February 22 (2019) Earthquake Memorial Ceremony


Lay a flower at the Avonhead Park Earthquake Memorial this 22nd February (2019)

This year will be the eighth anniversary of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The Friends of Avonhead Cemetery, with the generous support of Andrea’s Florists, will be organising a “Lay a Flower” ceremony at the Earthquake Memorial in the Avonhead Cemetery on 22 February 2018. The ceremony will start at 12:25 pm.

The  Memorial marks the final resting place of the unidentified remains of the victims of the 2011 earthquake. We will mark the occasion by observing a minute’s silence at 12:51 am, followed by an invitation to the attendees to lay a flower at the Memorial. Local schoolchildren will be performing songs and prayers. There will also be local and international guest speakers.

Last year’s ceremony’s video can be seen below.


February 22 (2018) Earthquake Memorial Ceremony


Lay a flower at the Memorial at Avonhead Cemetery this 22nd February

The Friends of Avonhead Cemetery will be organising a “Lay a Flower” ceremony at the Earthquake Memorial in the Avonhead Cemetery on 22 February 2018. The ceremony will start at 12:15 pm.

The  Memorial marks the final resting place of the unidentified remains of the victims of the 2011 earthquake. In 2017, the Friends of Avonhead Cemetery arranged the inaugural “Lay a Flower” ceremony at the Memorial. The ceremony was attended by the representatives of the Sonoda Women’s University of Japan and Japanese exchange students attending St Thomas of Canterbury College and Villa Maria. Members of the community, including the family and friends of victims, were also present.

We marked the occasion by observing a minute’s silence at 12:51 am and laid flowers donated by our local florists, Andrea’s, at the Memorial and the surrounding graves of the victims. Over 200 people paid their respect in the course of the day by laying a flower.

The Friends of Avonhead Cemetery will be arranging a similar commemoration ceremony for 2018. Cty officials and international visitors will be present. Local schoolchildren will be performing a song or reciting a poem in memory of the victims.

The ceremony will be livecast to the staff and student body of the Toyama Language School in Japan, who lost 12 students in the CTV Building.


Karl’s diary: Toyama, Japan, 9/12/2017

The day began early for me. My destination was 450 km away from Sangen-Jaya, where we were staying. Most people who visit Toyama (which is not very many) stay overnight. I had to be back by the same evening, so the only option was to catch the Shinkansen – the express bullet train.

At the Zuiryu-ji Temple

And so by 5:30 am I was zooming through the Japanese countryside at 260 km/h. With me, safe in a bubblewrap within a box, was the small object that I had to deliver.

I disembarked at Toyama Station at 8:30 am. Looking around for my host, I noticed a smartly attired, greying gentleman who also saw me at the same time. Mr Kawahata, Director of the Toyama Language School, greeted me in beautiful English that made me secretly regret my limited grasp of Japanese.

Our real destination was the Toyama Language School, but Mr Kawahata first took me around the city to show off its natural beauty.

We went past a park with fortified walls where a local Lord intended to build a castle until the Shogun Lord Togugawa put a stop to it as it could be a threat to his rule.

From there we visited the Zuiryuji Temple in Takaoka. It is a famous building and the only national treasure in the prefecture. It is a magnificent and elegant structure. The craftsmanship is amazing as it was built entirely out of interlocking wood and there are absolutely no nails.

The Cemetery at the Sotoshi Chokeiji Temple

After this we visited the Sotoshi Chokeiji Temple which is located in the local cemetery. It is a significant religious site famous for 500 statues of Buddha. People write wishes on ribbons and hang them around the statues. I thought of the upcoming  anniversary of the 22nd February earthquake and thought what a wonderful, meaningful gesture it would be if the schoolchildren back in Christchurch wrote little messages on ribbons and tied them around the rose plants that surround the Earthquake Memorial in Avonhead Cemetery.

Nearby was a historic tea house where we had a nice cup of authentic Green Tea and enjoyed the view of the mountains.

Mr Kawahata then took me to a local craftsman village where we got to see a sculptor at work. Their desire to maintain the original craft is to be applauded as he was shaping by hand without the aid of power tools. The houses are all very original from the Edo period and made from a unique Japanese hardwood called Keyaki.

One of Mr Kawahata’s former students owns a very popular restaurant where we ate his signature dishes of tempura and buckwheat noodles for lunch.

We also visited an traditional Japanese farm house that has been converted into a museum housing many famous pottery, some almost 500 years old.

After this, we made our way to the Toyama Language School as it was a time when the teachers would be free.

The school is not large with around 100 students and 3 teachers. You can imagine the impact of the loss of 12 students in a school this size. Mr Kawahata’s 20-year-old daughter, Kyoto, was one of the students who were at the CTV building when it collapsed on 22nd February 2011.

Friends of Avonhead Cemetery’s presentation to the Toyama International School

The school community were very interested in the Friends of Avonhead Cemetery Trust and very thankful that we have created such an organisation.

Finally, I presented to the school the small gift that I had brought from the Friends of Avonhead Cemetery: a framed rectangular photograph of the Earthquake Memorial at Avonhead Cemetery, where the names of the 12 students were inscribed among the 185 names of the people who lost their lives that day.

Underneath the photograph of the Memorial is the Pikorua, a symbol that signifies the spiritual merger and eternal bonds between Christchurch and the families of the victims of the 2011 earthquake.

For many of the families they have never seen a picture of the Memorial so to have this as something they could display was significant.

They wanted me to express how deeply they were touched by the Friend of Avonhead Cemetery Trust and the work you all do. So thank you or Domo Arigato Gozaimashita.