The 11th March 2011 was a black day in Japan’s history. Although it is just 8 months ago, it is no longer news. The eyes of the world have moved on to other areas, other disasters.
But, lest we forget, here are the grim statistics from Japan's triple disaster: Dead: 15,829; Missing: 3,692. The families of the missing people have not yet registered them as "dead". If and when they do, this number will be added to the number of dead. (Statistics are from the Tokyo Metropolitan Police Department, 31.10.2011).
The Great East Japan Earthquake Reconstruction Measures Headquarters report that as of 20.10.2011, evacuees number 71,358.
In the middle of this picture you can see a car, which was propelled into a 3rd floor classroomof a primary school, 2 to 3 kilometres inland. The tsunami closed the school completely; all the pupils and teachers were evacuated. Two pupils from the school who died had stayed home that day because of a cold.
This picture shows a cherry tree blossoming in a devastated area beside railway tracks, which have been lifted off the ground and left standing on their side.>
The extraordinary tsunami, more than 10 metres high which rose to over 40 metres, hit an inland area, sweeping a car along with it and depositing it on the roof of an apartment block.
Of the tens of thousands of pines along the north coast of Japan, a single pine tree survived the tsunami attack. It was being regarded as a symbol of HOPE. Unfortunately, even this single tree is dying.
Some of the responses of the Infant Jesus Sisters to the Triple Disaster
Sister Tokiko was among hundreds of volunteers of all ages to go a number of times, under the auspices of Caritas Japan, to the areas in north-eastern Japan devastated by the earthquake and tsunami, to help out in all kinds of ways. The older volunteers worked in a support role, feeding and generally looking after the younger volunteers who were doing the heavy practical work. But older volunteers were also able to help by listening and talking to disaster victims.
Caritas Japan organised a summer festival in a devastated town - to bring some sunshine into the lives of children.
volunteer encourages children playing quoits at the summer festival.
Sr Mutsuko IJS seems happy to bend the rules for a very young participant who needs to stand on the mat to throw his quoits!
The IJS response to the many evacuees now living in Tokyo
To date, Tokyo has welcomed about 8,000 evacuees, mostly young mothers with small children from Fukushima who are afraid of the radioactive contamination. The atomic power station in Fukushima supplies electricity to Tokyo.
From the beginning, hotels and other companies in the hospitality business in Tokyo have provided rooms for evacuees.
The IJ sisters and the Jesuits work together to help the evacuees living in Tokyo.
On the 11th of each month, a Memorial Mass is held - either in the Jesuit Church or the IJS Chapel. On 11th September, 6 months after the disaster, the Memorial Mass was held in the IJS Chapel in Nicolas Barré House.
The IJS provide space in the basement area of Nicolas Barre House and the Jesuits provide space in the Church Hall for various activities to support the evacuees: for example, a Consultation Corner – where evacuees can address legal problems or problems with education; they accommodate sales of second-hand clothes at the lowest possible prices; and they provide opportunities for the children to play together.
6 months’ mind
St Ignatius Church organised the 9.11/3.11 Memorial & Charity day. IJS Nicolas Barre House offered their underground car park for the Charity Day. At the Mass in the IJS Chapel, quite a number of non-Christian evacuees came forward to receive a blessing from the presiding priest.
This is a very useful service for the evacuees.They can share their problems and benefit from each other’s expertise in areas as diverse as education and the law.
Mothers take advantage of the very low prices to buy clothes for themselves and their families.
It is important for the children to experience as normal a childhood as possible. Here, they enjoy the opportunity to play games together.
Fishing for goldfish
Total concentration is required as the children compete for the biggest catch of goldfish!
Just like so many other people in Japan, the IJS communities look for ways to help those most affected by the triple disaster of 11th March 2011. One of the IJS communities in Tokyo welcomes an evacuee who is suffering from an incurable disease and is staying in a nearby hotel. Each week, she joins the sisters at Niban-cho for supper