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Imperial couple talk to 2011 disaster victims in Miyagi online

Tokyo, March 17 (Jiji Press)–Japan’s Emperor Naruhito and Empress Masako talked online Wednesday with people in Miyagi Prefecture who were severely affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami.

The Imperial couple, first, had a briefing from Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai on the progress of reconstruction programs. Then they started chatting with six people in the city of Kesennuma and the town of Yamamoto.

During the talks, which lasted some two hours, longer than scheduled, the Emperor told Fumiko Sugawara, 71, who runs a liquor shop in Kesennuma, “I’m very sorry for your loss.”


The monster tsunami, unleashed by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake, deprived Sugawara of her husband and parents-in-law and destroyed their shop and house.

“I think you had hard times until your shop was rebuilt,” the Emperor went on to say.

The Imperial couple also talked with Hiroko Suzuki, 78, a Yamamoto resident, whom they met at an evacuation center in June 2011 during their visit to afflicted areas.

Suzuki said she was happy that Empress told her “I remember you well.”

The couple’s online interaction with the Miyagi people followed their attendance at the government-sponsored memorial ceremony on March 11 to mark the 10th anniversary of the disaster, which caused extensive damage in the three northeastern prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi.

Before the ceremony, they had online conversations with disaster-hit people in Iwate Prefecture on March 4.

The Emperor and Empress plan to have a similar interaction opportunity with Fukushima disaster victims.

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