iOS app Android app More

Japan Earthquake And Tsunami Anniversary: Shinto Priests Prepare To Hold Commemoration Ceremonies On March 11

Japan Earthquake And Tsunami

First Posted: 03/ 5/2012 8:36 am Updated: 03/ 5/2012 8:36 am

By Debra Rubin
Religion News Service

WASHINGTON (RNS/ENInews) Shinto priests throughout Japan are preparing to hold commemoration ceremonies on March 11 to mark the one-year anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that killed an estimated 20,000 people.

The Association of Shinto Shrines has issued a suggested prayer to be read during the ceremonies. That prayer, according to the Rev. Masafumi Nakanishi, a Shinto priest, describes the calamity, pleads that there be no more disasters and asks that people live peacefully.

Nakanishi performed just such a ceremony on Wednesday (Feb. 29) at Georgetown University's Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs during a program on the "Shinto response" to the disaster.

Dressed in a traditional robe with tall black hat, Nakanishi bowed, clapped and chanted before an altar, performing a four-part brief ceremony that included a purification ritual as well as an offering of sacred foods: fruits and vegetables, salt and water, sake (rice wine) and seaweed.

Of the approximately 80,000 to 100,000 shrines in Japan, about 4,500 were damaged; 309 were partially or totally destroyed; and 243 may not be used because of nuclear fallout from the Daiichi nuclear plant, Nakanishi said.

Nakanishi said many of the shrines that were spared last year were built just beyond the tsunami's reach, crediting Shinto ancestors with their safe placement.

Many of the surviving shrines were used for disaster relief efforts, with some serving as shelters following the earthquake and tsunami and others serving as collection sites for donations to assist the victims.

"I have always found the Japanese people to be very quick to help others," Georgetown professor Kevin M. Doak said. "The Japanese have a kind of innate, intuitive empathy" that he believes "may be due to Shinto as much as to anything else."

Below, some powerful photographs that show the locations before and after the tsunami hit:

Loading Slideshow...
  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a catamaran sightseeing boat washed by the tsunami onto a two-story tourist home in Otsuchi, Iwate prefecture on April 16, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 16, 2012 (bottom). March 11, 2012 will mark the first anniversary of the massive tsunami that pummelled Japan, claiming more than 19,000 lives. Credit: Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combo shows an image (top) taken by a Miyako City official on March 11, 2011 of the tsunami breeching an embankment and flowing into the city of Miyako in Iwate prefecture and the same area (bottom image) on Jan. 16, 2012 nearly one year after the March 11 tsunami devastated the area. Credit: Jiji Press / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows people evacuating with small boats down a road flooded by the tsunami in the city of Ishinomaki in Miyagi prefecture on March 12, 2011 (top) and the same area on January 13, 2012 (bottom). Jiji Press / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a vehicle sitting on a three-story building in a tsunami hit area of the town of Minamisanriku in Miyagi prefecture on March 13, 2011 (L) and the same area on Jan. 14, 2012 (R). Credit: Jiji Press / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows people walking on a bridge upon which a boat lies washed up by the tsunami in Hishonomaki, Miyagi prefecture on March 15, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 13, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Philippe Lopez / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a private plane, cars and debris outside Sendai Airport in Natori, Miyagi prefecture on March 13, 2011 (top) two days after a tsunami hit the region on March 11, 2011 and the same area on Jan. 12, 2012 (bottom). March 11, 2012 will mark the first anniversary of the massive tsunami that pummeled Japan, claiming more than 19,000 lives. Credit: Mike Clarke / Toro Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows damage caused by the March 11, 2011 tsunami seen from a hill overlooking the city of Kesennuma on March 16, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 14, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Phillippe Lopez / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows local residents looking at a tsunami hit area of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture on March 12, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 11, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Kazuhiro Nogi / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a rescue worker walking through rubble in the tsunami hit area of Minamisanriku, Miyagi prefecture on March 18, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 14, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Mike Clarke / Toru Ymanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a tsunami hit area of Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture on March 22, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 15, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Nicolas Asfouri / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a fishing boat lying amongst the tsunami rubble in Otsuchi, Iwate prefecture on March 31, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 16, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Toshifumi Kitamura / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows the view of a tsunami hit area of Ofunato, Iwate prefecture on March 14, 2011 (top) and as the scene appears on Jan. 15, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Toshifumi Kitamura / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows cars piled up in front of the airport control tower in Sendai on March 14, 2011 (L) after a tsunami hit the region on March 11, 2011 and the same area on Jan. 12, 2012 (R). Credit: Phillippe Lopez / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows the view of a tsunami hit area of Ofunato, Iwate prefecture on March 14, 2011 (L) and on Jan. 15, 2012 (R). Credit: Toshifumi Kitamura / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a tsunami hit area of Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture on March 22, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 15, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Nicolas Asfouri / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows residents walking on roads covered with mud and debris in a tsunami hit area of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, on March 14, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 13, 2012 (bottom). Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a cherry blossom tree amongst tsunami devastation in the city of Kamaishi, Iwate prefecture on April 20, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 16, 2012 (bottom). Credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba / Toru Yamanaka, AFP / Getty Images

  • Japan Tsunami One Year Later

    This combination of pictures shows a tsunami hit area of Rikuzentakata, Iwate prefecture on March 22, 2011 (top) and the same area on Jan. 15, 2012 (bottom). March 11, 2012 will mark the first anniversary of the massive tsunami that pummelled Japan, claiming more than 19,000 lives. Credit: Nicolas Asfouri / Toru Yamanaka, Getty Images

FOLLOW HUFFPOST RELIGION

Filed by Jahnabi Barooah  |