Postcard from a Japanese Steel Town

By Adrian Ma
August 1, 2018

“Kamaishi, Japan, may be a long way from US  steel cities like Pittsburgh and Cleveland, but they all have a lot in common.

Once upon a time, all were thriving hubs for steel production. Then globalization happened. Companies had to figure out how to compete and survive in the world marketplace, and the old ways of doing things didn’t quite work anymore.

Japan and the United States are still major players in steel. In the first seven months of 2018, Japan produced about 53 million tons of crude steel, making it the world’s No. 2 producer, according to the World Steel Association, while the United States produced roughly 42 million tons, putting it at No. 4, behind India. But those numbers don’t reflect the cycles of boom and bust that can come with being a steel town.

Kamaishi is the birthplace of Japan’s modern steel industry, the place where the country’s first ‘Western-style’ blast furnace was built. But the people of Kamaishi, like folks in the traditional steel towns that dot America’s Rust Belt, know what it’s like to see a once-thriving industry fade away.”

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Photo Credit: Adrian Ma/Marketplace