Emperor, Empress visit Iwate online ahead of 3/11

NHK -- Mar 05
Japan's Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako have made an online visit to Iwate, one of three northeastern prefectures hit hard by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

Officials say the Imperial couple is eager to see how the affected areas are being rebuilt and talk to survivors ahead of the 10th anniversary of the disaster on March 11. Online visits have been arranged due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The couple talked with people in Iwate from the Akasaka Imperial Residence in Tokyo on Thursday.

The visit started with a briefing by Iwate Governor Tasso Takuya on the current state of reconstruction.

The couple then talked with people hit by the disaster in the city of Rikuzentakata.

One of them, a 57-year-old woman, lost her 25-year-old son in the tsunami. She later published a picture book to pass down memories and lessons of the disaster to younger generations.

The Emperor told her it is very regrettable that she lost her son. The Empress said it must have been painful as a mother. She commended the woman for taking action despite her grief, for the sake of other people and coming generations.

The couple also talked with a 53-year-old man whose home was destroyed in the tsunami. He has rebuilt his life after living as an evacuee with his wife and two children.

The Emperor offered words of sympathy over the man's hardship, and asked if it affected his children psychologically.

The couple later talked with people in the city of Kamaishi.

A 25-year-old woman who was a junior high school student at the time of the disaster now works at a facility for teaching future generations about the tsunami and studying how to prepare for disasters.

She reportedly said she wants to watch over and help children as a community member, just like people who helped her 10 years ago.

Officials say the Emperor told the people that he prays for further development of the area.

The Emperor and Empress also plan to make online visits to Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures.

They are scheduled to attend a government-sponsored memorial ceremony for the victims of the disaster in Tokyo on March 11.