ISHINOMAKI, MIYAGI PREF. – Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko on Thursday offered prayers to fishermen and others in the fishing industry who lost their lives during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami during a visit to a monument in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.
The Imperial Couple were on the second day of their three-day trip to Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures to commemorate the victims of the earthquake and subsequent nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 plant five years ago, their fifth such trip to the prefectures.
They were originally supposed to stop by the Miyagi Prefecture fishermen’s hall for a brief respite in the port city, but expressed a desire to mourn before the monument upon learning of its existence, according to a senior official of the Imperial Household Agency.
The disaster claimed the lives of 392 Miyagi prefectural fisheries cooperative members. The monument to commemorate them, and the revitalization of the local fishery industry, was erected in 2012.
The Emperor and the Empress bowed before the monument as a number of citizens living in nearby makeshift housing complexes looked on. The Imperial Couple then approached the crowd and offered their wishes for good health.
The Imperial Couple later traveled to another tsunami-stricken town, Onagawa in Miyagi Prefecture, to see a cultural center and hear about the town’s reconstruction from Mayor Yoshiaki Suda.
Having recovered from influenza earlier this month, the Emperor, now 82, traveled to Fukushima Prefecture by shinkansen Wednesday with the Empress, who is 81. They met with five citizens who are still living away from their homes as their home villages remain in no-go zones following the nuclear disaster.
“You must have faced many difficulties since the disaster, but I hope a good community will be built hereafter,” the Emperor told the citizens at a town office in Miharu.
The Imperial Couple are expected to return to Tokyo on Friday afternoon after observing a display on the disaster and medical care at Tohoku University in Sendai.