10 YEARS SINCE DISASTER: Memorial ceremony held for lost loved ones

March 11 marked the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Residents in various parts of Fukushima Prefecture offered prayers from early morning to console the souls of victims of the disaster. The region was enveloped all day by a wave of requiescat and wishes for hometown reconstruction. The prefectural government hosted a ceremony in memory of victims and in hopes of recovery at the "Toho Minna no Bunka Center" (the current corporate-sponsored name of the Fukushima Prefectural Cultural Center) from 2:46 p.m., the exact time the temblor struck the Tohoku northeastern Japan region. Participants shared the recognition that they will hand down the memories and lessons of the unprecedented multiple disaster to future generations and push ahead with efforts for further local rehabilitation. At the 10th annual ceremony hosted by the prefectural government, high school students who bear the future expressed their vows for the first time. "I have come to see the disaster as something closer to myself, understand what transpired that day, and face squarely with it," said Yuka Masai, a 17-year-old junior at Futaba Future High School in the town of Hirono, as she looked back over the disaster that struck when she was a first-year student at Naraha Minami elementary school. "There are many challenging issues left unresolved in Fukushima. Adults have their responsibilities to discharge, and we have our own responsibilities to shoulder the future," the Naraha town native added, expressing her determination to walk ahead with sincerity. In a vocal performance dedicated to those affected by the disaster, a choir comprising 20 fourth to sixth graders of the elementary school attached to Fukushima University belted out "Kimi no Sora, Kimi no Niji" (Your Sky, Your Rainbow) and "Mizu no Uta" (Song of Water). Addressing the ceremony, Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori pledged to "continue taking on challenges without giving up together with fellow prefectural people and those supporting Fukushima to let the light of reconstruction shine further and open the way for a bright future." Prefectural assembly chairman Mitsuaki Ota then gave a condolence speech, followed by Ekuko Tamura, 63, from Minamisoma city, who lost four family members to the tsunami. Speaking on behalf of the bereaved families, she resolved to "tell future generations never to forget the memories of the disaster, never to let them be forgotten, and the importance of fleeing to refuge as soon as possible." At the outset of the ceremony, a memorial service hosted by the central government in Tokyo was broadcast live, and participants in both events observed a minute of silence timed with the 2:46 p.m. outbreak of the quake. It was followed by floral tributes by Uchibori, Ota, Aizuwakamatsu Mayor Shohei Muroi, who concurrently serves as deputy head of an association of prefectural mayors, Bandai Mayor Junichi Sato, who heads an association of prefectural towns and villages, Tamura, and National Diet members concerned with Fukushima. The ceremony was attended by about 220 people, including some invitees from elsewhere in the prefecture. The number was far more than last year when only five participants took part so as to limit possible infections of the new coronavirus disease. The general public, however, was not allowed to attend this year, resulting in the total number of participants being half that of ceremonies held before 2020. For those unable to attend, the ceremony was live-streamed on YouTube. Similar memorial events were held in other parts of the prefecture as well. In Hirono, the town office hosted "prayers for disaster victims," with about 300 students from Hirono Junior High School and the junior/senior high schools of the Futaba Future academy standing side by side on the beach. The students, who were joined together by a ribbon strip in either hand, observed a moment of silence in time with the quake’s occurrence. (Translated by Kyodo News)