Photo/IllutrationMembers of the Kamaishi Senior High School band perform at a ceremony on March 23 at Kamaishi Station, marking the start of the Rias Line operated by Sanriku Railway Co. (Saki Rin)

When Japan started building its railway networks in the Meiji Era (1868-1912), train stations, or “eki” in Japanese, were called by various names.

They were called, for example, “sutensho” from the English word "station" and the Japanese word “sho,” which means “place,” “joki-kaisho” (steam meeting place) and “tetsudo-kan” (railway public building). This I have learned from “Eki no shakaishi” (Social history of train stations), a book authored by Katsumasa Harada, a Japanese expert on the history of railways.

The words “kaisho” (meeting place) and “kan” (public building) reflected people’s perception that train stations were places where many people gathered.

A destroyed train line in Iwate Prefecture has been rebuilt with the hope that its stations will attract many people to symbolize the region’s recovery from the 2011 disaster.

Train services between Miyako and Kamaishi, two coastal cities in the prefecture, resumed on March 23 after eight years of disruption since the approximately 8.5 kilometers of tracks were completely swept away by the tsunami triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011.

The restored Miyako-Kamaishi line completes a 163-km train link between Kuji Station in the northern parts of the prefecture and Sakari Station in the south, which has been named Rias Line, operated by Sanriku Railway Co.

The tracks and stations that were ravaged by the quake and tsunami have been reconstructed.

A photograph of Rikuchuyamada Station taken after it was destroyed by the disaster tells you that there used to be a train station at the site only by showing the bridge over the railroad, almost the only remaining part.

The roof of the platform was burned down, presenting a distressing picture of the harrowing aftermath of the disaster.

The newly built station will be filled with echoes of the cheerful voices of high school students going to school by train.

Train stations give us a sense of security by making us aware that there is an efficient and affordable means of transportation we can count on. We know that we will be able to reach our destinations in time by taking trains from the stations, tomorrow, the day after tomorrow and 10 years down the road.

Imagine how reassuring this is to people whose daily lives were abruptly shattered by the calamity.

Each station on the Rias Line has a nickname. Ichinowatari Station, for example, is called “a path of bush warblers,” while Shiraikaigan Station is dubbed “the flavor of a sea urchin.”

These pet names sound as if they are inviting us to come visit the stations one of these days.

--The Asahi Shimbun, March 24

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.