A visit by Rebecca Solnit

A visit by Rebecca Solnit
Indeed many events took place on March 11th this year.
A special event setting off of several thousand fireworks, a memorial service for the dead with almost all of the religious groups coming together in Miyagi prefecture, are only a few of them.
Many other events took place, some even in our vicinity.
We also discussed if we should do something for the first anniversary of “Counseling Room for the Heart”
which is jointly run with the people of other religion, physician, and scholars. In the discussion, we got the information that a journalist was coming to Sendai from U.S.
We also received a request to welcome her at the “Counseling Room for the Heart”.
The journalist who was to come was a lady called Rebecca Solnit. She is famous even in Japan for her book “A Paradise Built in Hell”. We discussed if we should have some event focused on this journalist.
But in the end we decided not to have any event. But instead, all of us agreed to welcome her, and have her interview us, thus making it a time to look back on a year just gone by.
Since we have received the written report on this matter, we would like to introduce it here below. This report was written down by Yutaka Kanazawa of Nishi Honganji Volunteer Center.
We report this as a testimony of our work in the disaster stricken area, jointly run by the people of other religion.
Written Report Date: March 10th 2012(Sat.)
Reporter: Yutaka Kanazawa (Jyodo Shinshu Honganji Ha)
Participant: Nishi Honganji Volunteer Center, Kongo Houzan Rinnoji, Shoroku Shinto Yamatoyama youth group leader, Tohoku HELP
15:00 - 16:30

■Received an explanation from Zen master Doryu Hioki on “A tide embankment to protect life” at Sotoshuu Kongo Houzan Rinnoji (Aoba Ward, Sendai City) (Refer here for more details).

■Received an explanation from Zen master Hioki on how to make a forest for environmental conservation, and lecture on the outlines of tree planting activity, proposed especially after the disaster, by Akira Miyawaki and Zen master Hioki, and the use of debris produced by the earthquake.
The time to exchange opinions on how to work with the eco activity in a spirit of play were also included.
This discussion was held by looking at the photos which was taken when investigating the tsunami stricken area, and at the enlightenment activity engaged in the field. Rebecca stated that the main topic in the English-speaking countries was of nuclear power plant, and her interests were on “How the grief after the disaster is being coped”, and “What role Buddhist has been accomplishing in this matter”.

16:30 - 17:00 Travel by car.
17:00 - 20:00

■Exchanging of information at the Touhoku HELP secretariat

・The introduction on the activities of Touhoku HELP by Rev. Kawakami, and an explanation in detail of the founding of “Counseling Room for the Heart”.
・Introduction on the activities of Honganji by Tonohira and Kanazawa.
・Explanation of the current situation of Natori City, and the condition of damage by Sugai.
・Comment by Rebecca.
・Queries and free conversationl.

■Remarks of the discussion
・Touhoku HELP secretariat was used for this meeting. The meeting and information exchanging was performed, with all of us surrounding a table.
Generally we took the method to mainly explain the current situation to Rebecca, but it also was a good opportunity for all of us to confirm each organization’s activity of the past year.
・Each one introduced and explained their activity in about 15 minutes, including a comment from Rebecca and a time for Qs and As.
・Touhoku HELP introduced the main contents of their activity, which is Foodstuff Radiation Level Measuring, and the Relief Work for the foreigners who had been afflicted by disaster. The conversation included a report that the benefactors were continuingly giving support.
・Introduction on the “Counseling Room for the Heart” which has a medical affiliate as its general manager (representative), coordinated by interdenominational religious people. Explanation was given on the problem of the separation of church and state, which the religious circle in Japan are engaged in. Introduction was given on the counseling through phone calls, and the establishing of Radio program, and on how the disaster victim faced their grief for the past year after being stricken by the disaster, through the activity of gathering in a place, having conversation, and supporting each other.
・Report for the past year, from the group leader of Shoroku Shinto Yamatoyama Youth Group, who had been afflicted by disaster in Natori. He told of his vivid experience of how his own house was partially destroyed, and also stated that he recently has an uncomfortable feeling in the news “A step toward reconstruction”. He said he was mentally stable when all the information was cut off, which points out the present condition of the upsurge of selfish report.Nishi Honganji Volunteer Center presented the role of Japan’s temple in ordinary times, and Kanazawa witnessing natural catastrophe himself, proposed to stay close to those in grief, which he thought was one of the abilities and privileges of Buddhist monk.

■Remarks from Rebecca (Extracted)
・Disaster overtakes all of a sudden, and people are deprived of their abode.
→And I now understand that the religious ones in the disaster afflicted area, are giving a physical and mental abode for everyone.
・When stricken by disaster, the elite panic and not the general public. This time was not an exception either.
・The creations of new order is necessary, and not of going back to the old order.
・Self-government is important and not politics. Disaster Utopia” was the Japanese Title for my literary work, which the original title is “A Paradise Built in Hell”. If I should give a supplementary explanation concerning this literary work, “A Paradise” is to find significance in Hell, and to produce relationship.
・Great Disaster is an opportunity to deeply think about human’s real nature.

*It seemed as if Rebecca could not digest all the information we had provided, since she had come on a tight schedule, and on top of it we provided so much information in such a short time. We need to organize the information, and need to request her opinion again.
The meeting ended at 8 p.m.
The End.

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