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Shodo Harada, abbot of Sogenji in Okayama - cuke page 
(written recently after the March 11, 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster)

Letter from Ekei Zenki --- Letter from Domyo

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.
[DC note: 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 the Buddha
s birthday with a flower festival. At that time, a gatha for the day was given :
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 light)
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
Coast, 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 the diver
s 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 Buddhas source, gathered at his knees, gone to the where he is. We must think of them as being welcomed there.
In Sogenji
s 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 seats.
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 food,
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 the buildings.
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
into use.
Temple 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 for us
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.
First we
went to the temple of Furinji, a temple related to Zennoji's wife. The temple of Furinji 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 various conditions.
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
Sendai, and was 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
Canal, this Teizan Garden Park, had been his favorite and he had always been so proud to show it to visitors. 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 Bay 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 Temple. 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
hondo. 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 made.
This temple's young successor-to-be currently is in the training monastery of the
 famous Daitokuji Temple 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
Toeiji San. 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 Sendai and 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 water.
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
Port. 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
hondo's 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
Zuiganji 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 area.
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 group funerals.
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 now.

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 normal.

To cool the 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 landto 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 destroys.
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
this is 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
Shodo Harada

Translated surely I bet from tape by Chisan Priscilla Storandt and edited a bit by Katrinka McKay and DC