Japanese Buddhist priest discusses spiritual toll of nuclear crisis

By Reuters Staff
June 9, 2011

(Sokyu Genyu during an interview with Reuters in Tokyo June 4, 2011/Chisa Fujioka)

In Japan, where nature is believed to cleanse spirits, how do people cope when treasured mountains and oceans are tainted by leaks of radiation from a nuclear power plant?

Sokyu Genyu, a Buddhist priest from a temple just 45 km (28 miles) west of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant in northeast Japan, is drawing attention to the less visible scars from the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986. As a member of a government panel to come up with a blueprint for rebuilding after the deadly earthquake and tsunami on March 11, Genyu is adding the people’s voice — and a different view — to debate on dealing with the loss of homes, jobs and communities.

“We need to treat the situation in areas affected by radiation separately,” said Genyu, head priest of the Fukujuji Temple and also an award-winning author, told Reuters. “It’s not just about getting compensation.”

His small town of Miharu has welcomed thousands of residents who have evacuated from around the nuclear plant, still leaking radiation after being struck by the tsunami.

Damage to the environment has been especially hard on local communities, where farmers and fishermen have traditionally associated nature with god, building shrines to pray for rich harvests and to ward off accidents at sea, Genyu said. “God is the symbol of nature, what people worship as a natural force that can be violent and is uncontrollable,” he said.

“Mountains and oceans have purified us but now those mountains and oceans are contaminated,” he said. “We could see the very foundation for our religious beliefs break down, because it is no longer able to purify us.”

Read the full story by Chisa Fujioka here.

.

Follow FaithWorld on Twitter at RTRFaithWorld

rss buttonSubscribe to all posts via RSS

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/