National

Kobe slaying victim's school to go ahead with sports day

Kyodo

The elementary school in Kobe grieving over the murder of a 6-year-old student will press ahead with its sports day this weekend — at the family’s request.

Mirei Ikuta went missing in Nagata Ward on Sept. 11. Her dismembered body was found dumped in plastic bags in the neighborhood.

Ikuta was in the first grade at Nakura Elementary School, which canceled its sports day scheduled for last Saturday.

But Ikuta’s 29-year-old mother asked school to reverse its decision, the principal said, and the event was rescheduled for this Saturday.

Participants have been practicing for the big day, gathering early in the morning in the playground. Some are doing “kumitaiso,” gymnastic formations in which groups use their bodies to make various shapes.

The sound of music and children’s voices has been echoing through the neighborhood to the spot where the girl’s body was found. Police are still scouring the location and news reporters have been mounting a stakeout.

Ikuta’s friends say she was supposed to perform a dance at the sports day and had been preparing hard for it.

“I am sure she, too, was looking forward to taking part, so I’ll do my best and will do her part for her,” said an 11-year-old girl in the fifth grade.

The school’s principal, Masahiro Hirai, said he is encouraging pupils to show spectators they are “doing well and are full of energy, and also to show her in heaven.”

He added that during the event the participants will offer a silent prayer for Ikuta.

A 37-year-old mother said her second-grade son was looking forward to taking part. But she said many of the school’s pupils may still be struggling with their shock.

“I’m worrying about whether they are trying hard to hide their emotions,” she said.

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