Seika Utsunomiya makes her debut as a train driver for Sanriku Railway Co. in Iwate Prefecture on Oct. 14. (Video taken by Yosuke Fukudome)

MIYAKO, Iwate Prefecture--A female driver has made her debut for a local railway company that suffered damage in the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, hoping to do her part in reconstruction of the area.

Seika Utsunomiya, 23, who debuted on Oct. 14, is the second female driver for Sanriku Railway Co., based in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, whose trains run along the coastal area of the prefecture. It is the first time in 11 years that a woman has driven a train for the railway company.

“I feel the weight of responsibility. I want to make efforts so that I will be trusted and loved by passengers,” Utsunomiya said at Miyako Station before boarding a train that was scheduled to depart for Kuji Station at 9:18 a.m.

Utsunomiya was born and raised in Miyako city’s Taro district, which was devastated by the 2011 tsunami. She lost some of her friends from her junior high school days in the tsunami.

“The scenery of our town was also lost. I felt really sad,” she recalled.

After graduating from high school, she joined Seibu Railway Co., based in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, and was working as a staff member of a station in the Tokyo metropolitan area.

At that time, she learned that Sanriku Railway was recruiting a train driver and applied for the job. She was accepted and moved to her new job in April 2016.

Sanriku Railway consists of the North Rias and South Rias lines. Utsunomiya drives trains on the north line that became the model of Kita-Sanriku Railway, which appeared in the popular Japan Broadcasting Corp. (NHK) serialized TV morning drama “Amachan.”

“From now on, autumn leaves will be at their peak. I also want passengers to see the beautiful sea from the train windows,” Utsunomiya said, adding, “I hope that my work will contribute to reconstruction of our area.”