Sunday, March 27, 2011

Resiliency of youth takes stage in Japan

Tokyo (CNN) -- People in northern Japan, on the long road to recovery after the disastrous earthquake and tsunami, are experiencing moments that bring smiles, tears and fears.

They're coping with the growing death toll, which stood at 10,489 Sunday morning, according to the National Police Agency. About 16,621 are missing and 2,777 were reported injured.

Amid the death and debris, a graduation ceremony at one school reminded people of the resiliency of youth.

As women dabbed their eyes, a row of tiny kindergartners took to the stage of a elementary school serving as a refugee center in Natori to sing their school song.

"We are going to protect it. That is our Yuriage kindergarten," they sang Saturday during the ceremony, broadcast by Japanese broadcaster TV Asahi.

Below them, 260 people, sitting with their bedding in the Tatekoshi Elementary School gymnasium, applauded.

"I was encouraged by their singing," said an elderly man.

The children were at a kindergarten about 10 miles away in Yuriage, right on the Pacific coast, when the deadly waves came ashore.

The school is closed for good after 55 years.

"Everyone's smile makes me happy," one young graduate told TV Asahi. "I'm looking forward to be a fresh first grader."

The mood was more somber in the city of Minamisanriku, where the mayor asked residents to go to seven other cities while temporary housing is being built.

"We would like to welcome you back to the temporary housing as soon as they are completed, but meanwhile, I would appreciate it if you could evacuate temporarily to elsewhere," he said on the TV Asahi report.

Not everyone was convinced.

"I can't just move," one man said. "I have a job here."

A woman with a daughter may have spoken for others.

"I wonder if it is impossible for us to come back to Minamisanriku," she said.
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