People's ashes from tsunami-destroyed temples remain unburied
Nearly a year and a half after the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, many victims' ashes remain kept in substitute temples after their local temples were destroyed by the disasters.
A total of 82 temples across six prefectures were destroyed by the tsunami or other factors, and for many reconstruction remains elusive due to a lack of funds.
In Kosenji, a temple in Taihaku Ward, Sendai, the ashes of around 100 people are being kept in boxes. All are those of disaster victims who were patrons of the temple Choonji, which was in Higashimatsushima and destroyed by the tsunami.
Choonji's head priest, Seido Akiyama, also died in the tsunami, and his younger brother Kojun, 45, who is assistant head priest at Kosenji, took on the victims' remains. Relatives of the victims travel around two and a half hours by car from Higashimatsushima for mourning.
Kojun would like to rebuild Choonji and is considering moving its location to high ground, but he cannot expect financial help from the national or municipal governments for building a religious facility, so he has to come up with the funds himself.
"Around 60 percent of the temple patrons are in temporary housing, so it is hard to ask them for help in reconstruction," says Kojun.
According to the Japan Buddhist Federation, 48 of the 82 destroyed temples are located in Miyagi Prefecture, which was badly hit by the tsunami. One of them was Tozenji in Natori. The ashes of around 200 disaster victims that would have been buried there are being kept at a temple in Sendai instead. The head priest of Tozenji said, "The city's area reconstruction plan has still not been put into concrete terms, and we do not yet have an estimate for the cost to rebuild the temple."
However, those at Jodoji, another temple in Sendai, have already set about on reconstruction. This past spring, using around 7 million yen in support, they set up a temporary main building. The city has set the coastal area including that around the temple as subject to relocation elsewhere, however, and many of the temple's around 400 patrons want to move.
Still, head priest Shusen Nakazawa, 63, says, "Even if they move, I am sure the temple patrons will continue to think of this area as their home. I want to put the nearly 100 people's remains being kept elsewhere in graves at the reconstructed temple."
September 09, 2012(Mainichi Japan)