A Mass for victims of the Fukushima disaster was held at Haramachi Church in Minamisoma City on October 9
It has been seven months since Japan was shaken to its core by its worst ever earthquake and tsunami, coupled with the dreadful accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor. So it was perhaps a suitable time for a Mass and Day of Remembrance at Haramachi Church, about 25km north of the reactor, in the Fukushima Prefecture city of Minamisoma. The day was organized by the Sisters of the Congregation de Notre Dame and the pastor and parishioners of Matsukicho Church, both in Fukushima City, in cooperation with priests from the Salesian Society. A group of about 80 people traveled to the event, some from as far away as Tokyo, Chiba, Kanagawa, and Saitama. Before Mass, the assembly went to the city’s Kitaizumi beach, where the tsunami came ashore. There they threw three bouquets of flowers into the sea and offered up prayers. On their way there, they were greeted by the sad sight of the many shattered houses still in ruins, as well as countless cars that were swept away in the surge and now lie abandoned, wherever they came to rest. Then came Mass at the church, where work had been ongoing until just the day before, repairing the cracks in the walls that were caused by the earthquake. The main celebrant at the Mass was Bishop Tetsuo Hiraga of Sendai. Along with two Salesian and two Dominican priests, Auxiliary Bishop Kazuo Koda of Tokyo assisted. The archdiocese of Tokyo has played a major role in bringing support to the stricken area around Fukushima, which is served by Sendai diocese. Present at the Mass were two schoolchildren from Yokohama City. One said of his experience in the tsunami zone, “it feels sad.” He continued, “right now, there’s nothing I can do but pray, but I hope that many people will hear how things are here and come to volunteer. When I graduate to high school, I want to come and volunteer myself.” As the participants were ferried between Fukushima City and Minamisoma, they passed through the village of Iidate, which has been deserted because of high levels of radiation in the town. In any other year, the rice harvest would have just been completed in the fields of Iidate. This year, as the group passed through, all they saw was a wasteland choked with weeds.