On Tuesday, just before lunch time, Murata Natsue, a 40 year old employee of her father's real estate company, was sitting in the front seat of a van at a railway crossing. Her father was at the wheel of the van. Directly in front of them, a 74 yeard old man collapsed onto the railway tracks. Against her father's wishes, Natsue leapt out of the van, scrambled under the crossing bar and spun the old man around 90 degrees, so that he was lying in the railbed where the train could not hit him. At that moment the train arrived, striking and killing her. (Link)
Murata Natsue's sacrifice, made in saving the life of an elderly stranger, has stunned the nation.
This morning the Cabinet, in its first meeting since the accident, produced a Cabinet Decision (kakugi kettei) posthumously awarding Murata the Medal of Honour with Red Ribbon (pictured above) -- the nation's highest award for lifesaving, given to those who saved others at no thought for themselves. (Link - J)
Whatever one might want to say about this Abe Cabinet, one cannot say it is insensitive and slow to respond to the sacrifices made by ordinary citizens. The family of a most unlikely heroine did not have to wait for the nation's highest authorities to recognize and pay homage to her courage and selflessness. Many a Cabinet of the past, when faced with such an extraordinary occurence, would likely have shuffled papers, deciding only to "assiduously study" (shikkari to kento suru) the appropriateness of national honours.
Later - The Yomiuri Shimbun's online English-language service files its report. (Link)
Later still (Monday) - Chief Cabinet Secretary Suga Yoshihide visited with the Murata family at the funeral home prior to the start of last night's wake. He brought with him a special proclamation from Prime Minister Abe Shinzo, who is in Indonesia for the APEC summit. Kanagawa Prefecture Governor Kuroiwa Yuji and Yokohama City mayor Hayashi Fumiko showed up in person to pay their respects. (Link - J)