Residents of disaster-hit areas mark New Year’s with prayers for reconstruction nearly five years on


Scores of residents from areas devastated by the March 2011 quake and tsunami prayed for local reconstruction Friday as they watched the first sunrise of the new year for the fifth time since the twin disasters.

In the seaside town of Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, where all residents remain evacuated since the disaster-triggered accident at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, a number of those currently living elsewhere gathered at a fishing port to watch the sunrise.

“The sunrise was so beautiful although the town has changed. I hope the coming year will be a good one for us,” said Nobuko Horikawa, 46, who have to evacuate to a nearby city.

In the city of Higashimatsushima, Miyagi Prefecture, a New Year sunrise cruise boat tour was restarted for the first time since the earthquake. Among the passengers aboard, Taiko Iwakami, 56, expressed hope that the cruise would help the area’s reconstruction.

In the city of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, about 15 residents performed a traditional toramai (tiger dance) performance at a local shrine.

“Although reconstruction has yet to be completed, I hope our performance will empower residents,” said Kaneo Iwahana, 51, who played a flute for the dance and whose mother and daughter died in the tsunami.