December 30, 1995
Web posted at: 6:20 p.m. EST (2320 GMT)
From Correspondent May Lee
TOKYO (CNN) -- From start to finish, 1995 was marred by events which left deep and lasting impressions on Japan and the world.
In a single year, the country was rocked by an earthquake, a terrorist attack, economic volatility and the rape of a schoolgirl.
The harmony was first broken by an earthquake in Kobe, Japan that killed 5,500 people and left tens of thousands homeless.
"The Kobe earthquake is memorable. My sister lives there. It was awful and still is awful there," said one Japanese man.
The Japanese government was heavily criticized for mishandling rescue operations after the earthquake. Those mistakes were not to be repeated during the country's next major crisis.
On March 20, a gas attack in Tokyo's subway killed 12 people and sickened 5,000 others who were exposed to sarin, a nerve gas first developed by Nazis during World War II. The attack was attributed to the bizarre religious cult, Aum Shinrikyo. Cult leader Shoko Asahara is awaiting the start of his trial.
The gas attack caused many Japanese citizens to question their security. "The scale of crimes has gotten bigger, but police can't catch up," said one woman. "Japan was said to be a safe country, but I feel very uneasy to live here."
Uneasy was also the state of business in Japan. A barely averted trade war with the United States over autos and auto parts caused panic in the banking industry and giant losses for exporters due to the strongest yen in post-war history.
"Because of the sluggish economy, we didn't have any room for maneuvering this year," said Kimio Uno of Keio University. (179K AIFF sound or 179K WAV sound)
Emotions flared on the Japanese island of Okinawa after three U.S. servicemen were accused of kidnapping and raping a 12- year old girl.
The crime triggered demands for the removal of American troops from Okinawa. Top officials from the U.S. and Japan have promised to ease the military burden.
In the middle of all the chaos was one very bright moment of glory. A moment that helped an ailing country forget about all the horrible events, an achievement that gave people hope and something to cheer about.
Hideo Nomo, once a mediocre pitcher in Japan went on to Los Angeles to take the major leagues by storm, earning himself a place on the All-Star team and the Rookie of the Year award.
For fans in Japan, the pitcher has lived up to his name, "Hideo" means "hero" in Japanese. And in 1995, the Japanese were in need of a hero.
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