People pray for victims of Japan’s 3/11 disaster

The Yomiuri Shimbun
People in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, pray Friday for victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Memorial services for victims of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake were held in affected areas Friday, commemorating the 11th year since the disaster.

A municipal memorial facility opened on the day on elevated land in Rikuzen-Takata, Iwate Prefecture, where 1,808 people lost their lives.

The names of most of the victims are inscribed on a stone monument inside the facility.

Seiya Sasaki, 47, lost his mother, Kaoko, in the disaster. “When I look at the names of my mother and friends from childhood, feelings of resentment grow for the tsunami that took everything in an instant,” he said. “I intend to keep visiting here.”

In Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, 1,432 people either died or remain missing due to the disaster.

Bereaved families offered silent prayers in front of a flower stand at the Kesennuma community center.

Takako Matsushita, 76, was the center’s director when the quake hit 11 years ago. “In previous years, I’d put all of my energy into just getting by,” she said as she offered flowers. “Eleven years on, I can finally shed heartfelt tears.”

Matsushita’s husband, Takehiro, was on his way to pick up his grandchild from kindergarten when he was swept away by tsunami. The 67-year-old’s body was found three weeks later.

Matsushita said she remembers him smiling, even when she would scold him for not waking up early.

“I’ve lived the best I can for the past 11 years,” Matsushita said in a message to her husband. “I’ll live as a kind person, like you, and I’ll make everyone smile, so please watch over me.”