Fukushima marks 11th anniversary of earthquake-nuclear disaster

March 11 marked the 11th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake and ensuing nuclear accident at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. People across Fukushima Prefecture and elsewhere mourned the deaths of their loved ones, some offering prayers of repose on the seashore from early in the morning, and pledged to move ahead with efforts for reconstruction while vowing to pass on to future generations the memories of the disaster as well as the lessons learned from it. The prefectural government hosted a ceremony in memory of the ill-fated victims and in hopes for post-disaster recovery at "Toho Minna no Bunka Center" (Fukushima Prefectural Cultural Center) in Fukushima city, with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in presence. The central government held an annual memorial ceremony of its own until last year's landmark 10th anniversary of the disaster. Due to the discontinuation, the prime minister chose to come to Fukushima this time and offered condolences and a word of hope for the future. "We will do our best for Fukushima's full-fledged reconstruction and rebirth as well as for the restoration of Tohoku," Kishida said as he referred to his government's continued commitment to revival and development of the northeastern parts of the country, including Fukushima Prefecture, which was devastated by the 2011 quake and subsequent tsunami. Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori delivered an address expressing his firm belief that "challenging efforts by each and every prefectural resident will raise hope for Fukushima and help shape its new future." He pledged to "go through with reconstruction without fail." Yoshinobu Watanabe, chairman of the Fukushima prefectural assembly, then gave a memorial speech for the victims. Motoyuki Takada, 83, who lost his sister-in-law in the tsunami, spoke on behalf of the bereaved families. "You never know whether family members will always stay together in the event of a disaster," said the resident of Minamisoma city. "It is indispensable to live with a sense of disaster preparedness at all times." Words for the future were also read out by a younger-generation representative. Seina Sudo, a second-year student at Asaka Kaisei High School in Koriyama city, said she took the disaster even more seriously than before after encountering a picture book titled "Birds of Hope," which Fukushima-Minpo Co. planned and produced with the aim of conveying to readers the memories and lessons associated with the earthquake and nuclear disaster. "High school students are the last generation that has early memories of the disaster, so we have to connect our memories and hopes for forging the future." A total of 25 first- and second-year students who are chorus members at Aizu High School dedicated two songs, "Aitakute" (Missing You) and "Yoake kara Higure made" (From Dawn to Nightfall), for the repose of souls and with prayers for rebirth. At 2:46 p.m., exactly when the quake struck on March 11, 2011, Kishida, Uchida and some others offered flowers. About 220 people attended the ceremony. Representing Fukushima-Minpo, publisher of the namesake daily, President Koichi Yoshimi participated. Residents across the prefecture spent the day mourning the victims. In the Hisanohama district of Iwaki city, which was critically damaged by the disaster, people gathered at a greenery area built as part of a local disaster management scheme, offering prayers toward the Pacific Ocean and observing moments of silence at the time when the quake occurred. Photo 1: Residents of Iwaki city's Hisanohama district offer silent tribute at 2:46 p.m. on March 11, when the deadly earthquake occurred 11 years ago, in front of the sea at an area developed for disaster management. The newly planted pine trees have grown up since the construction work for the area began in 2012. Photo 2: Prime Minister Fumio Kishida offers words of condolences at a ceremony in Fukushima city on March 11 marking the 11th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake (pool photo). (Translated by Kyodo News)