Emperor, Empress visit shopping center in disaster-hit Minamisanriku

Kyodo

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visited a makeshift shopping center in Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated in the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that claimed more than 15,000 lives.

Minamisanriku Sun Sun Shopping Village opened in February 2012 and consists of 32 restaurants and shops. At Oizen Kamaboko, a fish sausage store, the Emperor spoke to the shop’s 61-year-old operator, Zenyu Oikawa, saying he hopes the store prospers.

Oikawa later said he would continue working to help rebuild the town, which is home to some 14,000 people.

The Imperial couple also visited a photo studio, Saryo Studio, operated by photographer Shinichi Sato, 48, who displayed in front of his store photos of the devastation wrought by the tsunami, and of restoration work that has taken place in the area.

At the studio, before-and-after photos of the town were shown to the Emperor and the Empress. They also viewed pictures showing the location of a local disaster prevention facility where 43 people perished.

The Emperor encouraged Sato to continue taking photos, saying that his work was valuable in helping disaster prevention efforts.

Sato said he was filled with joy when the Imperial Couple spoke with him and expressed their concern for local residents.