Days before the third anniversary of the March 2011 disasters, events remembering the victims of the earthquake and tsunami tragedy were held in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures last Sunday. The three prefectures were the worst-hit areas of the twin disasters.
2,100 lanterns were lit on the night of March 9 in the Yuriage district in Natori, Miyagi. 750 people died and went missing from the town, and residents lit the lanterns on streets designated as evacuation routes and on the playground of what once was the Yuriage Elementary School. The “path of lights” measuring 1.2 kilometers bore messages from the residents and created a trail from Mount Hiyori up to the former elementary school building. 34-year old Yuko Ishibashi lost an acquaintance in the disaster. He said, “I want people to never forget tsunami victims. I want people to continue to come and visit disaster-hit areas.”
Meanwhile in Iwate, a memorial service was held on the playground of the former Ando Elementary School in Otsuchi. Organized by the neighborhood association and a community center, the event commemorated the many victims who perished that day. The former school where the event was held now holds temporary housing to the victims. The chief of the town’s volunteer fire squad, 75-year old Kanari Kemuriyama, lost his family in the tsunami. His wife, mother-in-law and son all perished in March 2011, along with ten other fellow fire squad volunteers. “Recently, there are many moments when I feel I’m supported and watched by my fallen family members,” he said. “I convey my gratitude to them in front of a family Buddhist altar every day,” he added.