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Emperor Naruhito's address at the Great East Japan Earthquake 10th anniv. memorial service

Japan's Emperor Naruhito, right, and Empress Masako bow in front of the altar for victims of the March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami at the national memorial service in Tokyo, on March 11, 2021. (Behrouz Mehri/Pool Photo via AP)

Ten years have passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake. Together with you all present here, I should like to express my deepest condolences to those who lost their lives in the disaster and their bereaved families.

    Ten years ago today, the immense earthquake and the accompanying tsunami hit eastern Japan, leaving more than 20,000 people dead or missing. In addition, tsunami accompanying the earthquake and the nuclear power plant accident caused by the earthquake has forced great numbers of people to leave the places where they used to live. The magnitude of the damage brought about by the disaster is so profound that the unforgettable memory of the tragedy still persists in my mind.

    During these ten years since the disaster, many of those afflicted, in spite of their having suffered from unimaginably enormous damage, have overcome numerous hardships by helping one another. Moreover, national and local governments, more than 160 countries and regions, many international organizations and numerous people including volunteers at home and abroad have dedicated themselves to support the affected areas and people in various ways.

    I have with the Empress visited the afflicted regions, which has made me feel that the reconstruction has been progressing thanks to the efforts of all those concerned and the cooperation of the local people. I would like to express my deepest respect for the dedication and incessant efforts of the many people who have been taking steps towards reconstruction.

    On the other hand, I hold that various problems still remain in the regions affected. I have heard that even if the reconstruction progresses, there are many problems to be solved in fostering human bonds anew in the newly built regional communities. My heart aches when I turn my thoughts to those who have struggled with various hardships with drastic changes of their living conditions, including those who have lost close ones such as family members or friends, and those who have lost their homes or jobs and been separated from the people of their communities. Besides, due to the aftermath of the nuclear power plant accident, there remain regions where people are yet to be allowed to return to their homes or people have just started to return, and the problem of the negative impact of harmful rumor on the agricultural industries in the region also remains. I also consider it important to heal emotional scars and watch over the mental and physical health of those afflicted, including the elderly and children.

    It is a matter of great importance, I believe, that we all keep ourselves united, and everlastingly maintain the will to stand by the afflicted people so that the progress of the reconstruction will steadily bear fruit from now onwards in order to help all of them regain their peaceful daily lives in less than no time, without leaving even a single soul behind in this difficult situation.

    I, together with the Empress, would like to continue to listen to the voices of those in the afflicted regions and stay close to them.

    Last month the earthquake with a magnitude of more than seven occurred off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture. Let me express my sincere sympathy for the people affected by the earthquake. That earthquake is considered to be an aftershock of the Great East Japan Earthquake, and as this reveals, I feel it necessary for us to regard the great earthquake not as an event that happened in the past, but as a phenomenon that is still developing in front of us.

    When we take a look at the history of our country, we have repeatedly experienced enormous natural disasters. We can find precious records in many regions that those who had experienced various natural disasters in the past had left for us alive today each time they had encountered those disasters. I think it is vital for us never to forget the lessons learned at great cost from the great earthquake and to pass them down to future generations, and to always keep ourselves prepared for coming natural disasters, firmly remembering our experiences and lessons learned through the disaster. I sincerely hope that we will build a nation resilient to natural disasters by utilizing those lessons learned.

    In closing, with my thoughts going out to those who are tirelessly making efforts to overcome various hardships, albeit still struggling with difficulties, hoping together with all those present here today that peace of mind will return as soon as possible to the life of those afflicted people, I offer my sincere prayers to all those who lost their lives in the Great East Japan Earthquake.

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