Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.3 Ms. Ikuko TAKANO

A mail service stopped. We knew nothing about what was going on in Sendai Diocese, nor about the Dominican priests. Haramachi Parish had been under the Dominican pastoral care. We asked one of the parishioners of Kita-Sendai Church to drive a priest here to Haramachi. Fr. Latour came and said Mass for us on April 10 and 17 with five or six parishioners participating. We talked about what to do with our parish from now on. It was difficult for parishioners to come and attend Mass under the confinement orders. What’s more, it was dangerous to go inside the damaged church. At one time, we had Mass at one parishioner’s home outside the 30 km-warning zone. Since there were no public liturgies, only those who were interested gathered at the parish on their own responsibility and prayed together on Sundays. However, I and other parishioners were at a loss what to do next, being kept in the dark about the future of Haramachi Church. The roof was broken and leaking. We could not afford to repair it. We decided to go to Kita-Sendai for Easter Vigil. It took us an hour and a half. The scenes we saw along Route 6 were horrible; we were dumbfounded. There were more than 100 boats and ships lying sideways that had been swept by Tsunami. We had no words to describe how extensive and severe the damage was along the Pacific coast in Miyagi prefecture. The whole area was devastated. There were piles and piles of the debris collected to search for the remains of the victims. The reconstruction of Minamisoma city in Fukushima prefecture was far behind schedule. The radiation leak from the nuclear power plant was causing all the work to fall behind.

On April 27, the Tohoku Shinkansen (the bullet train) service had restarted. The Provincial of the Dominican Order came and we had a talk with four of the parish committee members about the future of Haramachi Church. “We cannot close the church. If it is closed, we do not know where to go,” we appealed.

The government had re-designated the area to stay indoors to the evacuation-preparation area on April 22, and we were able to go outside. However, we could proceed with repair with no carpenters nor tilers in the city. They all had evacuated. Later, we could repair with the emergency aid, domestic and international, which was given to Sendai Diocese. Catholic Haramachi Church was the first in the Diocese to be repaired in this difficult situation. Bishop Hiraga issued a statement, on June 1, to send a Japanese resident priest to churches in the disaster area, and Fr. Umezu came to Haramachi Church. This eased us. We were happy to have someone to talk things over with.

On Saturday, June 11, Bishop Koda of Tokyo Archdiocese and four staff members of Catholic Tokyo Volunteer Center (CTVC) visited us. They asked, “What do you need?” Since we had not come up with an idea to get any support, we answered, “We are very few now. If possible, we would like to have somebody attend Mass together with us.”