National

Tsunami-hit Okawa Elementary holds ceremony ahead of closure in March

Kyodo

The elementary school in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, where more than 80 pupils and teachers lost their lives to tsunami on March 11, 2011, held a closing ceremony Saturday ahead of its official closure in March.

About 350 people including pupils and graduates of Okawa Elementary School attended the ceremony ahead of the seventh anniversary of the tragedy.

“Although a curtain will be drawn on Okawa Elementary School, I believe the tradition and pride of the region will be passed on to the pupils,” Ishinomaki Mayor Hiroshi Kameyama said.

“I also hope our students will enjoy a new school life,” the mayor said.

The old tsunami-hit school building will be preserved as a monument.

The pupils have been studying in a prefabricated house built on the premises of Futamata Elementary School, with which it will merge in April. Enrollment had fallen to 29 students from 108 before the tragedy.

Sumie Sanjo, 59, who lost one of three sons who graduated from the school, said the shutdown will leave her feeling lonely.

“But now I want to look back on happy memories of his school days,” she said.

Noriyuki Suzuki, 53, who was a graduate of the elementary school and lost his daughter, who was in sixth grade, has been engaged at the school as a storyteller for the tragedy.

“It’s sad that there will be no chance for me to sing a school song that I used to sing with my daughter when she was attending,” Suzuki said.

“Although the name of Okawa Elementary School will disappear, it will remain in the hearts of graduates and people in the region,” he added.

Okawa Elementary School, opened in 1985, was about 4 km from the coast when huge tsunami spawned by a magnitude 9.0 quake off the Pacific coast killed 74 pupils and 10 teachers on March 11, 2011.