Accustomed To Devastation & Rooted By Old Religious Tradition – The Japanese Resilience In Minamisoma

Local people always bow politely to the god of their community shrine.

 

Photographer Uma Kinoshita is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this social documentary photography.  From her project ‘Prayer in Stricken Land‘.  To see Uma’s body of work click on any image.

 

This Shinto priest is playing the sacred drum during an annual event.

 

Shinto Priests are rushing to an early morning ritual on a cold winter day.

 

Minamisouma is a small seaside town located to the north of the exploded nuclear power plant.  The city was literally devastated by triple disasters, namely earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear crisis. People lost families, friends, houses and jobs.

 

Grave stones scattered by the tsunami were collected and put together in one place. There was nothing else as far as I could see.

 

A lot of families were divided. A lot of young people left the hometown for fear of radioactive influences on their kids. Old people remain, for they could not think of starting a new life in a new place.

 

The death rates are rising drastically, especially among the old, due to stressful situations. Many pass away in temporary shelters. The suicide rate was also rising.

 

The local people in this stricken land are very religious and the act of praying is rooted deeply in their life. Each community has its own shrine, which plays a core role to tie people together. This may be a reason for their cooperativeness and a source for their community resilience.

 

Local women are preparing their traditional new-year dishes, two kinds of soup with rice dumplings, for a community gathering.

 

At the end of an annual ritual, people drink sacred sake (Japanese rice wine).

 

In particular in Minami-souma, largely due to the long stable reign throughout the medieval ages, old religious traditions and practices remain intact. So, in the second year after the disasters, remaining people restarted them in hope for restoration. They were trying to confirm their unity to overcome the hardships.

 

People play the traditional lion dance again. After the dance, children are told by their parents to put their heads into the mouth, for this is said to bring them long health and happiness.

 

Energetic young people are happy to participate in the local event again.

 

When a new year begins, people burn their old good luck charms to thank their gods for protecting them throughout the past year.

 

Desperate situations still continue. Praying is not simple. But people are struggling supported by one another, between hope and fear.

 

Images taken between May 2012 and April 2013.

 

See also:

In Silence and In Sorrow

Book By Uma Kinoshita

 

 

 


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