To all of the One
Drop Zendos around the world, to the many people concerned, and to
those with whom we have a karmic affiliation, I am writing to you about
the recent great earthquake and tsunami tragedy. From their most profound
mind, everyone has worried about us and supported the disaster relief. I
deeply thank you from the bottom of my heart.
On the eleventh of March at 2:46 in the afternoon, a huge earthquake
occurred in Japan at a magnitude of 9.3. As a result, there are presently
12,787 people known to be dead and 14,991 still missing, making
approximately 28,000 who may have died. In addition, 95,232 people are
living as evacuees.
The confirmed death toll
is 15,884 as
of February 10, 2014. From here on 16,000 is substituted for 28,000]
Almost one month has passed since then. On the 8th of April we celebrated
birthday with a flower festival. At that time, a gatha for the day was
The gigantic powerful tsunami overturns the heavens and the earth
16000 enter the Buddha's realm
Gathered on Buddha's Birthday here and now, we honor his birth,
While the brilliant colored cherry blossoms (the souls of the 16,000)
blow petals and perfume the pond (receiving the Buddha’s
The tsunami was over 40 meters high. At 2: 46 pm
the earthquake shook, and about thirty minutes later, from Ibaragi
prefecture all the way down the whole coast - Iwate, Ibaragi,
Fukushima, Miyagi, Chiba - all of the
prefectures bordering on that part of the Pacific coast were poured down
upon by the tsunami.
It was a huge earthquake, and countless buildings were destroyed
immediately. And then those weakened by the quake were hit by the huge
tsunami, pushing them over with its power.
The area affected is called the Sanriku
and has long been a place where this kind of disaster happens, again and
again. In each disaster, without exception, many have died and it is known
that this is the natural way of life there.
16,000 people. Perhaps many died in the instant of the earthquake, but
most were killed by the towering wave that followed. Even now there are
still so many missing, pulled into the ocean by the undertow, all tangled
up with the garbage and debris. Because even the ocean divers cannot get
to the bottom, they have not been able to find the missing bodies. Because
lives are at risk diving in this area, it will probably take many years
for bodies to be uncovered,
Today on the Buddha’s
birthday we celebrate with a flower festival. But for the 16,000 who died,
their souls have returned to the Buddha’s
source, gathered at his knees, gone to the where he is. We must think of
them as being welcomed there.
garden right now, the weeping cherry tree is bright and in full bloom. We
can see the 16,000 in each one of the flowers, coming into being in each
of the petals, dancing on the wind and drifting down onto the lake with
their bright colors and then fading away.
On the 11th day of March we felt nothing at all in Okayama. We only had
the news about the tsunami and the earthquake. We tried and tried to call
the temple and the people we know there, but there was no way to contact
them. Eerily, this was the same experience we had during the 1995
earthquake in Kobe,
although then we could already feel the hugeness of what happened. We
tried everything, and finally cell phones and email were possible.
Although we could not communicate with them directly, we were able to
leave messages. As time passed we heard more and more about the situation
from the people themselves, but no one, including those on site knew what
was actually happening.
The next day, Saturday the 12th of March, we contacted many companies and
businesses in Okayama. Even though it was the first day of Osesshin, the
whole sangha went to the city to do takuhatsu, gathering funds for
earthquake relief. It was only the first day after the earthquake, and so
no one - all of the newspapers, all of the systems and relief
organizations - had their windows open for receiving donations yet. We
took the money we raised immediately to the Red Cross which was ready to
receive donations. Soon, the news of the horrendous depth of the disaster
started to become known.
On the television, we saw cities burning and people reaching for heavenly
help. On the Internet, the reality of the tsunami became clear as more and
more photographs were posted. All of this could be found on the screen and
in the newspapers.
In Sendai there is a priest and a temple with which we have strong karmic
affiliation. He has always sent samugi (monk’s work clothing), sent rice,
sent straw sandals for takuhatsu for the people training at Sogenji. Many,
many times he has sent these things for the people at Sogenji.
In some way, in any way possible, I wanted to go there and support him.
The Shinkansen (high speed train) was not yet running up there, the local
trains were irregular and frequently nonexistent, and all the roads had
been destroyed and were still impassable. Anywhere near the site of the
disaster it was impossible to enter, except for the National Guard and
other emergency groups in their special vehicles. Regular vehicles could
not get there.
On the 27th day of March, the roads finally were opened and it was by
chance that it was the end of the month so this was the opportunity I had.
Using every possible means we were able to go to Sendai and to the
Fukushima area. Luckily, there was an all night highway bus going all the
way there, after changing from a train to Kyoto, and we were able to get
There was already radiation leaking from the damaged power plants, it was
known to be a very risky situation. Considering the one chance out of a
thousand in which something could go wrong, it was decided to not take
younger people training at Sogenji there, so Ekei Zenji and Domyo Koji
were taken to represent the sangha. We took all kinds of food and dishes
to eat at meals and other needed things. They had told us on the phone
that they could only make cooked rice for us and that they had nothing to
eat with it. "We have no supplies or fuel, and so please bring your own
they told us. We
want to go visiting here and there, so for the children and the various
evacuees, as much as possible, please bring sweets and simple foods that
they can eat without preparation."
People at Sogenji worked as hard as they could baking bread, getting as
many loaves of bread made as possible before our departure. It was very
insufficient, only a little something in a time of big need as our time
had been limited. People gathered candy to bring as well. Since there is
very little water available and they cannot brush their teeth, they also
asked for a gum that cleans your teeth when you chew it. We also packed
many many many hot packs, since it was still very cold. As we didn't know
what we would encounter, we went in boots, warm clothes, and samugi.
In the morning we arrived in Sendai, a large city in the area of Tohoku.
Many buildings that were still standing erect and appeared to have no
damage. There was a strange feeling. After our bus came into Sendai
station, the priest who was supposed to pick us up arrived and we put our
packages into his car. As we drove, the priest, told us that although the
buildings look so normal, inside all the offices were completely turned
upside down and were a mess. Not one single place can still be used inside
As we drove out of the center of town, there were cars in huge traffic
jams with endless lines. The priest told us that they were lines of people
waiting to buy gas, lines of one or two kilometers length. There was no
gasoline and everyone was waiting for the tank lorry to come but the tank
lorry did not have enough gas to bring gas to every gas station and so it
was putting a little at each place. Only a few cars could be given gas and
in a very short while it was gone.
In this situation people were so desperate to get gas they would leave the
car there and walk home and come back the next day. Everywhere, at every
gas station, there was a huge line waiting. Finally, we began seeing rows
of destroyed homes. Everywhere that the Shinkansen tracks usually passed
through was full of bent and broken poles, and it was clear that it was
still very very far from being able to be put back
was about twenty minutes from the station. Zennoji San's temple also had
been seriously damaged. There were 1600 graves in the cemetery and every
last gravestone had toppled over. It was a horrible scene. The hondo was
just barely being covered by its roof.
A small earthquake would occur
every thirty minutes or so. He said that they could not use the hondo yet.
In the great stone lanterns there were big cracks. All of the rocks were
moved around, having been loosened by the disasters.
Even so, the buildings were somehow still standing and had been protected
and that was such a great good fortune, he said. They already had their
life lines of electricity and water reconnected a few days before but they
were still without gas. They apologized for not being able to make a bath
His wife came out and greeted us saying she had prepared some rice balls.
Eating them with instant miso soup, we had breakfast. That day when we
arrived, we were first to go and look around and take
to people the things we had brought. The next day from the morning on we
worked on cleaning up Zennoji temple and house.
According to plan we went around in Zennoji's car with his son driving. We
went around the city, to near the area of the dunes and the coast.
Zennoji's temple is near the mountains so it has a little less damage
because of its elevated location. Right in front of us the coastal area
was so extreme, you could see where the tsunami had washed away
everything: cars were jammed together at our feet, houses were destroyed
and upside down, everything in the houses had been washed away by the
water, and so inconceivably, a car was just hanging from a telephone line!
How could this have happened?
It was just so unfathomable, the
enormous power of the way of Nature left
us in greatest awe.
The cars that were all pushed together were bumped and ruined and full of
cracks and scratches, they were upside down, and sideways and there was
not a single car that was in its usual condition. All of those cars had
also crashed into houses and crushed the houses in their collisions. It
was truly full of violently ruined houses, broken down and fallen apart in
a hideous way, unimaginable...the roofs of these houses fallen down in
front of our eyes.
went to the temple of
a temple related to Zennoji's wife. The
was in the very middle of the worst hit part of the earthquake and
tsunami, but the temple itself is just a bit above the worst hit area.
Although it is in that very area it mysteriously did not suffer any damage
whatsoever. The water of the tsunami washed up right to the main gate of
the temple. but because of its being built on slightly higher ground it
was not affected by the wave. All of the houses up to main gate were
completely and totally destroyed.
The temple priest had welcomed 200 people to live there and every day was
making their food. At a time like this the extensive size of a temple
grounds was well put to use, the temple was able to welcome everyone in
the area, to serve them
and to protect them within the temple
grounds. It had become a very important and precious place. In this area
and in others we continued to drive around in the car seeing all the
We had seen many photos of the earthquake's damage but it was no longer
like in a photo where it is just like scenery. When you are seeing the
actuality in front of your very eyes, it is possible to feel the
incomprehensible power of the water that came over everything, and to
taste the terror that the rapidly approaching huge wave brought. Here there
had been gas tanks which had
caught fire and exploded one after the next. It was said that the gas had
burned there for three days and three nights continually. There were cars
wrapped around poles, convenience stores completely destroyed, and many
hospitals and clinics, all
wrecked beyond use.
There had been a huge and very old moat here, a beautiful moat, built by
the Feudal Lord Date Masamune, circling all around this city of Sendai and
used as a canal as well, a canal that was used for transporting goods in
the olden days. This beautiful canal had been the pride of the people of
now filled to the top with all kinds of broken debris and heaps of rubble.
It was impossible to tell if it was a river or a garbage dump.
Zennoji San said, with a sigh, that for him this Teizan
this Teizan Garden
Park, had been his favorite and he had always been so proud to show it to
Now it made him so sad.
Going past Teizan Park,
built to commemorate the feudal lord Masamune Date, we came
out on the other side of the hills at a place called Shirahama at the
mouth of the Matsushima Bay.
There are seven small islands there. Because this Matsushima
area is a place famous for its great beauty, each and every small island
has a temple, seven of them all
together, and one of them was the temple of a friend of Zennoji, Doshoji
We went there to visit next. This is the
furthest small island and the
water that had swept over it had destroyed its entire small town of 3000
people, all in the one instant that the wave had poured over them.
The head priest of that temple ran a kindergarten at
the temple. Taking the children of the kindergarten they had run up to the
top of the mountain and been saved. Everything else just up to the top of
that mountain had been swallowed up and covered in the tsunami's waters,
buried. No matter how hard he had looked
for a path down from the top he had not been able to find one. Everything
had been destroyed, and strewn everywhere. They had all eventually been
rescued from the top of the mountain by a helicopter of the National
Guard. One after the
next they had been lifted up and rescued. This was played again and again
on televisions all over Japan.
At this same temple they had just finished rebuilding their hondo into a
new and different
This huge work had all just recently
been completed and now having entered this new year, they were planning
the opening ceremony for this new hondo on the 16th of
March. They had just been
making preparations for the celebration. This brand new hondo, which had
never been used once, was now completely buried in mud. It was truly a
miserable scene of sadness after all of the huge efforts that had been
This temple's young successor-to-be currently is in the training monastery
of the famous
in Kyoto. He has been given time
to come back to his parents’ temple. He was there digging
the mud out from under the porches around the new hondo. We watched as he
was ripping off the new floors to get in beneath the building. We made an
offering there to the temple's founder and departed. The water had not
receded from that area yet, the level had gone up 75 centimeters. Even
after several weeks the salt water remained,
just as it had risen there.
In front of our faces we could see that the whole
town that was left there was
nothing but a field of mud.
Passing hill after hill of debris we
continued past the seven islands, went over the mountain, and came out at
Shiogama, the next town.
Here in Shiogama there were homes that no one had yet entered into so they
had not been searched yet for missing people. The National Guard had not
reached there yet. This town of
Shiogama, when looked down upon
from the hill above, looked perfectly regular as if there had been no
damage or disaster there. But when we entered the town we could see what a
huge amount of
damage had actually been done.
Here there had not been a huge powerful tidal wave thrust but little by
little the whole shopping street had filled
up with water and been ruined. All of the items for sale were unusable
garbage now. The houses had all
been soaked through with salt water and would have to be completely
rebuilt. They were useless.
On a slightly raised area there stood the temple of
We called on them next. There had been a lot of damage at their temple
because of the earthquake. In front of our eyes the line between
the neighboring town's houses was
clear, the JR railroad had
passed through there but the whole area
had been destroyed. The Seashore Line had run there and the hotels along
the seacoast had been serviced from there, with Zuiganji as such a famous
landmark, it had been a huge tourist area. There were many hotels for the
visitors, and since there was a large dam like structure for protection,
it appeared at first glance that there had been little damage.
However, now there was no one coming to call at all. Instead, the hot
springs hotels had opened their baths to all of the evacuees and other
victims of the disaster. All of the people in the area were very thankful
and so glad to have a place to bathe. Passing by the typical shopping
street area we approached Matsushima's Zuiganji temple. The Zuiganji Roshi
was not there, but we had brought Ekei Zenji on this trip especially
because he had a karmic affiliation with the Zuiganji temple.
Zuiganji's former Roshi, Master
Hirano Sojo, was a good friend of Ekei's earlier teacher in Mexico, Eijo
Takata, and Ekei had come to Sogenji in
the first place because of that karmic affiliation. For this reason he
wanted to go to the grave of Master Sojo
Hirano to pray and since the hondo was currently under construction we
chanted sutras in the Shoiin instead. They gave us hot udon noodles.
Zennoji San, who works at Zuiganji as one of the top administrators,
so it is like his own place, was
very kind and hospitable to us. Here at Zuiganji, ever since the
earthquake happened, 385 people were being given a place to live. There
were 16 monks who cooked and took care of them.
At Zuiganji, the area of Matsushima was a most beautiful place, furthest
in the harbor, with many small islands which were visible from there .
These islands had each absorbed the power of the tidal wave and had
therefore saved Zuiganji from the strongest thrust. There had been no
touch of a wave there, only a slight damage to some buildings. In spite of
it having been facing the ocean it had not been touched by a drop of
Of course the area in front of the main gate had been sunk into deep water
and there was much damage there. Nevertheless the people all called this
the oasis of the area.
We then went to the place where the damage was greatest of all, the Nobiru
area on the other side of Ichigahama. Ichigahama was also terribly damaged
and on its other side is Nobiru at the entrance of Matsushima
Going there we were simply astonished at the intense severity of the
damage. There were no railroad tracks left anywhere. The train had
probably stopped here, we could not be certain how that was, as every last
thing was pushed completely up against the mountain there, all fallen over
in every direction. The station master's building was pushed against what
must have been the platform and on top of the roof there was a car. This
was done by the vigorous pushing power of the tsunami. The very beautiful
ancient pine tree boulevard, with its hundreds of huge pine trees all
uprooted by the tsunami, by its sheer pressure and were
laid root side up, side by side in the same direction. It was as if they
had each been thrown down and been placed upside down in rows. Seeing this
we could feel the awesome and terrifying huge power of Great Nature.
The evacuation place where many people had run to after the earthquake,
the school's gymnasium, had been completely pushed along and had flowed
away in the tidal waves' wake. There was a Soto sect temple there that is
now nothing but rubble. There are the ruins but the temple
roof is two hundred meters away in a river, where it still remains. All of
the gravestones of the temple's graveyard are buried in rubble and debris.
If you compare this to the lack of damage to the temple of
of Matsushima, here there was a great swirling whirlpooling affect that
sandwiched things into its path and damaged them completely. So many
people and things simply disappeared here and are gone. The degree of
damage and injury is so great it still has not even been touched by
anyone. The various support groups and crews will now begin to enter this
Shorinji is a temple nearby here, but the abbot was not there. This is
where the National Guard is staying while it works in this area. This is
the last temple where we visited. Since there are still bodies floating,
priests came even from as far as
Nanzenji Temple in Kyoto and were
helping with the many bodies that were in the water and being brought
ashore. Since the crematories had been damaged, there was nowhere to
cremate the bodies, and so they had to make the open land into graves by
digging into the vacant lots and burying many bodies there. To perform the
ceremonies for these burials the priests were going here and there to do
We chanted and placed our offerings at the place of the founder at this
temple where there were still one hundred evacuees eating, living, and
sleeping and we gave them all of our bread and other supplies that we had
brought along. There had been three hundred evacuees but as public support
came in, it became possible to move them.
So many bodies were floating in the ocean still and they were lifting them
out and doing whatever they could, but even if they wanted to cremate
them, it was not possible without any fuel for the fire or any electricity
available. It is truly a very pitiful end of a life. At present more than
12,000 people have been verified as dead, and there are many thousands
still not accounted for. For these people every possible effort is being
made. There are so many cars, houses and businesses destroyed. Still there
is no lumber available for rebuilding. In Ibaraki prefecture alone 14,600
cars were lost. In large and medium ships, 2,000 of them are missing and
the smaller boats missing are countless.
Sendai airport was also poured down upon by the tsunami and there were 50
airplanes lost. The National Guard Base was also hit by the tsunami and
everything there is gone. To just look around and see it like this makes
one so miserable from the most profound place within. Feeling exhausted, I
returned to Zennoji. That night another earthquake of magnitude 6.5 came,
every day again and again many times a day the earthquakes continuously
came and so people then became numb to them. This endless lack of feeling
was every person's state of mind at this time.
We came to understand how any resolution of this will be very far from
Not only are there
these myriad challenges, but that which is most feared by people all over
the planet, in the neighboring prefecture of Fukushima, is the damage done
to the nuclear power plant there.
In the whole area around it, the radiation has been spreading - in the
air, in the things growing there, the vegetables raised there. All of the
things nearby are being found to have high levels of radiation. In this
area of Fukushima broccoli, spinach, and other vegetables are grown and
usually sent to Tokyo. These vegetables are the livelihood of the people
of this area and now they are not to be eaten.
Now is the usual time for planting the next rice crop. It is being
forbidden by the government to do so in this area. In the tap water,
pollution is all mixed in, so just any water cannot be drunk carelessly.
Of course even if the water which is below the safe radiation standard is
drunk, the results will not happen all at once, but, no one really knows
what kind of bad effects will be lingering. As long as there is a standard
measure above which one should not partake of these foods and water, there
will most likely be impurities that will remain in our body, and for this
reason the tap water, harvested vegetables, seaweed, all of these need to
be checked thoroughly. When we see this we have to ask, why was there a
nuclear reactor built here? It is impossible not to wonder about this.
This is how it makes you feel. If you look closely at the history of this
area of the Sanriku Coast
there have always been earthquakes, there are records from many eras. In
the Meiji era, in 1896, there was the Great Sanriku Earthquake on June
15th and of course before then there were earthquakes. Because of the
Chile Great Earthquake a tidal wave of 5. 5 meters struck here as well. At
that time there was also a great amount of damage.
And not only in the Meiji but in the Showa era as well, in 1933, on the
3rd of March, there was the Great Sanriku Earthquake. In Iwate, Miyagi,
and Fukushima prefectures there were great amounts of damage. At that time
a tidal wave of more than 30 meters also came, though in this time's
earthquake there were many more people that died. Even after so much
experience with this up until now, it has to be said that the experience
of the past has not been remembered.
There was a famous earthquake in Tokyo, the Great Earthquake of Kanto.
This great earthquake was really beyond anything usual in its casualties.
It happened in 1923 on September first and 15,000 died in Tokyo and 33,000
in the neighboring prefecture. This was a huge and isolated case but in
this area there have already been so many big earthquakes. In the year 869
on the ninth of July there was also recorded a huge earthquake but there
were not so many people then so the casualties were much fewer. 16,000
lives were taken in this recent earthquake. In this area there are always
tsunami shelters, an ongoing awareness of this possibility is constant.
People are always marking poles with a line to where the last tidal wave
had risen. With so many stories of past tidal waves and since there was
thirty minutes from earthquake to tidal wave, why didn’t more people
escape from it?
During that time between the earthquake and the tidal wave, a 24 year old
woman announcer said
on air over and over again, "A tsunami is coming, run to somewhere higher,
a tsunami is coming, run to somewhere higher." She said it continuously
for everyone to hear. She was then also swallowed by the tsunami. Those
who heard this and ran to a higher ground were huge in number. They knew just
where to go and
what to do, but the person who gave the announcement died in the tsunami
for her efforts to save others. The police
and fire people were all helped
thanks to her doing that, but many
others who simply wanted to guard their food, possessions,
and places did not heed her
warning and their lives were lost. Isn't there some point about indulgence
there that needs looking at carefully? This and the nuclear power plant
being built in such a location, a plant
which is still pouring radiation
into the Pacific Ocean.
There are so many points that
must be seriously returned to and
reviewed carefully here.
There are 19 of these nuclear power plants in Japan all together. There
are many more planned to be built on already acquired land but it is
because of this accident that people
in the country don’t want these plants now,
and this nuclear power plant in
Fukushima will no longer continue to function.
Today all over the whole world, the biggest problem is this: the
earthquake and tsunami's challenges will be taken care of, but the results
of this nuclear power plant will not go away. This is why it is such a
greatly terrifying matter for many, because it is unknown. Of course those
at the site are working as hard as they can and doing everything possible,
and the Japanese Navy and specialists on nuclear power plants are
coming in and some even from France are coming and trying to help and
support them, desperately and steadily.
Japan is a long narrow country so from Fukushima to Okayama and Western
Japan it appears to be a far distance but the winds do change and China
and Korea and Russia all have great doubts, fears and concerns.
The high level of radiation that polluted water in the ocean cannot be
prevented. It is not only here near Japan but going on the waves to
pollute who knows where and who knows how much?
Today nuclear power plants are a major source of energy and
most countries want to have them but most of us have felt that these
should not exists on the surface of this earth.
In this time
of disaster one positive
aspect was that this disaster, while being truly
a ferociously terrible thing, caused people from all over the world to
extend their hands in kindness and made a great, united, hopeful effort.
There is much data about what they have offered and of their support with
words from more than one hundred countries. I have read these messages
slowly and carefully. They were from America, South America, Africa,
Europe -all of its many countries,
India, all the various countries of Asia.
People from all over the world were worried and were concerned and felt so
deeply, wanting to know how they could somehow help those who suffered in
the earthquake and tsunami. This is a very important thing. I felt it
directly and experienced it deeply.
If you look at Japanese economics from the
Kobe earthquake to this point now, there
is a big big difference. But in ten years I think it will be back to
high heat temperature of the nuclear power plant with its reactors
numbered 1,2,3, and 4 is nearly
impossible. They may never be used again. When and if these reactors are
cooled, and it could take fifty years, they will have polluted things for
that area. The land and so many things in those
areas cannot be used anymore. These must now become forbidden lands to
even enter. This is saying clearly that while nuclear power has a
potential for providing energy for human kind, its power is also a
terrifying evil that
Scientists have called it a circumstance beyond anything that could have
been imagined or estimated. They say it is a kind of an unlucky situation
and these circumstances will never happen again. Now many voices against
nuclear power plants have risen. For Japan
a great responsibility that has to be
understood. It has happened now and it must not ever happen again.
Along with many countries support and donations given, those who suffered
together and helped together, all of this gathered together, I want to use
this opportunity to say thank you.
The people who train here at Sogenji, every single one of them is working
totally, intensely, and wholeheartedly. To cultivate them is my life work
for the rest of this life left to me so that even one of them will
be able to open the truly seeing eye. This is my deep vow.
We cannot be deceived. We cannot be deceived by what we see and the
circumstances in which we find ourselves. In each and every era we have to
see from our truly opened eye that is seeing the truth, and not deceive
ourselves. This is Zen and this is the harvest of our training and what
our life is.
Thank you very much
Translated surely I bet from tape by
Chisan Priscilla Storandt and edited a bit by Katrinka McKay and DC