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Imperial Couple offers prayers at cenotaph for quake, tsunami victims in Soma

Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko offer bouquets of flowers in front of a cenotaph for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, in Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, on June 11, 2018. (Pool photo)

SOMA, Fukushima -- Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko paid their respects at a cenotaph for the victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami here on the morning of June 11, offering bouquets of white chrysanthemums and observing a moment of silence for the victims.

The Imperial Couple had visited the area in May 2011, just two months after the quake and tsunami ravaged the city, to console the souls of the victims.

Following their visit to the monument, the Emperor and Empress inspected a fisheries facility in Soma, which was rebuilt after the 2011 catastrophe. They met the family of a voluntary fire brigade member who was killed in the tsunami while evacuating local residents, and conveyed their words of condolences to them.

The Imperial Couple is scheduled to visit a museum commemorating renowned composer Yuji Koseki, who originally hails from the city of Fukushima, before returning to Tokyo later in the day.

On June 10, the Imperial Couple attended a national tree-planting festival in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Minamisoma, which was also devastated by the quake disaster. Their Majesties planted pine saplings to grow into trees that make up coastal forests designed to protect from any tsunami damage in the future.

A sapling grown from the seeds of a nettle tree at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo was also planted during the festival. It was the last time for the Imperial Couple to attend the annual tree-planting festival before the Emperor abdicates in April 2019.

Earlier on the morning of June 11, the Imperial Household Agency had announced that Empress Michiko had a fever of 38.1 degrees apparently due to fatigue, saying she may be absent from some of the events scheduled in the day.

(Japanese original by Hiroyuki Takashima, City News Department)

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