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Gas station sign showing 15-meter tsunami height to be relocated in Iwate Pref.

A sign for the gas station "Okamoto Self Rikuzentakata" is taken down from its pole in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, on July 31, 2018. (Mainichi)

RIKUZENTAKATA, Iwate -- A gas station sign here that remained standing after the March 2011 tsunami showing the 15.1-meter height of the waves was removed on July 31, and will be relocated to a new station opening in August.

Relocation of the sign initially seemed difficult due to regulations, but the municipal government acknowledged the sign as an exception as it served as "a public reminder to carry on the memories of the tsunami" and "is not an ordinary advertising display."

The sign for the "Okamoto Self Rikuzentakata" gas station stands 15 meters high with a length and width of five meters each, and was located about 500 meters away from the coast. After the gas station reopened in 2012, a marker was added to the sign at 15.1 meters to show the height of the tsunami waves. The sign has long delivered a message conveying the dangers of tsunami together with the "miracle" pine tree in the same city that also survived the tsunami but later died. However, the sign had to be removed due to the relocation of the gas station to make way for the construction of an elevated road for National Route 45. The new gas station will open on Aug. 10, about two kilometers east of its original location.

A sign for the gas station "Okamoto Self Rikuzentakata" remains standing amid debris in a former urban area in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, which was devastated by the March 2011 tsunami in this file photo taken on March 12, 2011. (Mainichi)

Three men began work to take down the signboard, using a crane, at around 9 a.m. on July 31. Sadao Kumagai, a 70-year-old staff member who had worked at the gas stand since it reopened, stated, "I feel sad because the sign was like a friend that stayed with us. I hope to talk about the sign at the new site."

The company that operates the gas station added, "We are grateful that the main part of the sign, which survived the tsunami, can be preserved."

(Japanese original by Tomoe Sanpei, Oshu Local Bureau/Morioka Bureau)

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