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March 11, 2011 at 9:47 AM

In 1995, Ichiro was profoundly impacted by Kobe earthquake

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Ichiro, who thus far has declined to talk about yesterday’s earthquake in Japan, experienced first-hand the devastating Kobe earthquake on Jan. 17, 1995. In fact, Ichiro has characterized that event as one of the most significant in his life. The 6.8 quake, which struck at 5:46 a.m., killed 6,434, and about 4,600 of them were from Kobe.

At the time, Ichiro was asleep in the dormitory used by his Japanese team, the Orix BlueWave, which is located in Kobe. The team was in workouts preparing for the upcoming spring training.

In the March 12, 2008 issue of ESPN the Magazine — its 10th anniversary issue — ESPN asked several athletes to take them to the place “that gives them their spark.”

Ichiro chose to be photographed at the Kobe Port Earthquake Memorial Park in Kobe (he made the cover, pictured above), and told the magazine:

“I jumped out of bed when I felt the earthquake and had an experience where I felt the possibility of death. The fear, the crushed feeling from the lost lives, the cruel spectacle of what the city I knew so intimately had become – all those things I can’t forget to this day.”

Here is a video shot by ESPN in conjunction with that issue, in which Ichiro says:

“I have played in America for eight years, but I cannot describe myself as a player without mentioning (the city of) Kobe. I feel a very strong connection with the city. I was in Kobe when the big earthquake hit in 1995. And for the first time in my life I experienced the fear of death.

“In that same year, my team won the league title, and the Japan series title in the following year. So 1995 was a very important year for me and the people of Kobe. Several years later, I went to Seattle. Seattle is a sister city of Kobe. I think I was drawn there by destiny. That’s why it’s a very special place for me.”

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