A Year in Retrospect

A year has passed since the earthquake.
As for myself, a year is nearly past from the day God has granted an excessive role to me as a Secretary General of Touhoku HELP, and as an assistant general manager of “Consulting Room for the Heart” jointly run by support organization of many religions.

In this circumstance, I had an interview through mail from the writer of the “Chugai Nippo” Newspaper. As I wrote the response through mail, I had an opportunity to look back on the year which had gone by. Therefore I would like to introduce its contents to everyone, as a one who witnessed the disaster affected area.

(Written by Kawakami April 1st 2012)


To so and so,

I have received your mail, and have read it with much interest.
Since I have received quite a few questions, I would like to answer with the best of my poor ability.

>Have your (Kawakami’s) identity as a one who has religion, and as a Christian ever wavered during this whole year? Or, have your faith ever wavered? I have heard and have much interest of your pilgrimage on foot through the coast of Minami Sanriku, together with a Buddhist priest on the 49th day from the earthquake, and again on March 1st. Do you feel that your faith was strengthened through it, or have your faith shifted to another stage? If you do, I would like to hear it in detail.

The pilgrimage on the 49th day is a pleasant memory to me. Yet, I have no remembrance of discussing about this matter with anyone.
That experience is unable to express in words. As I walked, I sang a hymn by drawing it out of my memory, searching for a hymn that fits the situation. I felt as if the whole process in which I was going through was probing my innermost parts.

And I found a major change on the pilgrimage on March 1st. This was the second pilgrimage, after the one which we had on the “49th day”. And this time, the aspect had changed comparing with the first time.

I felt on the pilgrimage of “49th day”, that a hymn which calls out for peace even in utter grief, suited (the song that adapts to) the scenery and its conditions. But on “March 1st” those kinds of hymns felt as if it did not have any meaning any more. The course we took was the same. Yet, the atmosphere of its course had totally changed.

The pilgrimage traced its course for two and a half hours through the coast of Minami Sanriku. There were deep grief and despair hovering over the whole area on the “49th day”. But on “March 1st”, the place gave us the impression of the slight movement of restoration.

I felt that there was no more “field” here for us to work in.

It happened that I got lost the same night, and entered a big temporary housing area by car in Yamoto (Higashimatsuyama City). Even though March had arrived, it was still cold at night, and it appeared as if the temporary housing area was covered in silence. I knew that this was a new “filed” for us to work in.

What I found in both of the pilgrimages on the “49th day” and “March 1st” was the shifting of our “fields”. To transfer our field was amazingly clear to us. I knew that there would surely be a big miss match, if we did not handle this change.

I do not know if my faith has strengthened because of this pilgrimage or not. But one thing I’m sure is the growing of my consciousness that I have a religion. The method to express and externalize our faith is religion. Perhaps my faith might have strengthened in that sense.

I also do not know if my faith has strengthened because of the experience of past year, but my consciousness as a one having religion increased, and my friends feel the same.

Since faith is a substance of each individual, we cannot view our faith from other point of view. But in a religion that externalizes faith, we are able to see them. And I know that the consciousness and pride to have a religion myself has grown in me.

A common understanding among Christians concerning faith is that faith is granted to us. (This ideology comes from the New Testament.) Accordingly, my understanding concerning faith is that, faith is to newly discover the inside of each individual. The earthquake became an opportunity for me to become conscious of the faith which was granted to me. This faith is externalized through Christianity, and is visible to others.

If I look back, the identity as a Christian has surely grown. It grew even stronger through having an encounter with people who have Buddhism as their religion. And furthermore, this identity made me respect those that have Buddhism as their religion. This was possible because we faced the same subject (disaster affected area). When we face the same subject with others, it becomes possible to respect others (there are many incidents where people despise each other).

>How did your (Kawakami’s) life and existence at Church, rhythm, conduct pattern, and the relation with the believers change from what was before, as you take part now in the “Counseling Room for the Heart”?

As for my “life at Church”, my Sendai Citizen Church has been a small scale church, which use to have services only on Sunday mornings. Therefore, there is not much differences if compared with back then and now. However, we are experiencing a totally new way of viewing and reading the Bible. It has changed the quality of our service (I’m praising myself here). Also, since my consciousness as a person having a religion has changed, my posture toward ritual has changed.

Regarding “relations with the believers”, everyone in Sendai Citizen Church, and also many others Christians with whom I have connection, is basically happy with the labor I am partaking in. However, some that live far away from the area affected by disaster, might have had a strong feeling that the “earthquake and tsunami’s are not the only one that is called disaster”, and maybe were puzzled, or might have had some irritation. But overall, the relation with the pastors and believers had not much changed from before and after the earthquake.

>It seems as if you are still in charge of the consulting by phone at the “Counseling Room for the Heart”, but how did the consulting content change as the first anniversary approach?
I would appreciate if you could give me a typical example (without unveiling personal information), and also of the example if any, of the changes in a person who have formerly consulted, and the reason for their change.

In the beginning, we hardly received any calls from the disaster affect areas. There were people who called us from afar, getting to know us through the article on newspaper or from NHK radio broadcast. This was its first condition (In Sendai, radio had not been broadcasted nor the newspaper distributed).

The turning point was in October, when the FM Radio broadcast was commenced in the three North East Prefectures, which was affected by disaster. The phone calls from the disaster affected areas gradually increased. The phones have no end on ringing these days nine to five.

We have confirmed that there was one main resemblance in the calls we received. Most of them said that “Our hearts were not satisfied by other telephone consultation services”. For some people, “Solely listening” style leaves a feeling of insufficiency. In our case, since we have our religion, we from our side have a tale to tell (including preaching, and lecture). Stopping this will be a difficulty, and we think that it is not even necessary. However we need to understand the risk of consulting this way, and all the consultants who have religion need to learn a way to avoid this risk. I guess this is the knowledge called “Actual Science of Religion”.

Most calls are issues about “How to view and station a deceased person in their hearts”, and “How to live with the burden of grievances and hatred”. Neither of the issue is possible to view from the third person. The issue is actually right there, and the lucid resolution is difficult. But to support those being burdened by these issues in reality is required of us, and our understanding on this is that we are consulted with the hope of these issues to be solved.

Of course there are examples of more simple things.

For example, we had a call from one who lived in Sendai who said, that they had a family grave near the coast in Iwate Prefecture, and since the grave was washed away by the tsunami, and they have now moved to Sendai, they are thinking of transferring their grave here. They discussed with the priest of the temple where they had their family grave, and asked us to introduce a temple in Sendai. I was the one who picked up this call, so I immediately contacted a reliable priest and the matter was instantly settled.

There were more complicated issues, and we saw many patterns, where the one who sought counseling gradually changed. The strength of a religious person is that they are used to accept, listen, and at the same time give them suggestions. These kind of attitude, gradually produce changes.

>Please tell us your thoughts on the critical issues of now, such as “Conflict between those who are afflicted by disaster” which was spoken in the Symposium held in Tokyo.

Conflict will arise as the restoration progresses.

The disaster by earthquake cleared a new horizon. A new boundary is being created in this newly cleared space. This is restoration process. And conflict arises as people try to seize their own space.

The greatest duty of a person having religion is to bring reconciliation. Our labor is becoming all the more necessary now.

I have written a lengthy answer, but I feel that I was able to look into my own self through writing. I am very grateful, that this mail has been read by you.


I hope that this poor writing will become a good article.

Naoya Kawakami

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