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Thursday, 19th May 2016
In General Japan News,

Emperor and Empress visit Kumamoto in wake of quakes

Japan’s Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have visited the earthquake-hit region of Kumamoto, despite cutting back on their duties due to old age.

The imperial couple travelled to the area, where 10,000 people are still in shelters a month after two quakes killed dozens of people and caused major disruption to supply chains.

Arriving at Kumamoto Airport in the early afternoon of Thursday (May 19th), the pair visited the villages of Minamiaso and Mashiki, which were among locations worse hit in the disasters, reports the Wall Street Journal.

A spokesman for the Imperial Household Agency said the aim was to visit shelters and meet local residents whose lives have been upended by the quakes.

Two earthquakes struck within 28 hours, starting on April 14th, with the first measuring 6.5 in magnitude and the second hitting 7.3.

More than 4,500 buildings were destroyed, with many of them being people’s homes.
Yoshihide Suga, chief cabinet secretary, said that the Japanese government will do all it can to help with the recovery efforts and return lives to normal.

The country’s parliament announced this week that a 778 billion yen (£4.8 billion) fund had been allocated to finance disaster relief and reconstruction in the area.

While a number of local schools have managed to reopen despite the difficult circumstances, the majority of businesses have not resumed production.

Among the companies working to get things back on track are drinks firm Suntory Holdings Ltd and Honda Motor Co.

Expectations are that Honda will be able to reopen its motorcycle plant in Kumamoto in mid-August.

Sections of the Hohi railway line are still not open to the public, after a landslide sparked by the earthquakes considerable damage.

The majority of other railways in the region are now working again, as are local airports.

Related news stories:
Japanese emperor celebrates 20 years (12th November 2009)
Crown Prince urges Emperor Akihito to 'reduce burden' (24th February 2012)
Kumamoto Airport reopens to commercial passengers (19th April 2016)
The weird and wonderful world of Japanese ice cream (4th August 2009)