Friday, April 22, 2011

[Japan] Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko visit tsunami affected area

JAPAN'S Emperor Akihito has toured a tsunami-hit port and ate fish fresh from the sea, despite fears over radiation.
Friday's event was the second time Akihito and Empress Michiko had visited an area directly hit by the March 11 quake and tsunami, which left some 27,000 people dead or missing along the Pacific coast northeast of Tokyo.
They plan to travel closer to the hardest-hit prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima in the coming weeks as the imperial family plays its constitutional role as a symbol of the nation's unity.
The 77-year-old emperor and his wife, 76, travelled to the city of Kitaibaraki, some 150 kilometres northeast of the capital, where five people died and another went missing in the disaster.
They offered a silent bow toward the sea when they were told at a fishing port that one fishery cooperative worker went missing when a breakwater collapsed, according to television footage.
"How many metres did the tsunami measure in height? What is the most difficult thing now?" they were heard asking officials.
The couple then visited a city gymnasium where about 40 evacuees were staying, talking to each of them.
Emperor Akihito consoled a 72-year-old man, whose wife had died at the centre, saying: "It was quite unfortunate. You must be missing her very much."
A 74-year-old man told the emperor: "I am staying here because I am scared of aftershocks," according to the daily Yomiuri. "I felt calm when I saw his majesty's face. Tears came to my eyes," it quoted him as saying.
Kitaibaraki's fishing port resumed operations Wednesday amid fears of pollution as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, 70 kilometres to the north, continues leaking radiation into the air, sea and ground.
The emperor and empress were offered fried conger eels and flounders cooked in soy sauce, popular sea delights in Japan, for lunch at the port, Kitaibaraki mayor Minoru Toyoda told Japanese media.
The couple expressed concern over the area being harmed by rumours about radioactive pollution of fishery products, Toyoda said.