| Yoichi Hayashi |
AIZUWAKAMATSU, Japan (The Yomiuri Shimbun) – Deceased people’s portraits and urns neatly line steel shelves set against a wall of the main hall at Hofukuji temple in Aizuwakamatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.
Three years and nine months have passed since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
Henjoji temple in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, a town from which all the residents have evacuated since the crisis at the Fukushima number one nuclear power plant, has rented space at Hofukuji temple.
Henjoji priest Takanobu Hangai, 63, has been keeping the remains of 50 people at Hofukuji as it is difficult to entomb them at his own temple due to the evacuation order and other reasons.
In November, Hidehiko Shiga, 71, who evacuated from Okuma to Koriyama in the same prefecture, held a memorial service for the first anniversary of the death of his mother, Ichi, who died last year at the age of 96.
The Shigas met their relatives for the first time in years at the temple, and talked about what has been going on in their lives recently.
However, they could not decide how to keep Ichi’s remains from that time forward.
For people who lost their hometowns through the crisis at the Fukushima number one nuclear power plant, how to maintain their ancestors’ tombs in those hometowns and hold memorial services are serious problems.
It is believed that there are many people who feel a sense of remorse toward their ancestors, as they cannot visit their tombs freely to pay respects or to maintain the memorials.
Under these circumstances, Hangai has decided to create a new cemetery in Hirono, Okuma’s neighbouring town to the south.
“Tombs are a moral support for residents. I hope one of their worries may be removed (by making a new cemetery),” Hangai said.
He aims to complete the cemetery by the end of the next fiscal year.
Yoshihiro Saito, 49, who evacuated to Kamisu, Ibaraki Prefecture, from Okuma, entombed his grandfather’s remains on the first anniversary of his death in Okuma as a no-entry regulation had been eased for some areas in the town.
Saito’s new house is scheduled to be completed in Kamisu in February next year. He intends to relocate his grandfather’s tomb to a place close to his new house in the future.
“To tell the truth, I wish he were resting in peace in his hometown forever,” said Saito in a frustrated tone.