MORIOKA, IWATE PREF. – Otsuchi Elementary School in disaster-stricken Iwate Prefecture held an opening ceremony Thursday to mark its merger with three nearby schools as the number of local children keeps declining following the killer 2011 tsunami.
The ceremony took place in a gymnasium in a makeshift school building the four have jointly used since the calamity. The newly opened school is planning to hold classes in the same temporary building.
About 350 children, ranging from second- to sixth-graders, attended the ceremony in which the board of education presented Keiko Kikuchi, principal of the reopened school, with a new school flag.
Kikuchi told the kids they need to pull together the best that each school has to offer and make the new school an even better place.
Six-grader Masaya Kanya, 11, gave a speech on behalf of his fellow schoolmates.
“We should all come together so the school can turn over a new leaf,” he said.
Moe Ogasawara, a fifth-grader who still lives in a temporary shelter, said, “We all have some bitter memories about the disaster, but I’d like to make new friends and make a fresh start here.”
The town of Otsuchi saw four of its elementary schools — Otsuchi, Otsuchi-kita, Akahama and Ando — engulfed by the tsunami. The destruction of the area prompted many families to move away.
The school will hold an entrance ceremony Saturday to welcome about 70 new pupils.