A bus is removed by crane from the roof of the Ogatsu community center in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, on Saturday. (ANN/The Yomiuri Shimbun)
From graduation ceremonies
to the removal of a bus that had been stranded on top of a two-story building
by the March 11 tsunami, many people in disaster-hit areas spent Saturday at
events that marked another step toward regaining a sense of normalcy ahead of
Sunday's first anniversary of the Great East Japan
But all around, memories of
the disaster are inescapable.
The hands on a wall clock
at Tokura Middle
School in Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi Prefecture,
remain stuck at 2:48 p.m., two minutes after the devastating earthquake.
The school still has no electricity, and the yard is filled by more than 10
temporary housing units.
On Saturday morning, snow
fell in Minami-Sanriku--just as it did a year ago in many areas that were
struck by the disaster.
Despite the cold
Middle School held its
graduation ceremony. Twenty students graduated at the ceremony, which was held
in a hall on the second story of the school building at the strong request of
many students and parents. Part of the hall's ceiling was damaged by the earthquake.
The building, which is more
than 15 meters above sea level, had been designated by the town government as
an evacuation center. However, the massive tsunami inundated its first floor.
Many residents who had sought safety there died, and more than 100 vehicles
were swept away.
The school started its new
academic year in May, one month later than an ordinary year. But due to the
extensive damage the school suffered in the March 11 disaster, its students had
to attend classes in a closed primary school in neighboring Tome in the
After a year that had been
unlike any other, the students and their parents wanted to hold the ceremony in
a familiar school building. About 200 people attended, including parents and
volunteers who came from around the nation to support survivors.
A photograph of Tatsunori
Miura, a first-year student who died in the tsunami, was placed on one of the
seats for current students. Miura was 13 when he died.
A sightseeing bus the
tsunami dumped on top of the two-story community center in the Ogatsu district
of Ishinomaki in the prefecture was finally removed Saturday.
The bus was swept about 500
meters by the tsunami from its garage.
Some people wanted the bus
left on the 12-metre-high building as a symbol of the March 11 disaster. But
the city government decided to remove the vehicle out of concern that leaving
it perched on the building could remind residents of the fear they felt when
the area was destroyed.
The bus was fixed with
thick cables and slowly lowered to the ground by a crane. It will be scrapped
in a few days and moved to a disposal site.
About 20,000 personal
belongings including photos and albums swept away by the tsunami and found
later in muddy fields were displayed to the public at a gymnasium in Miyako, Iwate Prefecture,
In Miyako, 633 people died
in the disaster. Though the city government had displayed these photos twice by
last summer, few were claimed because they were covered in mud, which made it
hard for survivors to identify them.
Since November, volunteers
and high school students have been cleaning the photos to get them ready for a
memorial ceremony to be held at the gym Sunday.
On Saturday, Sachiko
Kitamura, who lives in a temporary housing unit in Miyako, found a photo of her
daughter's wedding ceremony.
"I'm near to tears.
I'm happy because the photo is so clean," said Kitamura, 77.
The city government intends
to put these photos on permanent display from April at a prefabricated building.