In Eri Endo's darkest days, as she grieved the deaths of her closest friends and her rootless life as a nuclear evacuee, music came to give gospel-like inspiration to this survivor of the March 2011 tragedies.
Now, Endo hopes to console departed souls and fellow evacuees with a song of her own. The 20-year-old recently debuted as a singer with a single titled “Pray.”
“So many people still live in pain from trauma caused by the earthquake,” said Endo, a native of Minami-Soma, Fukushima Prefecture, which lies just outside the mandatory exclusion zone around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant but was designated as an emergency evacuation preparation zone.
“I hope this song will reach the hearts of many,” she said.
On March 11, 2011, days after Endo graduated from a local high school, a magnitude-9.0 earthquake jolted eastern Japan, and two of her closest friends were lost in the massive tsunami that followed.
The next day, she heard a major explosion at the Fukushima plant, and her family began a month of living like refugees, traveling from one place to another across the prefecture.
Endo was already a member of a local girl choir, MJC Ensemble, and had been planning to study at a music school in Sendai after graduating from high school. Now, however, she began to look for a chance to jump-start a career as a professional singer.
“It felt that memories of the earthquake were slipping from people's minds, and I felt compelled to become a professional singer,” said Endo, adding that she aimed to reach a broad audience that way. “I also wanted to send encouraging messages with my voice.”
Thanks partly to Endo’s performance, MJC Ensemble made its way to a national choir competition. And in October 2011, the group was given the honor of singing the "Kimigayo" national anthem at the final of the Formula One Japanese Grand Prix at the Suzuka circuit in Mie Prefecture.
Her performance caught the eye of talent-spotters representing her current agent, and she headed to Tokyo in December. While earning a living working at restaurants, she has performed on streets in Tokyo’s Shibuya district every day since June.
“I feel especially rewarded when those who escaped from Fukushima and now live in Tokyo come and approach me,” she said.
On Aug. 8, her dream came true when she debuted with “Pray,” a song written originally for MJC Ensemble shortly after the disaster. Its lyrics center on a young person’s determination to overcome hardships, which, Endo said, “overlaps with my own experience.”
“It recalls many painful memories of the days following the earthquake, but somehow helps me look forward positively,” she added.
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