KOBE – As young men and women across Japan turned out for Coming-of-Age Day ceremonies Monday, the day held special significance for those in Hyogo Prefecture born around the time the area was devastated by a massive earthquake 20 years ago.
At a ceremony in Kobe, about 9,800 “new adults,” including those who survived the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake as babies or were born in the aftermath, observed a moment of silence after watching footage of the ravaged city on a giant screen.
Hikari Iwamoto, 19, one of eight chosen to speak on behalf of the new adults, said, “Though we don’t have any memories of that time, we grew up alongside the reconstruction (of the city).”
The magnitude-7.3 quake struck early on Jan. 17, 1995, killing 6,434 people and seriously injuring roughly 10,000. The quake caused ¥10 trillion in damage in cities in and around Hyogo requiring years of rebuilding.
Kobe Mayor Kizo Hisamoto told those gathered to “live vigorously, believing in your own strength and the strength of others.”
About 3,000 attended a ceremony in Nishinomiya, where 1,126 people were killed. Representing his peers, college student Takuya Hatsuda, 20, vowed to “take a first step toward the future, contemplating the significance of the life we were allowed to keep.”