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Kitakami Elementary School

     Before the great earthquake, in Kitakami area which is located in north-eastern part of Ishinomaki City, Miyagi Prefecture, there were three elementary schools. They were Aikawa Elementary School, Yoshihama Elementary School and Hashiura Elementary School. The school buildings of both Aikawa Elementary School and Yoshihama Elementary School were buried in water because of the tsunami. After the tsunami, a joint school management was continued by using the existing but damaged building of Hashiura Elementary School for a while. The number of students who move out from the area continued. So, local educational board decided to start a new school unifying the former three. The new Kitakami Elementary School was born with 130 students from first thru 6th graders on April 1, 2013.

New School Song

Satoko Sato


Songwriter of the Kitakami Elementary School song

The story behind Satoko Sato becoming the person to write the lyrics of the Kitakami Elementary School song has its origin in a voluntary project she led after the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 that devastated the coastline of the northern Japan region.

Knowing that several small elementary schools along the coastline of Miyagi Prefecture faced closure due to the disasters, the violinist, together with pianist Mitsuhiro Sakakibara, launched a project to record their school songs with the aim to preserve the memories and culture that the people in the communities were attached to.

Three of the schools among them based in Kitakami district of Ishinomaki city were eventually merged into a new school. Knowing how hard the two musicians contributed to preserving the old school songs, the merger committee of the schools requested Sato and Sakakibara to write a school song for the new school.

Prior to the earthquake, Sato had been energetically giving performances at elementary and junior high schools in rural communities that were facing closure due to the small number of students.

Born and raised in Akita city, Akita Prefecture, she began playing the violin at the age of 4. A graduate of Tohoku University with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, she went on to study at the graduate school program at the Aesthetics and Western Art History from the Department of Art History.

During her graduate school years, she also worked as a local radio show personality and a reporter, while also performing her violin. Currently a member of the Sendai-based jazz unit Happy Toco, Sato especially loves performing at museums and old establishments.

Mitsuhiro Sakakibara


Composer of the Kitakami Elementary School song

Mitsuhiro Sakakibara has volunteered with Satoko Sato in giving school concerts in rural areas as well as recording the school songs of elementary schools that closed down in the coastal region of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture. Born and raised in the Miyagi capital of Sendai, he graduated with a bachelors’ degree from the Department of Engineering at Tohoku University. He went on to polish his piano at the Boston-based Barklee College of Music, where he received the Oscar Peterson Award upon graduation.

After returning to Japan, Sakakibara in 1991 launched the Jozenji Street Jazz Festival in Sendai. For more than 20 years since, Sakakibara has served as the chief music director of the annual event, which is now one of the biggest annual jazz festivals in Japan.  Among many of the musics he composed, one of the most recognized is the tune played at the platforms at Sendai Station as the trains depart.

Sakakibara is also the leader of a Miyagi Prefecture-based group of musicians supporting the people affected by the earthquake and tsunami with music. Sato is among the musicians of the group, which also donates musical instruments and support children and musicians in those communities.

A member of jazz unit Happy Toco, Sakakibara arranges the notes of the music the unit performs. Happy Toco has released 3 CD albums and five mini CDs.

Kitakami Elementary School Song

Lyrics: Satoko Sato

Music: Mitsuhiro Sakakibara

(English translation by Setsuko Kamiya)

1. Millions of years ago, in a distant past, earth was born

And the oceans, the mountains and life came to being

As we reflect on the lives that went before us, we ask

Where does the river come from, and where does it flow?

Kitakami Elementary School

We will build a bridge to tomorrow

2. There is no dawn that never breaks, the sun will come out again

We hear our loved ones say

With warm memories, we remember their smiles and their words

The wind that blows thProrough the reeds will bring them back

Deep down in our hearts, we feel the sun

Kitakami Elementary School

We will hold on until tomorrow

3. We are surely given a life to live

You are here, and I am here, and we feel the warmth of each other

No matter what happens, we sing and search for the light

We learn as we inspire and encourage one another

Kitakami Elementary School

We will dream on towards the future

Video of the Kitakami Elementary School Students

Reiichi Sato


Produced a five minutes video of students singing their new school song

After 16 years of working for commercial photography world, he started his own corporations. He always search for new ways of filming, for example, using underwater camera and radio control helicopter for aerial shots. For his love for music and visuals, he is making music videos for local musicians as his life work. Just one month and a half after the 3.11, 2011, he produced acclaimed music video titled as “One Love, Ueo Muite Arukou” with help from local musicians in Tohoku area to tell the world “Thank You” for their support and vow to work hard for restoration of the Tohoku area.