Ten years have passed since a train derailment on the JR Fukuchiyama Line killed 106 people and injured 562 on April 25, 2005, in Amagasaki, Hyogo Prefecture.
Two months after the accident, Haruko Mitsui, 59, started a monthly meeting so the victims - many of whom suffered from the aftereffects of the accident - could share their thoughts with each other. She held her 114th meeting on April 4.
When Mitsui was 37, she underwent surgery to remove a tumour from her leg. During that time, she was helped by friends and many other people, who did her household chores and looked after her children. The experience raised her awareness of community activities, prompting her to establish a nonprofit organisation to promote civic activities in her hometown, Kawanishi, Hyogo Prefecture.
Three days after establishing the organisation, her second daughter, now 29, suffered a serious injury in the derailment.
Mitsui visited the hospital where her daughter was taken and witnessed victims moaning with pain. The scene made her decide to establish a meeting place for victims.
"Their mental pain was severe, and it made me realise the importance of long-term support," Mitsui said.
In 2012, a section to support victims of public transportation accidents that offers support immediately after an accident occurs was established at the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry. Since then, Mitsui has worked to convey the voices of the victims of the Fukuchiyama derailment to officials of that section.
One victim said, "I'm still afraid to ride a train," while another said, "I suffer from chronic pain after I broke my hip."
Mitsui's daughter said she initially felt lonely when seeing her mother devoting herself to counseling to victims. "I thought, 'Mom, don't forget to listen to me,'" she said.
However, after she began working for a company, her daughter changed her mind. "I now respect my mother as a woman who plays an important role in society," she said.
Mitsui is resolved to continue helping victims of the derailment.
"As long as I'm needed, I'll be a lighthouse on a dark night" that helps victims, Mitsui said.