About a year after appearing in an iconic photo of the devastation from the March 11 quake and tsunami, Akane Ito is pursuing her childhood dream of opening a pet grooming business.
It took the 29-year-old from the Yuriage district of Natori, Miyagi Prefecture, quite some time before she could move forward after losing her home and dogs in the horrific disaster that struck northeastern Japan.
A photo showing a barefoot Ito sitting on the ground and sobbing against the backdrop of the tsunami destruction was carried by the New York Times, the Washington Post, Le Monde of France and newspapers in India and Hong Kong.
It won third prize in the General News category of the World Press Photo awards.
The photo was taken on March 13, 2011, the first day Ito could return to where her home used to stand. The tsunami, reaching heights of 9 meters, flattened homes and buildings and left about 1,000 dead or missing in the city.
Ito was taking care of around 10 dogs when the Great East Japan Earthquake struck. Only two have been found alive.
“It is so frustrating that I could not save them,” she said.
Even today, she dreams of her dogs returning to her.
Ito said the experience made her determined to protect all life, whether it is a human or animal and no matter how small.
She also said she is grateful to acquaintances who helped her by providing clothes, a TV set and other necessities.
“I want to be more thoughtful and be a big help if I find somebody in need,” she said.
Although she is still consumed by a sense of loss and sorrow, she has gradually become more forward looking.
Since late January, Ito has been attending a professional pet grooming school in Sendai to achieve her dream of opening her own shop.
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The Asahi Shimbun is following the lives of people who appeared in iconic images taken after the Great East Japan Earthquake struck on March 11, 2011.
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