The fifth anniversary of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that struck the Tohoku region of Japan on March 11, 2011, was remembered in Honolulu with a program and reception at the residence of the Consul General of Japan. The Great East Japan Earthquake was the largest quake ever recorded in Japan. Tens of thousands of people lost their homes to the triple disaster — earthquake, tsunami and nuclear power plant meltdown in Fukushima. Damage estimates have been placed at close to $300 billion.
About 140 guests attended the event. Speakers included the evening’s host, Consul General of Japan Yasushi Misawa; Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., head of the U.S. Pacific Command; first lady of Hawaii Dawn Amano-Ige and Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell. Also in attendance were people who supported the Tohoku earthquake recovery efforts and representatives of the Honolulu Festival Foundation, which was celebrating the 22nd anniversary of the Honolulu Festival.
The buffet dinner featured sake that had been brewed in Fukushima Prefecture. The post-dinner program began with
the offering of a prayer by the Rev. Takamasa Yamamura of the Honolulu Myohoji Mission. He concluded by singing his rendition of “Ave Maria.” Japan Exchange and Teaching Program alumnus Jaime Gusman Tateyama, who worked in the JET program in Iwaki City, spoke of the many challenges that still lie ahead for the people in Tohoku. Tateyama said a new and brighter Tohoku is being born, thanks to the determination of its residents and support from around the world.
The Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai and Miyagi Kenjin Kai presented a Singapore plumeria tree to Faye Komagata of the Soto Mission of Hawaii to be planted on the temple grounds, just a few doors away from the consulate. The tree will symbolize the “new Tohoku” that JET alumnus Tateyama referenced. It is hoped that the tree’s growth will inspire the rebuilding of the Tohoku region at an even faster pace. And when the tree begins to blossoms, it will serve as a reminder of the culture and spirit of revitalization. The program ended with Fukushima Kenjin Kai member Keiko Tanaka singing the famous Tohoku song, “Hana wa Saku,” accompanied by eight Moanalua High School Japanese language students.
The banquet room was decorated with flowers that had been shipped in from the three hardest-hit prefectures — Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate — by HFKK members Nobuko Kida, an ikebana sensei, and Henry Nagatomo from Flore 21 Florist.
The next morning, March 11, HFKK members and guests gathered at the Soto Mission of Hawaii, where they placed the Singapore plumeria tree into the ground with the understanding that the site, symbolic of Fukushima, will require care, support and annual visits to remember those who lost their lives and honor those who remain to rebuild. The Honolulu Fukushima Kenjin Kai plans to preserve its ties with the people of Fukushima and provide whatever support they can in the effort to revitalize Fukushima.