The Japanese girl group phenomenon AKB48, together with their sister groups SKE48, NMB48 and HKT48, toured the disaster-struck areas of Japan and held mini-concerts on Tuesday to commemorate the 2nd anniversary of the March 11 disaster. AKB48 made 10 stops and did performances that were totally free of charge at various local venues as well as at the group’s own theaters.
At 2:46 p.m., the exact time the 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck, all 264 members from the four groups in different locations observed a minute of silence to pay their respects to the victims who lost their lives. March 11, coincidentally, was AKB48 member Mariko Shinoda’s 27th birthday. Shinoda visited Rikuzentakata, and offered flowers at a memorial site, paying tribute to the victims together with other group members. She said they were hesitant at first to hold concerts on March 11 but seeing the smiles on people’s face made it worthwhile. Fellow member Sayaka Akimoto, who also visited Rikuzentakata, was amazed at the resilience of the children she saw believes they will overcome this disaster. It was also a chance for her to think hard about what she can do for her countrymen.
The groups visited as many places as possible, performing 12 songs at each venue they stopped in. Among the locations visited were Otsuchi, Rikuzentakata, Kamaishi and Yamada in Iwate Prefecture, Kesennuma, Watari, Onagawa and Takajo in Miyagi Prefecture, as well as Minamisoma and Iwaki in Fukushima Prefecture. Group member Minami Takahashi mirrored what every member of the group was feeling when she told the audience in Kamaishi that, “I am really grateful for the warm welcome you have given us. It was great to be able to spend some time with you. I don’t know how much difference we can make, but we’re going to continue with our support work and try to help.”