Post tsunami destruction in Iwate Prefecture – Mitsukuni Sato

The Japanese government has announced that it will hold an official service to remember one of the world’s biggest earthquakes and most destructive tsunamis in living memory – the March 11th, 2011 Tohoku Earthquake off the coast of east Japan, north of Tokyo.

An estimated 15,900 people are thought to have died in the tremors and subsequent 40+ metre tsunami, with around 2,529 still unaccounted for.

The government will, however, be limiting the memorial to help counter the ongoing efforts across Japan to stamp out the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking to the domestic media, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said the events sponsored by the government will take place at the nation’s National Theatre in Tokyo with Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and his wife Empress Masako in attendance.

It is thought the emperor will give a speech at the event – the last large scale memorial to be held in the wake of the earthquake – although smaller, local events will likely still be held each year.

Millions around Japan typically observe a moment of silence at 2.46 pm on March 11th each year as they remember those lost, and just where they were when the earthquake struck.

For the 2021 event, Kato indicated that this will also be the case for Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga and official guests.

In the immediate aftermath of the earthquake that cold, March day a decade ago the tsunami that later hit large swathes of the northern Japan shoreline and destroyed towns and villages, many several kilometres from the coast, also triggered the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, a site still being cleared up and largely uninhabitable.

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