Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.2 Mr. Tokuun TANAKA

Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.2 Mr. Tokuun TANAKA
Lecture by Mr. Tokuun Tanaka
13 September 2013
Yotsuya, Tokyo
I grew up in an ordinary Japanese family. When I was in high school, I played baseball but I wasn’t very good so I had to practice a lot. I practiced too much though, and was hospitalized due to an injury. It was then that my teacher recommended the book, “Miyamoto Musashi” by Eiji Yoshikawa. I read the book and was extremely attracted to Takuan Osho (a high priest), which is why I decided to become a Buddhist priest.
Beginning in 1997, I practiced asceticism for five years at Eihei-ji* in Fukui prefecture. After that, I was welcomed to Doukei-ji located in Odaka ward in Minamisoma city as an assistant chief priest. Seven years ago, the chief priest suddenly passed away, and since then I have carried on his role. I was also the chief priest at a small temple called Chuzen-ji eight or nine years ago. Chuzen-ji is a branch of Doukei-ji located in Futabamachi. I am married and have four children, aged 9, 7, 5, and 1. This is what my life was like when the earthquake struck.   (Note: “-ji” indicates a Buddhist temple)
First, I would like to talk about the history of this temple. It was built in 1213, and this year is exactly the 800th year. In 1394 during the 13th Soma domain, the temple changed from Tendai sect to Shingon sect and was renamed Doukei-ji. The Soma domain, or estate, has continued since the Kamakura period (the period of Japanese history when it was built), and was known for its high religious consciousness. There are only 3 domains including the Soma who have continued since this period until the Meiji period (1868-1912), when prefectures were established to replace feudal domains. These domains were the Nambu domain in Iwaki, the Shimazu domain in Kyushu, and the Soma domain in Fukushima. Soma was a small domain of 60,000 koku (approximately 10,823 cubic meters of crop yield), though the size may be an exaggeration, with some estimating it to actually be about 30,000 koku. The feudal lords, the lords, and the people were all so close that they would at times drink together, which is one good aspect of a small domain.
As you know, “Nomaoi”, traditional performing arts of this region, has continued for more than 1000 years. The ancestor of Soma is said to be Taira no Masakado and once a year, there is this festival called “Nomaoi” which is done by gathering in horses which have been put out to pasture in nature.  (Note: Nomaoi includes a variety of competitions among samurai horsemen.)
Until the day of the earthquake, we all lived peaceful lives. Every time there was an earthquake though, we were worried about the nuclear power plants. Right after 3/11, we knew by instinct there would definitely be a problem. The temple collapsed, too. When the shaking settled, I went to the school right away, gathered the children, and after consulting with everyone in the region, started to evacuate. I drove 60 kilometers to Fukushima, driving some followers who were at the temple at the time of the earthquake home on the way.


In the car, the children became emotionally unstable. They started to cry every time the wind blew. We made a stop at “Fukuro association”, and then went to Sakaemachi church in Aizuwakamatsu. We settled there for a while and then drove all night towards Nagano. The next day, we moved towards Fukui, and my family settled there.