People launch paper balloons into the sky to console the souls of disaster victims in Otsuchicho, Iwate Prefecture, on Sunday evening.
Silent prayers were offered for lost relatives and friends Sunday at 2:46 p.m.--the exact time the Great East Japan Earthquake struck the Tohoku region six months ago.
Events to commemorate the disaster were held throughout badly hit areas, with about 2,200 people participating in a memorial ceremony in Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, whose coastal areas suffered tremendous tsunami damage.
Representing bereaved families, Mayu Kikuta, a 16-year-old second-year student at Kesennuma High School, made a farewell speech at the ceremony. Kikuta, who lost her grandparents in the disaster, said, "I owe my grandparents a lot and I hope that my help with the restoration will pay them back."
At the Jichi Kaikan hall in Fukushima, where the prefecture's disaster control headquarters are located, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato and prefectural government officials offered silent prayers in the direction of the Hama-dori area along the Pacific, where 98 percent of the prefecture's victims were killed in the disaster.
"We have to grant the wishes of the victims in heaven, who hope their hometown will be rebuilt," Sato said.
On Sunday evening, the Shokonsai festival was held in Otsuchicho, Iwate Prefecture, where a total of more than 1,300 people were killed or went missing. Paper balloons were launched into the sky to console the souls of victims.
The paper balloons, with thin bamboo frames, were made by volunteers in the town in response to calls from the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry's Tohoku District Transport Bureau.
Volunteers and townspeople launched about 50 balloons into the sky by heating the insides with candles. Resident Miyuki Nagaoka, 42, lost her father in the tsunami. Watching the balloons, she recalled tearfully, "Even six months after the disaster, I remember my father whenever I smell the sea."
As of Sunday, the number of people killed in the disaster totaled 15,782, while 4,086 were still missing.
(Sep. 13, 2011)