Thousands rally at Hibiya Park

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

Thousands converged on Tokyo’s Hibiya Park over the weekend to hold candlelight services, play music and offer prayers to commemorate the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, one of the largest of many such rallies and gatherings across the capital.

Nonprofit groups and nongovernmental organizations at the park in Chiyoda Ward set up booths and tents where they handed out pamphlets calling for aid for the crisis-struck Tohoku region and to share their thoughts on the year.

“Time has passed by and the rubble has been removed, but we are not sure how to proceed from here,” said Risa Watanabe, 33, who came from Morioka, Iwate Prefecture, to attend the event. “It is great that so many people have gathered today and that the media is reporting the event. But it shouldn’t be only today that this sort of attention is given to Tohoku.”

Watanabe, who works for a food services chain in Iwate, was selling local produce including garlic, shiitake mushrooms and asparagus at her booth.

“I feel that it is my job to continue spreading what is going on in the area” to keep the memory of the March 11 tragedy from being forgotten with time, she added.

A speech by naturalist and TV commentator C.W. Nicol at Sunday’s event was followed by a moment of silence at 2:46 p.m., the moment the quake struck one year ago.

“Each of us must think and do what we can for the future of Japan,” Nicol, a forest conservation activist and contributor to The Japan Times, told the crowd.

Event organizers said up to 30,000 people were at the park on Sunday, while about 9,000 visited the previous day.

Grammy award-winning composer Ryuichi Sakamoto also took the stage to deliver a message.

“It has been a year and we still don’t know how to handle” the nuclear waste and fallout, Sakamoto said, criticizing the government for continuing to claim that the crippled nuclear power plant is under control.