Japan’s new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda visited the northeastern region devastated by the March 11 quake and tsunami on Saturday as the nation prepared to mark six months since tragedy struck.
Noda, visiting ravaged Miyagi and Iwate prefectures for the first time after taking office late last month, inspected the port city of Kesennuma, one of the most severely damaged communities on the Pacific coast.
“I would like to reflect your needs and opinions on such measures as special economic zones for reconstruction, subsidies and the third extra budget,” Noda told local officials.
He plans to visit Iwate prefecture’s devastated Rikuzentakata city later Saturday.
Noda’s visit, a day ahead of the six-month anniversary of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami, follows his inspection of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Thursday.
Ceremonies to mourn the dead and rallies against nuclear power are scheduled to take place across the nation with silent prayers to be offered at 2:46 pm on Sunday, the exact moment the quake struck six months ago.
A day before the anniversary, Soma city in Fukushima prefecture held a memorial ceremony, where 417 survivors of the quake-tsunami participated to give a moment of silence. In Soma alone, 459 people are dead or missing.
“I promise to address the reconstruction with all my strength and all my heart,” said Fukushima governor Yuhei Sato before a stage full of white chrysanthemum flowers.
The tsunami ravaged the country’s northeast, leaving nearly 20,000 dead or missing, according to the latest police figures.
The towering wall of water battered cooling systems at the Fukushima plant, 220 kilometres (138 miles) northeast of Tokyo, triggering the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
Noda came to power on August 30, replacing Naoto Kan, who stepped down amid criticism over his handling of the aftermath of the triple disaster.