From right: Former Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, his wife Deni, tsunami survivor Masako Unoura-Tanaka and her husband Ted Tokio Tanaka paid their respects. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)
By J.K. YAMAMOTO, Rafu Staff Writer
The fifth anniversary of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster that devastated Japan’s Tohoku region was observed March 6 at the LAPD building in downtown Los Angeles.
The goal of the annual Love to Nippon event is to remember the nearly 20,000 people who perished on March 11, 2011, to support the survivors, and to urge Californians to prepare for natural disasters.
The outdoor portion of the program included a musical tribute by Yuki Yasuda, Kozue Matsumoto and Shelley Yuki Ikebe on koto, Shoshi Kanokohata on shakuhachi, and Naoko Atkins on Tsugaru shamisen.
Members of the Miyagi Kenjinkai of Southern California had a booth at the event. (GWEN MURANAKA/Rafu Shimpo)
Booths and information tables were provided by the Fukushima, Miyagi and Iwate kenjinkai, representing the three prefectures hardest hit by the tsunami; and representatives of American Red Cross-Los Angeles Region, Home Depot, Los Angeles County Fire Department, Ofunato (Iwate Prefecture) Fire Department, U.S. Coast Guard, and Japan Search and Rescue Dog Association.
An Interfaith service was conducted by Izumi Hasegawa, senior priest of Shusse Inari Jinja; Cantor Seth Ettinger of Wilshire Boulevard Temple; Rev. Mark Nakagawa of Centenary United Methodist Church; and members of the Nikkei Interfaith Group of Little Tokyo and Los Angeles Buddhist Temple Federation. Serving as emcees were Lori Gardea and Toby Mallen of Nichi Bei Fujin Kai and Kay Inose and Kitty Sankey of the Japanese Women’s Society of Southern California.
Izumi Hasegawa, senior priest of Shusse Inari Jinja, conducted a memorial service for the tsunami victims.
Attendees lined up to offer incense and flowers to the departed.
The indoor program was opened by Rev. Timothy Yee of Union Church of Los Angeles and Cantor Ettinger.
Serving as emcee was ABC7 news anchor and reporter David Ono, who covered the aftermath of 3/11. He described the event as “an occasion for the community to gather together to remember and to reflect … to send love and prayers to the people of Japan … (and) encourage conversations among family members, among schools, among the workplace and neighborhoods so that each and every one has a plan in the event of a natural disaster.”
Participants of all ages offered incense and flowers during the interfaith service.
The Love to Nippon project also seeks to establish March 11 as an official statewide natural disaster preparedness training day, Ono said.
Keiko Takeshita, a member of a prestigious opera company in Japan, sang “Kimigayo,” Japan’s national anthem, and Noi Maeshige, an eighth-grader at Musical Theater Conservatory of Orange County School of the Arts, sang “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
The event included a display of search and rescue equipment.
Rinban Noriaki Ito of Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple noted, “In Japan, people remember the memorial date when their family members passed away more than they remember birthdays. Holding memorial services to remember loved ones on the date of their passing is a time-honored tradition. This one of the reasons why even five years after the tragedy we hold this memorial event.”
The 3/11 service is a reminder, he said, “to do the best we can to leave a better world for the children … to live with compassion not only for the family and friends of our inner circle but to extend that compassion to all human beings and all living things … May we extend our compassion not only to those who are still working to rebuild their lives in the Tohoku area but to all those being challenged everywhere throughout the world.”
“Hana wa Saku” (Flowers Will Bloom), which has become an anthem for the tsunami survivors, was sung in Japanese and English by students of Nishiyamato Academy of California, ranging from first to ninth grade, led by Chika Inoue.
From 9/11 to 3/11
The keynote speaker was Norman Mineta, who was U.S. secretary of transportation during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. “Manmade disasters or natural disasters are both the kind of things that happen that we all respond to,” he said. “We respond because we’re struck by the tragedy of the event, the enormity of the event.”
Keiko Takeshita and Noi Maeshige sang the Japanese and U.S. national anthems, respectively.