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2013.03.12 12:19

Memorial Service for the Victims and Dedication of the Angel Statue (March 10th and 11th, 2013 at the site of Okawa Elementary School in Ishinomaki City, Iwate Prefecture)

On Sunday, March 10th and Monday, March 11th, 2013, we held a memorial service for the victims and a dedication ceremony of the Angel statue at the school ground site of Ishinomaki City Okawa Elementary School in Iwate Prefecture. We held this ceremony to pray for the repose of the victims' souls of the Great East Japan Earthquake two years ago, hoping that the bereaved families and those having relations with the Okawa area to take their steps forward into the future with "hope" even in the midst of "sadness".

1. Mr. Richard P. Evans and the Angel Statue

Mr. Richard P. Evans, born in 1962 in Salt Lake City, Utah, U.S.A., is a writer known for his works on family love (http://www.richardpaulevans.com). After graduating from the University of Utah, he worked at an advertising agency, and while working there he wrote a story called "The Christmas Box" for his daughters. The story became popular with word of mouth, and with a suggestion from his friend, he self-published the work which went on to become a best seller in the U.S. Mr. Evans continues to write best sellers one after another, and besides his writing he is also active in charity work for children in distress. (In Japan, the book is published from Kodansha with the title "Kurisumasu Bokkusu (Christmas Box)".)

The statue of an angel, which is the symbolic figure in the story, did exist in the cemetery in Salt Lake City where the story is set but was destroyed by the massive flood of 1984. However, a new angel statue was dedicated by Mr. Evans on December 6th, 1994. Mr. Evans' actions were supported by many of the readers, and replicas of the Angel statue began to be placed all across the U.S. Currently, there are 116 statues in the U.S. and 1 in Canada, and the Angel statue dedicated in Japan will be the 118th Angel statue. Every year on December 6th (the day the girl in the book passed away), many grieving families and friends come together to share their sorrows of losing their children and to encourage each other.

2. Dedication of the Angel Statue to the Devastated Area

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All our staff members at the Foundation involved in the support activities have been feeling that they can hardly grasp the deep sorrow of those suffering, and have been contemplating of some way to comfort the children and others who have lost friends and families. As I was close to Mr. Evans, it came to me to dedicate the Angel statue to the devastated area, and ever since I had been looking for an appropriate site to place this statue.

3. Meeting Mr. Takeyama

I learned that the local residents of Okawa region in Ishinomaki City, where 74 children and 10 teachers of Ishinomaki City Okawa Elementary School in Iwate Prefecture have died or are missing after the Great East Japan Earthquake, were planning to build a memorial. I also read in an article on Yomiuri Shimbun (Yomiuri Online; newspaper publisher) that Mr. Ikuo Takeyama, the representative of the Kamaya Memorial Building Committee, was trying to raise funds to build a memorial beside the school. Reading this article gave me the opportunity to meet Mr. Takeyama in person.

On the day of the earthquake, Mr. Takeyama was able to escape from the disaster as he was in the Hamamatsu area for his work. However, His daughter (19 years old at the time) who had graduated from Okawa Elementary School, his wife, and his mother were struck by tsunami while they were trying to evacuate by car.

After actually visiting Okawa Elementary School and listening to his story, I came to believe that there is no other place more appropriate to place the Angel statue.

4. Preparing for the Dedication of the Angel statue to Okawa Elementary School

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Mr. Takeyama at the site before the foundation work

The site after the completion of the foundation work

Mr. Takeyama has made tremendous effort in realizing the dedication of the Angel statue at the school ground site of Okawa Elementary School, holding discussions with the school's PTA and many others involved. Thanks to his effort, we were able to receive an official approval to place the Angel statue at the school as one of the memorials.

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Import of the Angel statue was handled by our Foundation, but the foundation work and the pedestal construction, and the setting of the Angel statue were all handled free of charge with the kindness of Mr. Isao Aoki, the president of Yugen Kaisha Aoki Shoji (Aoki Shoji Limited Liability Company; Ichinoseki City, Iwate Prefecture), who had been supportive of the intent of this dedication.

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Preparing hot chai

Additionally, Dr. Kenichi Shoji, the director of Shoji Naika Ichoka of Mizuho Healthcare Corporation (Shoji Internal Medicine and Gastrointestinal Hospital; Ishinomaki City), had arranged for the accommodation for our staff and the tents necessary for the ceremony in addition to the set up on the day of the event. Moreover, he kindly hosted a dinner on the evening of March 10th in Ishinomaki City for the 25 people involved, and also provided lunches on March 11th.

5. Locally Hosted Joint Memorial Service

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The locally hosted Joint Memorial Service was scheduled to be held in front of the memorial placed in the school ground (in the back of the Angel statue), but was moved inside the school building due to the strong wind blowing outside.

6. Memorial Service for the Victims and Dedication of the Angel statue

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On March 10th, after the locally hosted Joint Memorial Service, the ceremony was conducted in front of the Angel statue by Mr. Hitoshi Soeno, the chief priest of Wakamiya Hachiman Shrine who had kindly come all the way from Nagoya.

In addition to the staff from our Foundation, present at the ceremony were the local residents who had helped us realize this event, the Angel Representative for Mr. Richard P. Evans, Ms. Lisa Johnson and her husband, and the creator of the Angel statue, Mr. Jared O. M. Fairbanks.

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Additionally on March 11th, we had asked Father Masashi Takahashi from Mizusawa Church in Iwate Prefecture, and the priest Mr. Ryoki Sato from Togen Temple (Soto School) in Fujisawa-cho to each conduct a memorial service. Furthermore, our Muslim staff Syed Tahir from the Foundation read verses from the Koran (the sacred book of Islam) describing the role of the angels. It was an ecumenical ceremony, recognizing the dialog among the many beliefs toward global peace.

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from left: Priest Mr. Someno, Priest Mr. Sato, Representative Director of the Foundation, Father Takahashi, and Syed Tahir

From the Angel statue named the "Angel of Hope", we hope that people may be able to feel the strong message to firmly rise with "hope" from within the "sadness".

We take this opportunity to introduce the message from Ms. Lisa Johnson, the Angel Representative of Mr. Richard P. Evans who came to Japan for this ceremony, and the March 14th article from the Iwate Nichi-Nichi Shimbun describing the ceremony.

Yasuhiko Sata
Representative Director
Rentai Tohoku-Seinan

Message from Ms. Lisa Johnson

Article in the Iwate Nichi-Nichi Shimbun dated March 14th, 2013

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2013.03.12 12:19 admin

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