While the city of Shiogama has been badly struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, some of its tourist spots have retained its glory. A Yokohama city employee who was assigned in Shiogama for a period of time saw beauty in the ruins enough to persuade her then-fiance to hold their wedding in one of the city’s shrines.
Naomi Senga was from Yokohama but a personnel exchange program brought her to the city in Miyagi Prefecture. She worked for the department that promotes local tourism and industries, which includes directing foreigners and visitors to the Shiogama-jinja shrine. She was a frequent visitor of the shrine because of its numerous cherry blossom trees called Shiogama-zakura. One of Japan’s national treasures, Senga has taken a liking to the blooms and thought them as “cute like ‘bonbori’ (traditional Japanese paper lamps). When the earthquake struck Japan on March 11, 2011, she was working inside a government building but was able to flee for safety in one of the hills near the shrine before the tsunami struck. Days following the disaster, she was transferred to a department that handles companies affected by damage. Because of the stress and tension brought by the situation and emotions running high of people struck by the disasters, she would often retreat to the shrine and just enjoy the beauty of the blossoms. In 2012, she returned to Yokohama at the end of her exchange program.
In 2013, Senga got engaged to her boyfriend Dai Izumi who also works for the Yokohama city government. While he was hesitant to agree in holding their wedding at the Shiogama-jinja shrine because of proximity issues, she was able to convince him after a visit to the place and meeting Senga’s friends in the city. They held their wedding ceremony on April 30 when cherry blossoms are in full bloom. The intimate affair was attended by family members of Senga and Izumi but locals who heard about it came to the shrine to witness the event and presented the couple with a present bearing the message, “You can come back here any time.” Senga, was grateful to the city and its people and considers it her second hometown. She vowed to return and help in rebuilding efforts.
[via The Asahi Shimbun]