The future is what we all can create.

Osaka Catholic Dioceses Secretariat, representative of Takatori Community Center and former parish priest of Takatori Catholic Church: Hiroshi Kanda


Talk 1

At the time of the earthquake I had been stationed in Takatori Church 4 years. The chapel and the kindergarten first collapsed then as the fires in the neighborhood got closer the buildings caught fire and were burnt down by lunch time. I was there all the time. Unfortunately my prayers couldn’t stop anything. The media came and created the story that the statue of Christ stopped the fire, but that is not true. However, the statue, in a sense, became a symbol of reconstruction.Many people in the neighborhood died in the earthquake. Just after it, local people began to organize aid distribution and help each other. Although I had been living in the neighborhood for 4 years, I didn’t know any of them, and didn’t know how many of them had died. Being a Christian church, we seemed live behind a wall, separated from the community. When I was asked by children if I had helped anyone in the neighborhood, I said, ‘how could I’. I didn’t know them.’ But they said, ‘you don’t have to know someone to help them.’


The church is quite open now, and this is one result of what happened then. After the earthquake, community development began and I, being a resident, joined the community development meetings that took place almost every day, and I eventually got to know the people in the community. I heard about the neighbors and the Vietnamese people, many of whom are members of the church, helping each other when the earthquake happened. What was I doing? Looking at the church burning. The more I got to know the people, the more of these stories I heard, the more embarrassed I felt. This made be reflect on what I had to do.After the earthquake, my beard and a towel hanging around my neck were my trademarks. I wasn’t always dressed like that, but then I wasn’t a typically dressed priest. Actually, I had long hair, but there was no water and no barbers when the earthquake happened, so about 5 days after it I had someone cut my hair short. As for the towel, I used it to wipe my face, as a scarf to keep warm, and so on.


As I said earlier, the media came wrote stories and created myths about the statue of Christ stopping the fire, etc. For us here, we wanted them to pay attention to the volunteers and other people working for the victims, so I put a construction workers helmet on it and a towel around its neck so the media people wouldn’t be focusing on it alone. But then I began to get complaints from the Christian members about what I had done. But after a while, they began to say, if Christ himself was here, he wouldn’t be standing around looking in a daze, he would probably be wearing a helmet and towel and working with everyone else.



Talk 2

I have no idea of the actual number of people who came to the Takatori Church aid center to work as volunteers. But about 3,000 to 4,000 registered, and many of these came again and again, so, I suppose you could say the number is in the tens of thousands. I remember that we had to prepare meals for 180 in one day. There were students who took a year off college to do volunteer work. For a while some people were wondering why they had to volunteer to prepare meals, etc. for volunteers. But volunteers need to eat and a place to sleep, etc they are human, too.


Of course we had no idea so many people would come to help. On second day, here were people I didn’t know arriving with backpacks and staying. Organizing these people became a problem. Fortunately, volunteer leaders naturally appeared and organized things. The young people used their imagination to do all kinds of things, some of them they probably wouldn’t be allowed to do today because of secondary danger. In a sense, the young volunteers enjoyed this experience and had a feeling of satisfaction. I think this is very important. Most of us didn’t use our real names, we were given nicknames and some of still use them. A person’s past meant nothing then. It was a there and then thing.


There are many minority people in the area, and although society at large thought they had special needs, I personally felt they had wonderful resilience and gained strength from them, especially the Vietnamese people, many of whom were ‘boat people’. The resilience gained from their harsh experiences helped them get through the hardships of the earthquake. On the first day after the earthquake, I wasn’t able to eat, but when I visited some of the Vietnamese families that night, they even in those difficult circumstances had prepared a meal. They knew the importance of eating even in times like that. I was offered a meal but politely refused. However, an elderly Vietnamese woman scolded me saying, if you don’t eat, you won’t be able to do anything. There are many things we can learn from foreign people.


FMYY began from a sense of kindness. Broadcasts were originally in Koran for the elderly Korean people live in the area. Then someone said the Vietnamese people needed information and entertainment. At first, the Korean people said they were too busy and couldn’t do it, but they persisted asking and eventually broadcasts in Vietnamese were made. It was the result of the Korean people’s consideration for a minority in less fortunate circumstances than them. This is how FMYY got started.


The old FMYY studio was built by volunteer workers who were members of AA (Alcoholic Anonymous). Some of them were good carpenters and they did a lot of good work for us. Usually, these people would find it difficult to work or find work, but at that time they worked really hard.


There are times when I think people like these and foreigners have great potential but don’t have a chance to use it. Young people who cause problems at school are sometimes the best workers in times like after a disaster. They seem to have the power and energy to do what has to be done.


If I am asked to give a message, I would like to say that even though we pray that disasters like earthquakes, floods and typhoons won’t come, they will. So, when a disaster does come, we fall into despair. So, I would like people to pray in a different way. I would like them to pray that they will have the strength to never give up hope no matter what happens. The reason I say this is because after experiencing the earthquake I have seen a whole new world and have met so many people. From the depths of a great loss, a lot can be gained. The earthquake was a very precious experience that now supports me and makes me feel I can cope with anything.