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Japan remembers Kobe earthquake anniversary

Date Posted: 2005-01-20

The earth beneath southcentral Japan shook violently ten years ago Monday, killing 6,433 people in a massive earthquake near Kobe.

The 7.3 magnitude quake destroyed more than 513,000 homes, injured 43,000, and cost more than ¥10,000,000,000,000. Kobe bore the brunt of the damage, and is now mostly rebuilt.

Scars remain, and many who fled the city during the horrific time never returned. Mitsuhide Shinzato, 46, lives in Motobu Town. His family was in Kobe when the quake rumbled through, killing he and his wife Kazuyo’s three children. Sons eight-year-old Kouske, and Shouske, 10, and 12-year-old daughter Mayo perished. “Oh my three children are lonely in heaven,” says the mother. “They need us. We’ll come to you.” The parents wanted to die too, but neighbors and relatives counseled them.

“Who do you think you are? You are parents. Children are never happy if you commit suicide. They want your smile. They would like to see your happiness. They would like to see you alive. So, take care.” Friends also encouraged them to “cheer up and go on strongly. Build up again for the future.”

They did, and moved to Okinawa. The Shinzato family now has a nine-year-old son, born a year after the earthquake. The parents tell him often that he’s not alone, and that he has family. They’ve even made a computer composite photo connecting the entire family. The original photo was taken 17 days before the earthquake, when the children were smiling. They’ve added the new son.

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