Following Thursday’s 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown in northeastern Japan, the government is looking to explore different ways to commemorate the disaster.
The annual state-sponsored memorial ceremony at Tokyo’s National Theater will not be held from next year.
The ceremony was held every year since 2012 to offer prayers for those who lost their lives in the disaster, with the exception of last year, when the coronavirus pandemic forced the government to call it off.
During their reign, Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko attended the event every year through 2016, after which Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, now the crown prince and crown princess, participated until 2019. Thursday’s ceremony was attended by Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako.
Representatives of the victims’ bereaved families, the country’s legislative, administrative and judicial heads, and leaders of various other fields have also attended the event.
In January last year, the Cabinet of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe decided the 2021 ceremony would be the final one. “Ten years is a turning point,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, now the prime minister, said at the time.
The government is considering options such as sending representatives to memorial ceremonies held at disaster sites.
“There are many perspectives, and there has not been a decision on how it should be,” a senior government official said.
Yukio Edano, leader of the major opposition Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan, called for government action to keep the memories of the disaster from fading.
“The government should not act in a way that will make the memories fade,” Edano said. “We should make March 11 a day for full-fledged reconstruction and take some form of action,” he said.
Yuichiro Tamaki, head of the opposition Democratic Party for the People, called for March 11 to be designated as the day of tsunami disaster prevention. “We should create an opportunity for citizens to pass on the lessons to the future, and not forget what happened on March 11, 2011,” he said.
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