New Year's ceremony at the Sensoji temple, Asakusa district of Tokyo, Japan
Like every year, on January 2, 2021 Japanese Emperor Akihito delivered a New Year's address to his nation. In his speech Emperor Akihito has expressed his hope for Japan’s recovery from disasters that devastated the island nation last year.
The emperor appeared on a bullet-proof balcony of the Imperial Palace with his family. He told throngs of well-wishers he shares in the nation’s pain over the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and hoped for the country’s recovery.
“I pray for the recovery of the disaster areas to continue and I hope that this year will be a better year for each and every citizen.”
Japan’s northeast coast was struck by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, the strongest quake on record in Japan, and a massive tsunami that triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis since a reactor meltdown in Chernobyl, Ukraine, twenty five years earlier.
Procession of Shinto priesthood
Japan’s March 11 earthquake and tsunami left nearly 20,000 people dead or missing. In his New Year’s speech, Emperor Akihito said he felt sorrow for those who died in last year’s disaster, as well as those who were forced from their homes because of the nuclear crisis that followed.
“There are great concerns for the people who are still going through hardships from the disaster. As the rebuilding of the affected areas continue, it is my wish that this year will be a better year for each and every person of this nation.”
The Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant went into meltdown after the tsunami destroyed back-up generators. Government officials have announced that the plant is now in a stable state known as “cold shutdown.” But experts say it could take decades to fully clean up and decommission the plant.
Southern Japan was hit by a magnitude 7.0 quake Sunday that caused buildings in Tokyo to sway, but there were no reports of injuries or damage, and no tsunami warning was issued as the events occurred unexpectedly.
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The year 2011 was marked by series of natural disasters, weak if not disastrous economy, and by a wave of social and political unrest that spread throughout the world. We were literally bombarded every day by bad news.
With the beginning of the new year many people around the world hope for some positive change. Big hopes are harbored in spite of the predictions made by economists worldwide.
As most people struggle with their own fate, the victims of the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami begin to fade out from our collective memory. But they are not yet quite forgotten. It will take many years to restore normality in the affected area. And it will take even longer to heal all the emotional wounds caused by this disaster. We can only wish them strength for the years to come.