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"Trumpet girl"

August 17, 2013


‘Trumpet girl’ of 2011 disaster heads local festival committee**





RIKUZENTAKATA, Iwate Prefecture--A teenager wipes away tears after playing her golden trumpet. One month from the day the tsunami killed her mother and grandparents, the rubble of what was once her family home in the background, Ruri Sasaki mournfully plays her horn to pray for the souls of her lost relatives.

It is one of countless enduring images in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.

Now 19, Sasaki is currently heading the executive committee for Rikuzentakata's Wakodo Festival, an event first held in 2012 by young people to revitalize the city.

This year’s festival will be held Aug. 17 at Takata Elementary School, featuring music performances by junior and senior high school students as well as other musicians who call Rikuzentakata home.

“My town, its residents and history, I realized how little I knew about these,” Sasaki says. “I was reminded of these things by connecting with many people (after the disaster).”

Last year, Sasaki enrolled at the School of Nursing at Fukushima Medical University. Now a sophomore, she is active in the university’s club activities. She is on the swimming team, plays bass with a music club and serves as manager of the track club.

Sasaki enjoyed the festival as a guest last year, but this year, she wanted to be more involved and joined the executive committee. All 11 members of the committee are from Rikuzentakata and attending universities outside Iwate Prefecture.

On Aug. 16, Sasaki was busy delivering tents and making ornaments at Takata Elementary.

Being away from home for 16 months, she says she has come to think of her hometown more warmly than before.

“Many young people left the city after the disaster,” she says. “But many of them want to be part of the reconstruction effort.”

Many people in Rikuzentakata have a strong affection for their hometown, Sasaki adds. She said she hopes their love for their city will make the festival successful.

Last year’s executive committee chairman, Shunsuke Shimamura, a senior at Akita University, appreciates Sasaki’s enthusiasm.

“She is working hard and is shining,” says the 21-year-old Shimamura. “She has a growing large circle of friends. Moving forward little by little, she is enjoying watching the event take shape.”

Sasaki has been getting her performing chops in shape, too. She will play a trumpet solo at the festival and also perform with a professional trumpet player she met in Fukushima.

“I want to nurture the Wakodo Festival so that it becomes even bigger in the future and involves the surrounding communities,” she says.

The festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. on the grounds of Takata Elementary School. For more information (in Japanese), visit (wakoudo.jimdo.com/).

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