Rugby World Cup host city Kamaishi is facing the challenge of how to transport and accommodate spectators that will number nearly half of its normal population, all while trying to recover from the 2011 tsunami and earthquake disaster.
The rugby stadium in Kamaishi, the only purpose-built venue of the 12 hosting games at rugby's quadrennial showpiece, will eventually seat 16,000 spectators.
Kamaishi, a coastal city in the northeastern prefecture of Iwate with a population of some 35,000, is battling to recover from the natural disaster which killed more than 1,000 residents and caused widespread destruction.
Kamaishi is in a relatively remote part of the Tohoku region, far from major hubs like Sendai and Morioka. The city's main streets, as well as many hotels, remain busy with people working on the area's reconstruction, repairing road and rail infrastructure, particularly.
With beds for only 1,400 visitors nightly in Kamaishi, World Cup organizers plan to encourage spectators and tourists to stay outside the city while providing chartered buses, trains and park and ride services to get fans to and from the Kamaishi Unosumai Memorial Stadium.
The stadium will host two games, the first between Fiji and Uruguay on Sept. 25, and the other between Namibia and a repechage winner on Oct. 13.
In addition to the chartered buses departing from Shin-Hanamaki, Morioka and other stations, the organizers plan to ferry people to the stadium from three park and ride locations which can hold about 3,000 vehicles for each game, according to a plan published in April 2018.
It would take an hour from Shin-Hanamaki to Kamaishi by bus after road repairs are completed before the World Cup games, according to city officials.
At the stadium's grand opening on Aug. 19, 2018, the city saw few major transport problems, and none that affected the day's schedule which included exhibition matches.
But the event proved an unrealistic World Cup test as, at the time, the stadium held just 6,000 spectators, with the large-scale temporary stands yet to be constructed.
"All we can do is to coordinate with as many entities concerned as possible and make our best preparations," Tsukasa Niinuma, a senior official at the city office's Rugby World Cup headquarters.
The city expects that the planned extension of the coastal Sanriku Railway Co. line and a repaired highway will allow for spectators and tourists to reach the area smoothly, the officials said.