The Urato Islands in northeastern Japan have been known for their beauty for more than a thousand years. The islands lie in Matsushima Bay, designated one of Japan's “three most scenic spots”, and the largely rural area has depended on the sea for its existence since Neolithic times.
Everything changed on March 11, 2011, when a devastating tsunami, triggered by a giant earthquake, inundated the small fishing communities there. In just over an hour everything from houses to oyster beds were swept away, destroying the delicate satoyama that had allowed humans to coexist with the ecosystem of Matsushima Bay for a least 2,000 years.
A new video produced in part by the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability (UNU-IAS) documents how the various island communities of Urato have been recovering in the years since the disaster and are working to revitalize traditional industries such as oyster farming.
The Satoyama Initiative, led by Japan's Ministry of Environment and the UNU-IAS, aims to restore landscapes that balance human activities such as agriculture, forestry and fishing, and natural habitats. Such landscapes are known as satoyama in Japanese.