People remembered loved ones and friends in memorial ceremonies across the country on Wednesday, four years after the Great East Japan Earthquake.
About 200 people, including bereaved family members, at Okawa Primary School in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, observed a moment of silence for the dead at 2:46 p.m., the time the earthquake struck. A total of 84 pupils, teachers and other staffers at the school died or went missing in the earthquake and tsunami disaster on March 11, 2011.
"In my prayer, I told my friends who died in the disaster that I'll become a high school student this spring," said Tetsuya Tadano, 15, who was in fifth grade at the school when the tsunami struck. "The classroom feels so small now."
In the Taro district of Miyako, Iwate Prefecture, about 150 local residents lined up and held hands on top of the 10-meter-high seawall that used to be called the "Great Wall."
In Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, and Namie, Fukushima Prefecture, officials from the prefectural police, fire stations and local coast guard offices conducted intensive searches for those still missing.
In the Kashima district of Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, where more than 50 people died in tsunami, about 30 local residents held a ceremony in front of a pine tree to wish for the reconstruction of the area. The tree was the only one that survived the tsunami among about 10,000 trees planted as a tsunami buffer.
The central government held a memorial ceremony at the National Theatre in Tokyo on Wednesday afternoon. About 1,200 participants, including the Emperor and Empress, observed a moment of silence.
"I would like to offer my deepest condolences for those who lost their lives in the disaster and to their bereaved families," the Emperor said.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered a speech in which he expressed his determination to thoroughly implement antidisaster measures.
"In order to make the impact of future disasters as limited as possible, I would like to make a solid pledge here to make unified efforts to utilize the latest knowledge to provide comprehensive disaster prevention measures," Abe said.
"We who survived must not allow the lessons of the disaster to fade away, but pass them on to future generations," Yukie Suzuki, 32, of Namie said in a speech as a representative of bereaved families in Fukushima Prefecture.