Sasaki, holding a trumpet, introduces her surviving family members at a charity concert for quake victims on May 20. Next to her is Taki Kato, who helped arrange the performance. (Eijiro Morii) High school student Ruri Sasaki holds back tears after performing at a charity concert for victims of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake at Tokyo Opera City on May 20. (Eijiro Morii)
A high school girl who lost her mother and grandmother in the Great East Japan Earthquake was met with thunderous applause at a charity concert in Tokyo after performing the hit song "Makenaide" (Don't give up) on her trumpet.
Ruri Sasaki, a 17-year-old student at Ofunato Senior High School in Iwate Prefecture, wiped away tears a couple of times during her performance, but bowed with a smile as she finished.
Brought back to the stage when the audience didn't stop clapping, she burst into tears, covering her face with her hands.
Sasaki played the song, a hit by the singing group ZARD, on April 11 at what used to be her home in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, dedicating it to her 43-year-old mother, Noriko, and her grandmother Ryuko, 75.
Both were taken by the tsunami triggered by the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake. Her grandfather, Kodo, 76, is unaccounted for.
A story in The Asahi Shimbun and a photograph of Sasaki amid the wreckage holding her trumpet, a present from her grandmother, drew an invitation from the sponsor of the concert to perform. She played alongside professional musicians from the disaster zone.
"I have friends who lost their parents and they are going through an ordeal more devastating than I," Sasaki told the audience of about 1,500 people. "I hope you will share their sorrow and expand the network of assistance."
She said her determination that the younger generation should not give up and should lead the rebuilding of their hometowns helped her get through the performance. The concert was titled "Furusato" (Hometown).