Various events were held in Shiga Prefecture on March 11, 2012 to mark the first anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake or Tohoku (northeastern Japan) triple disaster. Memorial services and prayers were held at a number temples in Shiga such as the Kannon temples in Takatsuki, Nagahama and Ishiyama-dera in Otsu. Many people spent a minute of silence at around 2:46 pm when the earthquake struck a year before.
In Higashi-Omi, they flew a large kite bearing the word “Recover” (復興 Fukko) in tandem with other kite festival groups in other parts of Japan. In Kutsuki, Takashima, about 50 children wrote prayer messages on cards attached to 250 balloons which were then released. In the evening, candlelight vigils were held in Hikone and Otsu.
At the Meishin Expressway (freeway connecting Nagoya and Kobe) Taga Service Area, a food fair selling products from Tohoku (Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate Prefectures) was held. One of the products was canned fish recovered from the tsunami debris. Volunteers recovered the cans and relabeled them for sale. The famous Taga soba noodles were also sold for 500 yen/bowl and the profits donated to Tohoku.
In Otsu, about 1,000 people staged an anti-nuke demonstration called, “Bye-bye Nuclear Power, Protect Lake Biwa” (ばいばい原発守ろうびわ湖) in Zeze Park and marched to JR Zeze Station and Parco department store. Evacuees from Fukushima were among the demonstrators.
An association of portrait studio owners in Shiga (協同組合滋賀写真師会) held a portrait shoot in Otsu and charged only 2,000 yen to take portraits of families, couples, and friends. They donated the entire proceeds to portrait studios in Tohoku to fund portrait sessions of Tohoku disaster evacuees. This excellent project (http://www.egao-japan.net/) is now spreading to other parts of Japan.
Meanwhile, 389 evacuees (152 families) from Tohoku remain in Shiga Prefecture as of March 8, 2012. Most of them, totaling 250, are from Fukushima Prefecture. Sixty-five people are from Miyagi Prefecture and 6 are from Iwate Prefecture. Ninety-nine evacuees are living in public housing rent-free. This arrangement is being extended by 6 months to 2 years. Some 81 evacuee children (47 in grade school and 17 in junior high) are attending schools in Shiga. Last December, the evacuees in Shiga formed their own “Association of Evacuees in Shiga” (滋賀県内避難者の会) to socialize and share information. The association’s leader commented that some evacuees still cannot find work and it will still take more time to rebuild their lives.
Many of the Fukushima evacuees are here because their homes are within the no-go zone near the stricken nuclear power plants. Many also have young children, and as any parent, they would do anything to protect their kids from whatever might harm them. About 63,000 evacuees from Fukushima currently live outside Fukushima Prefecture.