NATORI, Miyagi Prefecture–Circles of people formed one after another around buckets of flames that illuminated the city’s desolate Yuriage district after dusk on Aug. 16 in the local tradition of the Bon festival.
Former residents of the district that was flattened by tsunami spawned by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 lit the flames, known as Bon-bi, during the festival for the dead.
Children enjoyed steamed manju buns after roasting them over the fires on willow branches during the festival.
One of the former residents, Yusuke Arakawa, was among the crowd building the fires that day. He lost his grandparents in the tsunami.
“They must be yearning to return to the place they grew accustomed to living for years,” he said. “I would like to welcome and send them off by roasting the buns.”
He and his peers worked to reinstate the Bon-bi a year after the disaster. This year’s festival may be the last time it will be held on the vacant land.
Earth-filling work is slated to start in autumn as a step toward building a new community in the district.
“I feel like memories of the old community will be buried with the construction work,” Arakawa said. “Holding the Bon-bi (in this wilderness) may be our last.”