Aftershocks: What the Japanese Church Has Learned 10 Years After Fukushima

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The 2011 triple disaster devastated the Tohoku region of northeast Japan, and dramatically disrupted Christian ministry—for the better.

On February 13, almost 10 years to the date after the infamous March 11 triple disaster that struck northeast Japan, a 7.3-magnitude earthquake shook the same region.

Like a strobe light, memories and emotions that had been dimming for a decade returned. However, the aftershock was not just a reminder of the devastation and 20,000 deaths from 2011’s 9.0-magnitude earthquake in the Tohoku region and resulting 45-foot tsunami and nuclear disaster in Fukushima. It also prompted the Japanese church to call to mind all that God has done since.

Pastors and ministry leaders in Japan told CT of how the disaster has shaped the Japanese church and where they are headed next, providing a perspective of hope and urgency for churches worldwide amid the trials of the pandemic and current conflicts.

Shaken and Stirred into Action

For Yoshiya Hari, the triple disaster marked an almost immediate career and life change. Within days, the pastor of Saikyo Nozomi Chapel was assigned to help run CRASH (Christian Relief Assistance Support and Hope), organizing and allocating the masses of donated material and volunteers that were suddenly flooding into Tohoku from Taiwan, Singapore, the Philippines, the United States, and other nations.

“I was so overwhelmed. I was just a local church pastor and suddenly I was here,” said Hari, also Asian Access’s national director for Japan since 2011. “The news was broadcasting shocking scenes: the tsunami, the nuclear reactor explosion in Fukushima. There was so much fear and it felt like trials were hitting us like waves that keep coming and coming. Japan seemed almost at its end.

“But we realized that people all over the world were praying and sending support and we were encouraged,” …

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