Hiroshima marked the fifth anniversary Tuesday of landslides that claimed 77 lives, with residents in the affected areas holding a memorial service for the victims.
The memorial was attended by the bereaved families and Hiroshima Mayor Kazumi Matsui, among others.
Flowers were left in various places across the western city, including in Asakita and Asaminami wards, two areas hit hard by the August 2014 mudslides.
The governments of Hiroshima city and prefecture oversaw remembrance ceremonies until 2017 and residents have been organizing them since then.
At memorial monuments engraved with the names of victims, families offered prayers for the souls of their loved ones.
One such monument standing in Asaminami Ward in Hiroshima carries the names of a newly wedded couple, Minami Yuasa and her husband Yasuhiro, who were 28 and 29 respectively at the time of their death.
“Even after five years, I still feel lonely and think, if only we’d done this or that, they would have been saved,” said Minami’s father, Junji Wakamatsu, 56, as he offered flowers with his wife.
Minami had been pregnant at the time, so her parents also placed a photograph of their “grandchild,” a composite of the faces of their daughter and son-in-law, together with photos of the couple at the monument.
“I’m sure they are enjoying their days, free from pain and difficulty,” said Minami’s mother, Naomi, 57.
Measures by the national and prefectural governments to improve defenses against landslides, such as slope reinforcements and mudslide control dams, have been completed in 96 locations as of the end of July. Work is ongoing in three final areas.
The controls proved effective when torrential rains swept western Japan last year, with the dams able to prevent sediment inflow in Asaminami Ward while offsetting other risks.
In an effort spearheaded by the city, new evacuation routes are also currently being established.
“Every year we see the faces of those we lost and it brings back memories. I want to continue to protect the monuments and refresh my heart,” said Kazuo Zaihara, 71, head of one of the local neighborhood associations in Asaminami.
Bereaved families from the 2018 floods in western Japan also attended the ceremony in the ward. Fujiko Ueki, 46, who lost her 18-year-old son in Aki Ward in Hiroshima, said, “I interacted (with families) after the disaster, and we were able to share our feelings. I hope to continue the bonding between disaster-hit areas.”
In the early hours of Aug 20, 2014, localized torrential downpours caused a series of landslides in residential areas close to mountains near Hiroshima.
Around 400 houses were either washed away or damaged, with 74 people killed. An additional three people later died of causes deemed to be related to the disaster.