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9-year-old disaster victim dreamed of dance career

The Yomiuri ShimbunUWAJIMA, Ehime — A 9-year-old boy with dreams of becoming a professional dancer was one of the victims of the devastating rains in western Japan.

Kaito Yokota of Uwajima, Ehime Prefecture, was a fourth-grade elementary school student in the city’s Yoshidacho district. He was killed in the disaster, which also claimed the lives of his mother, Mami, 41, and grandmother, Kazue, 67.

Thunderous sounds were heard as the slopes of the mountain behind his home, where the family of three lived, collapsed early Saturday morning. The two-story wooden house was buried under the mud.

Kaito was scheduled to dance at a local festival on the day.

A relative rushed to the site to find the house destroyed, with no trace of its structure remaining.

Search and rescue efforts were difficult, as the site was buried under mud and huge fallen trees. Kaito’s and his mother’s and grandmother’s bodies were found on Sunday and Monday.

Kaito began attending a dance school in central Uwajima when he was a first-grader. Mami or Kazue drove him there for lessons once a week, and he sometimes danced in local events.

One performance was aired on a local cable TV program. “I want to be a dancer someday,” Kaito used to tell his relatives.

A list of eight goals to improve his dancing skills, handwritten by Kaito, was posted on a wall in his home. They included “Firmly stretch out arms,” and “No slouching, stand up straight.” Mami took a photo of the list in April and shared it with friends via the Line smartphone app.

She added a message saying: “He stretches and exercises his muscles everyday. He always dances to several musical numbers before going to bed. He practices hard. I’m impressed.”

Kaito liked strenuous dances. He had been scheduled to dance in front of a band composed of about 100 elementary school students at the Yoshidacho Natsumatsuri local summer festival.

On Tuesday, the relative found some of Kaito’s belongings in the ruins of his house, buried under mud and debris. They included Kaito’s school cap, notebooks and pictures in a bag. “Memories of Kaito” was written on the outside of the bag.

Kaito’s uncle Tsuneki Yokota, 45, said sadly: “Mami probably kept them [the pictures]. I need to find his schoolbag, too.”Speech

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