A MEMORIAL service was held at Southwark Cathedral on Saturday to remember the 15,893 dead and those still living with the after-effects of the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan.
The Great East Earthquake and resulting tsunamis on 11 March 2011 triggered meltdowns at several nuclear plants. The worst affected was the plant at Fukushima Daiichi: thousands of residents had to be evacuated, and the Japanese government declared a state of emergency (News, 18 March 2011).
More than 225,000 people are still living as refugees, five years on.
The commissioned lay minister for the Japanese community in West London, Yuki Johnson, said that hundreds of people attended the service, placing paper petals — each with the name of a town where people had died in the earthquake or tsunami — on to two cherry trees.
Mrs Johnson has visited the worst-affected areas of Japan many times. She said: “I tell people that people in the UK remember and pray for them, and they always cry. They are frightened their plight will be forgotten.”
The director-general of the No-Nuke Project of Nippon Sei Ko Kai (the Anglican Church in Japan), Kei Ikezumi, spoke at the service. She said that the Anglican Church was helping victims with emotional and practical problems, particularly children.
“People are living in fear of irradiation, and are under great stress. We are working with families with children, who aren’t able to play outside or touch the grass or soil because of contamination from radiation — we regularly take them on day trips and holiday clubs to let them play safely in the fresh air.”
Fukushima is still leaking radioactive substances today.
The Anglican Church voted in 2012 to oppose nuclear power generation, and continued to lobby against it, though with little success so far.
On 11 March this year, there will be services across Japan to mark the fifth anniversary of the disaster.