National | Regional Voices: Tohoku

Most Iwate 3/11 memorials canceled, with next year’s under threat

Kahoku Shimpo

This year’s memorial events for the Great East Japan Earthquake have been canceled one after another due to the spread of the COVID-19.

Even in Iwate, the only prefecture in the country that has so far had no cases of infection, most events around the Golden Week holidays in May were canceled. Organizers are now worried that the pandemic may have a lasting impact on holding disaster-related events next year, when it observes the 10th anniversary of the deadly March 11 quake and tsunami, as operations of nonprofit organizations supporting victims are having trouble continuing their activities.

Iwate Art Support Center, an NPO based in Morioka, canceled a recital event for disaster-related literary works that was scheduled for April 26.

Every year since 2017, the group has solicited disaster-related poems and novels for recitations and held events before the March 11 anniversaries. This time, the group had planned a large compilation of past performances, but it never materialized due to the spread of the coronavirus.

Yuichi Sakata, the head of the group, explained that he thought about holding the event at the end of May, but the situation remained difficult. “A performing art is something that people gather and create together, but we can’t do that because of the coronavirus,” he said.

Similarly, an annual charity event at Morioka Odori shopping street, which had been scheduled during the Golden Week holidays on May 3, was canceled as the nation remained under the state of emergency.

The event, which began in 2011 and features flea markets and music performances on stage, was to be the last this year, as it would have marked the 10th such gathering. But the organizer decided to postpone the event to next year considering the current situation.

Maki Takahashi, head of the organizing committee, said, “We wanted to hold this event under optimal conditions, especially knowing that visitors from outside the prefecture couldn’t join it.”

Cancellations of other events that would draw a large number of people in affected prefectures are limiting NPOs carrying out disaster victim support projects.

During a videoconference with reconstruction minister Kazunori Tanaka on April 24, Iwate Gov. Takuya Tasso asked for continued support for strengthening NPOs’ activities.

Tetsuya Obuki, secretary general of NPO Iwate Fukko Collaboration Center, explained that at the moment NPOs supporting reconstruction are unable to contact victims. “To some extent, we want to come back to our projects once the pandemic has calmed down. Still, the future remains uncertain,” he said.

This section features topics and issues from the Tohoku region covered by the Kahoku Shimpo, the largest newspaper in Tohoku. The original article was published May 6.

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