• Kyodo

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Ceremonies to mark the 10th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake saw thousands of participants gather here Monday to share their experiences, their losses and how they managed to overcome the tragedy.

Among the thousands of participants was Tomiko Fujimoto, a 60-year-old woman from Higashi-Nada Ward whose son Naoto died in the quake at age 23.

She said she was wearing some of his clothes, which she and her brother found in the rubble.

“Ten years after the quake, I feel as though I have listened to the voices of 6,433 people, telling us not to forget the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake,” Fujimoto said.

“I have heard that one-quarter of the residents (of Kobe) now have not experienced the earthquake. It would make me happy if we are able to tell as many people as possible not to forget, in many different ways, so the message carries on to the next generation,” she said.

Later in the day, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko attended one of the numerous memorial events, accompanied by families of deceased victims.

A representative of the families, Kyoko Muramatsu, spoke about how her house fell apart after the quake, trapping her family — husband Takahiko Mihara, 36, and daughters Yukari, 11, and Rie, 9 — beneath tons of debris.

Muramatsu, 47, said she was rescued six hours later but that her husband and children died.

“That nightmare never leaves my mind,” Mihara said at the solemn ceremony. “I was left alone in this world, and I could not easily accept this severe reality . . . but I received a lot of encouragement from my mother and many friends.”

She said she realized that her husband and daughters were probably saddened and worried she was crying all the time and that there were other people suffering from the same kind of sorrow, and became determined to become mentally stronger.

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