Japan Remembers the Tsunami: the Church Was Close to Us

Ambassador Hidekazu Yamaguchi

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry

By H. Sergio Mora

ROME, MARCH 13, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On the first anniversary of the earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, ZENIT spoke with the Japanese ambassador to Italy, Hidekazu Yamaguchi.

ZENIT: What was the Holy See’s and the Church’s reaction?

Ambassador Yamaguchi: After the disaster, the Pope mentioned it two or three times during the Angelus, and we of course sent his words to Tokyo. Moreover, he sent a telegram directly to Emperor Akihito expressing his sympathy and encouraging the Japanese people.

And not only this. Benedict XVI sent Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, directly to the site. Caritas International also intervened and appealed to all Caritas branches worldwide to take up a collection for the victims of the disaster.

ZENIT: Hence, there were several interventions?

Ambassador Yamaguchi: Yes, and it is very interesting, for example, that the now Cardinal Antonio Maria Veglio, created a fund inviting all seamen worldwide to help their colleagues in Japan. Cardinal Bernard Francis Law also had a concert on April 20 of last year, and was the first to call me directly at my residence, to express his condolences and to ask me to attend the event to raise awareness among the public, which I did so with pleasure.

The Sant’Egidio Community held a prayer vigil in Santa Maria in Trastevere; and the Gregorian University organized two events, which included a concert.

ZENIT: Last Easter the Pope answered a Japanese girl on television who asked him about the causes of the tsunami.

Ambassador Yamaguchi: Frankly this news was not given much circulation in Japan, as the Catholic community is small, namely 450,000 people, that is 0.4% of the population, located particularly in Nagasaki and Tokyo.

ZENIT: How did the Japanese live this disaster?

Ambassador Yamaguchi: The Japanese are used to natural calamities; they happen very often – volcanoes, earthquakes, floods – but this time the magnitude was too great. Today we know that there were three epicenters and no scientist had foreseen it or could imagine it.

ZENIT: What has changed in Japan since the disaster?

Ambassador Yamaguchi: This disaster changed many things in Japan, such as confidence in science. And it also changed life. For example, to consume much energy today is not approved because everyone is cooperating with the government’s request to lower the consumption of electricity. We must change from atomic energy, using a cleaner energy, in particular, geothermic energy. It was thought that nuclear energy was very safe, and now it’s not seen that way. But Japan has promised to reduce its gas emissions so other methods must be found to produce energy which are not the old ones.

ZENIT: In face of so much sorrow, what is the relationship with the Creator?

Ambassador Yamaguchi: From the beginning of the disaster many people thought of fate, of Japan’s location, the volcanoes, etc. We can’t avoid it. Meanwhile, with the passage of time, what is felt strongly is the desire for a family and there is a tendency to think again of the family. It’s very interesting because young people didn’t want to get married, thinking of their individual freedom. Now they want to have a family. It’s amazing.

ZENIT: How was solidarity lived?

Ambassador Yamaguchi: What grew was the importance given to friendship. There are many volunteers who have come to help. Friendship also with other nations: 163 countries offered their participation and aid. Personally I think we have so many friendly countries thanks to our policies and diplomacy, because after World War II Japan has never participated in the resolution of problems by the use of force and has cooperated with all countries. The United States, for example, sent some 20,000 soldiers to help in the initial emergency.

ZENIT: Who were the volunteers?

Ambassador Yamaguchi: The Japanese Catholic community sent many volunteers to the site to help the people; however, there were many volunteers without religious affiliation who wanted to help the victims. Businesses, for example, allowed their employees to do volunteer work while continuing to pay their salaries, to say nothing of all the workers operating to control the radioactivity, even putting their lives in danger.

ZENIT: What did the emperor do?

Ambassador Yamaguchi: Ah! For the first time since World War II the emperor addressed the people. At the end of the world conflict, his father, Hirohito, addressed the people announcing Japan’s defeat. Since then, this was the first time that an emperor sat in front of a microphone on live television. The emperor wished to make his presence felt. It was the greatest tragedy after World War II.

[Translation by ZENIT]
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share this Entry


Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a donation