At Vigil, Local Residents Remember Japan Earthquake And Tsunami Victims

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In Boston, the strains of a traditional Japanese folk song filled the Old South Church Monday night. People gathered to honor the victims of the quake and tsunami in Japan and to show solidarity as the Japanese try to recover, amid fears of a nuclear crisis.

The Women of the World choir from Berklee College of Music sang at the vigil a traditional song called “Furusato,” about the longing to return to the place you call home.

The service was co-hosted by the Japan Society of Boston, which is the oldest such group in the United States. The society’s president, Peter Grilli, grew up in Japan and said that country’s crisis has rocked the whole world.

“History took an abrupt turn and a different direction, and all of our lives suddenly changed at that terrifying moment,” Grilli said. “Even if we did not directly experience the earthquakes and tsunamis, all our lives changed because this is one small planet, one small family of humankind.”

In coordination with the Japan Society, at the vigil, the Boston Foundation announced a new fund for residents of the hardest hit areas in northeast Japan.

The consul general to New England, Takeshi Hikihara, expressed his gratitude for the help so far and shared some words from Japan’s emperor:

It is extremely important in the coming days for us all to share with the victims as much as possible their hardship in whatever way we can. It is my sincere wish that those who have been affected by disaster will never give up hope.

Gov. Deval Patrick also spoke at the service, urging people to continue to come together for Japan. It’s important, he said, “that we pay attention to the people of Japan just as we try to pay attention to the people of Haiti and other places that have experienced profound turmoil and upheaval, natural or otherwise, not just in the immediate wake of the disaster but in the times when all the attention has passed and people may need us most of all.”

Hiro Neeshi plans to keep helping. Neeshi is Japanese-American and now lives in the Boston area. The vigil, he said, allowed a rare chance for Japanese people to show emotion.

“People in japan…I’ve never seen them cry, you know, they’re always strong,” Neeshi said. “You know I thought this was one and the only time where I could just kind of burst out tears, dry them up, dust myself off and start another new day tomorrow.”

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