed the 12 water gates in the port's tsunami wall, but the wall was unable to hold back the waves. Eight city firemen were dead or missing. As of 31 August 2011, 799 residents of the town were confirmed dead, with 608 others still missing,[9][10] about 10% of the town's total population of 16,000.[11]

The University of Tokyo's ICRC sustained extensive damage during the tsunami with water reaching the laboratories on the third floor.[12]

Town mayor Koki Kato was last seen at a safety meeting with city officials on Friday.[13] His body was recovered on Saturday, 19 March 2011.[14]


The local economy is based on commercial fishing and to a lesser extent on agriculture.


Ōtsuchi has one public elementary school and one public junior high school operated by the town government, and one public high school operated by the Iwate Prefectural Board of Education.




International relations[edit]

As a youth Ken Sasaki noted that his home of Ōtsuchi is located on the same latitude as Fort Bragg, California and in 2001 he contacted then Mayor Lindy Peters and visited with a delegation to open discussions on a sister city agreement. Fort Bragg students visited Ōtsuchi in 2002 and the sister-city proclamation was solidified in 2005 by subsequent Mayor, Dave Turner. Other student exchanges were held in 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010 and the next exchange was planned for July 2011.[15][16] Following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami devastation Mayor Turner ordered that city flags be flown half staff until the end of March to honour the thousands of lives lost.[17][18]


  1. ^ Ōtsuchi town official home page (in Japanese)
  2. ^ 詳細データ 岩手県大槌町. 市町村の姿 グラフと統計でみる農林水産業 (in Japanese). Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. 2016. Retrieved 13 April 2017.
  3. ^ University of Tokyo International Coastal Research Center
  4. ^ Ōtsuchi climate data
  5. ^ Ōtsuchi population statistics
  6. ^ Kyodo News, "Death toll may surpass 10,000 in Miyagi", Japan Times, 14 March 2011, p. 1.
  7. ^ NHK, "Tsunami flooded 100 square kilometers of city land", 29 March 2011.
  8. ^ Fukada, Takahiro, "Iwate fisheries continue struggle to recover", Japan Times, 21 September 2011, p. 3.
  9. ^ Fukada, Takahiro, and Setsuko Kamiya, "Six months on, few signs of recovery", Japan Times, 11 September 2011, p. 1.
  10. ^ Ito, Shingo, (Agence France-Presse/Jiji Press), "Iwate firefighter gave his life to save others", Japan Times, 9 April 2011, p. 3.
  11. ^ Fukada, Takahiro, "http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20110915f2.html New mayor's warnings fell on deaf ears", Japan Times, 15 September 2011, p. 3.
  12. ^ University of Tokyo AORI. "Damage to ICRC". Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  13. ^ http://www.newstime.co.za/WorldNews/Tsunami_Obliterates_Otsuchi_Fishing_Town/22547/
  14. ^ "Death toll to top 15,000 in quake-hit Miyagi alone: police". Kyodo News. March 20, 2011. Retrieved March 20, 2011.
  15. ^ "Help Otsuchi, a letter from our Mayor". Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  16. ^ "Deep Ties Between Sister Cities of Otsuchi, Japan and Fort Bragg, California Spur Community Action and Creation of a Relief Fund". All Voices - Local to Global News. 16 March 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  17. ^ "Sister city devastated". Fort Bragg Advocate News. 17 March 2011. Retrieved 18 March 2011.
  18. ^ http://www.otsuchi.org/

External links[edit]

Media related to Ōtsuchi, Iwate at Wikimedia Commons