TOKYO: Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako talked online Wednesday with people in Fukushima Prefecture who were severely affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami as well as the subsequent meltdowns at Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
The online interaction from the Akasaka Imperial Residence in Tokyo was originally scheduled in February. But it was postponed due to a strong earthquake that hit Fukushima and neighboring Miyagi Prefecture on Feb. 13.
The Imperial couple first had a briefing from Fukushima Governor Masao Uchibori on the progress in post-disaster reconstruction work in the northeastern prefecture.
They started chatting with six residents of the towns of Futaba and Okuma after making a virtual visit to the tsunami and nuclear disaster memorial museum in Futaba, where all residents have been evacuated.
One of the people was Takayuki Yatsuda, 66, who ran a company that took part in post-disaster work at Fukushima No. 2 nuclear plant, which was also hit by tsunami but survived the crisis without an explosion or a meltdown.
Yatsuda currently lives in the Fukushima city of Iwaki, while his family has evacuated out of the prefecture.
The Emperor asked sympathetically, “What was the hardest work you had to face?”
Atsuko Yamamoto, 49, who was a restaurant owner in Futaba, talked with tears in her eyes about her days evacuating with her children to the cities of Saitama and Yokohama, near Tokyo. She now lives in Iwaki.
The Empress wished good health for everyone in Yamamoto’s family.
After the talk with the Empress, Yamamoto said, “I was filled with deep emotion.”
The Emperor and Empress already had online conversations with disaster survivors in Miyagi and another northeastern prefecture of Iwate in March, also to mark the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake.