日本基督教団 The United Church of Christ in Japan

Painful Memories Shared of the Great East Japan Disaster


Moriwake Kazuki, pastor of Miyako Church, Iwate Prefecture, Ou District recalled personal and church-related struggles since the 2011 disaster during an interview with a Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend) editorial staff person.

    Although it did not collapse, Miyako Church was heavily damaged by the tsunami that occurred  on March 11, 2011. Many members of the church, along with numerous other people connected to the church’s kindergarten, were heavily impacted....

More than two years have passed since the earthquake and tsunami. At the end of the first month after the disaster, I reached the limits of my physical and mental strength and took a two-week rest. Nevertheless, as the hardship of daily life in the aftermath continued, I sought psychological treatment. Restless night after restless night my body ached, and even just standing up and sitting down became difficult. I did not have the strength or the time to write the weekly sermon. After an examination, the doctor informed me that my body had been extremely weakened and that I was just barely able to cope. So, I thought to myself that if I could just manage to continue, things would somehow work themselves out.


From that point on, the mantra that I repeated to myself was “let’s keep a slow pace.” Friends told me that it actually took about half a year for me to “cool down.” I continued to be an outpatient at that hospital for about a year. One of the best things about the treatment was the sleep medication, as that allowed me to get some rest. It was good for my whole body. Receiving treatment was an important turning point in the process. Although I have been able to persevere for the past two years, I cannot say that I have overcome the anxiety about burning out. At the very least, I would like to endeavor to lead the church to its next step on the road to recovery.


Status in the disaster area and the need for assistance


In the immediate aftermath of the disaster, a large number of volunteers and observers came to the area–over 10,000 people in the first year. On average, I had to meet 35 new people every day, which itself created much stress. Of course, I was not able to say, “Please don’t come.” In a rather disorganized manner, groups from various committees of several Kyodan districts and congregations came. It seemed that the process could have been coordinated better so that local pastors would not be burdened with yet another responsibility in this difficult situation.


Although Miyako, Shinsei Kamaishi, and Funato churches along the coast in Iwate Prefecture are neighboring congregations, they are separated by a distance of 40 kilometers. Each had its own unique circumstances and its own unique needs in response to the disaster. Even if base camp is set up outside the disaster zone, transporting volunteers from one place to another requires an hour or more–two hours for a round trip, so this further made relief work more difficult.


Thoughts of affected persons as they go their separate ways 


Although they are all referred to as survivors of the disaster, each survivor has his or her own unique experience and hurts. Some lost loved ones and family; many lost houses; others lost employment. In the first month following the disaster, we were united through our shared anxiety. However, even though we had been harmed by the same blow, we started to realize that each had been impacted differently, and the feeling of differentiation among the survivors began to be felt.



This is why at church we try to emphasize the commonality of our pain—that we all suffer together with all survivors. We listen to each other’s complaints but focus on our oneness as together we move toward healing and restoration, in the same way as the church building itself has been restored from the mud and debris.


Worship right after the disaster was simply reading scripture and singing hymns. As volunteers began attending the services, members of the church shared glimpses of our story through our self-introductions to the volunteers. We found this to be an extremely healing experience for us, and it became like group counseling for us. Telling the whole story of our pain would be too difficult for all of us—especially among ourselves. However, these brief introductions to outsiders, who earnestly listened to us, offered the opportunity for us to open up. Even later people realized what a good experience this had been.


Plan for the future


When the earthquake struck, I was at Hikari Kindergarten, which is somewhat far from the church. It happened that there was only a morning session that day. If it had been a normal day, the children most likely would have been in a bus, driving along the shoreline, when the tsunami hit.


Originally, the kindergarten was located adjacent to the church and was called Miyako Kindergarten. But later it was moved to its present location. If it had still been situated next to the church, it would have been damaged along with the church. Although the city is now allowing rebuilding in the church’s neighborhood, it has also acknowledged that the area is vulnerable to future tsunamis. We would very much like for our kindergarten to be located once again alongside our church building, but we cannot endanger the children by putting them in harm’s way. It is my hope that we can eventually find a safe place to relocate where both the church and the kindergarten can operate for the next century without fear of another tsunami. I believe this is the responsibility of the survivors to future generations.


I overheard an adult in an emergency shelter immediately following the disaster say, “The children seem so full of vigor.” However, that was not the way I saw things. I think it was a kind of mass hysteria. In fact, in talking to therapists and counselors, it is clear that the children were also barely hanging on by a thread. I realized the importance of the children having space to play in the emergency shelter and hope that if needed, any new kindergarten facility we build can be used as an emergency shelter for children in the future. (Tr. AKO)


Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko

Based on an article in Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), August 2013 issue



岩手・宮古教会 森分和基牧師 に聞く (聞き手、信徒の友編集部)

東日本大震災で被災した宮古教会。倒壊こそ免れたが、会堂は津波によって全壊状態に。教会員や、ひかり幼 稚園の関係者にも大きな被害があった。


走り続けた二年間でした。震災一カ月で体力的・精神的に限界がきて二週間ほど休みましたが、その後も厳 しい日が続き、心療内科を受診しました。夜な夜なうなされ、体がパンパンに張っていて、立ったり座ったりすることさえ簡単ではなかったのです。説教を作る余力も時間もありませんでした。医師は「全体的に弱っていますが、ぎりぎり保っていますね」と診断しました。そ れで「この『壊れ具合』でぎりぎりなんだな。これを保てばなんとかなるな」と思ったのです。ずっと下降し続けてきたけれど、この状態 を横ばいで維持できればなんとかなる、と。それからは事あるごとに「スローペースで行こう」と言い続けました。でも友人は「本当に クールダウンできたのはその半年後だった」と言います。通院は実質一年くらい。病院に行ってよかったのは睡眠導入剤をもらえたことで した。「眠れるんだ!」と安心しました。体にもよかったのです。病院に行ったのが一つの転換点でした。とはいえ二年間走り続けてきた ので、いつ燃え尽きてしまうかという不安がないとは言えません。せめて教会の次のステップの目処が立つまではがんばりたいと考えてい ます。



震災当初、沢山のボランティアや訪問者が毎日ありました。最初の一年間で延べ一万人以上。一日平均35人の、見ず知らずの人に会い続けるということは大変なストレスです。それに訪問者が加 わり、とにかく時間がありません。もちろん「来てくれるな」ということではないのです。しかしもう少し現場の牧師が疲弊しないような 方法がなかったのかという思いはあります。教団も組織体ですから、それぞれの委員会、それぞれの教区がバラバラに人を送るということ をせずに調整できなかったのかと思います。

岩手の沿岸の宮古、新生釜石、大船渡の各教会は互いに隣接していますが、距離は四〇キロ近く離れていま す。個々に被災状況が違い、同じように支援をするという状況にはないのです。被災地以外に基地を置いても、そこから人を輸送するだけ でも一時間、一時間半かかり、往復だけでも二時間。こうしたハンディがさらに支援を困難にさせます。



同じ被災者と言っても、家族・親戚が亡くなった人、家を流された人、家は無事だったが職場を失った人、 みな状況が違うのです。被災直後の一カ月くらいは不安だからみんなで肩を寄せ合っていたのが、徐々に一緒にいるのがしんどくなっていきました。それぞれの差が明らかになって、被災しているのに、わかりあえなくなる現実が被災地全体にあります。

教会では、あえて「みんな大変だったよね」という緩やかな共通性を大切にしようよ、と語り合っていま す。全員が被災者です。愚痴は聞きあいますが、教会の中では同じ方向を向きましょう、教会がヘドロをかぶってそこから立ち上がってきたのは同じでしょう、と。

震災直後の礼拝は、聖書を読んで賛美歌を歌うだけの礼拝でした。そのうち全国からボランティアが来てくれているので、と礼拝の中で自己紹介をしました。それが結果的にグループカウンセリング効果になったのです。「震災の体験を話すというとしんどいですが、自己紹介で一言だけだったら口を開けます。被災体験はお互いに特別なことではありませんが、被災者の話を真剣に聞いてくれて「そうなんですか」と言ってくれるボランティアの存在はありがたかったのです。ずいぶん たって教会員も「あの時間がよかったね」と言ってくれました。



もともと教会の場所に宮古幼稚園があり、分園という形でひかり幼稚園ができました。その後宮古幼稚園は閉 園となったわけですが、もし同じ場所でしたら、教会堂と共に園舎も園児も津波に襲われていたと思います。今回その事態は免れましたが、いつまた危険が及ぶかわかりません。この地域は市の線引きでも住み続けることができますが、市は「また津波が来たら浸水します」 と断言しています。私は幼稚園と教会は同じ場所にあるのが望ましいと思い、将来的には両者とも現在地から移転ということを考えていま す。簡単な決断ではありません。でも教会・幼稚園を、100年先まで安心して集える場所にすることは、震災を経験した私達世代の責任でもあると思うのです。いつまた津波が襲うかもしれない場所にではなく、教会員も 園児も安心して一緒に集える場所に再建するべきではないかと思っています。

被災直後の避難所で、大人が、「子どもは元気でいいね」と言っていました。でも私は違うと思うのです。あれ は一種の集団ヒステリーだったと思います。事実、カウンセラーや心理療法士が語るところによると、子どもたちの状況はぎりぎりだったそうです。災害が起こったときに、そうした子どもでも安心して避難生活ができ、遊べる空間がある建物、つまり避難所としても使える園舎を建てることができたらいいなと思っています。 (「信徒の友」8月号を元に川上善子KNL編集委員長によるまとめ)

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