On the afternoon of June 5th (2011), I was hurrying toward central
London in a cold rain. Soon, more and more of the people I passed were Japanese
people in formal dress, a somewhat unusual thing to see in a foreign city. The
line of Japanese people crossed the busy road and entered the famous
Westminster Abbey. We had come to join in the Great East Japan Earthquake
Memorial Service being held in the abbey.
When I mention Westminster Abbey, the first thing that probably comes to
mind is the magnificent royal wedding that recently took place there. At the
same place where the people of Britain prayed for the happiness of the
newlyweds, we Japanese people were going to pray for the victims of the
earthquake, and for the restoration of our homeland. The Japanese flag flown
high above the abbey signified that this service was being conducted for the
people of Japan.
As a student living in London, I heard about the Tohoku Earthquake at
dawn on March 11. Even now, I vividly remember turning on the BBC news and
instantly snapping out of my sleepy state. At first, I didn't understand what
had happened. But as I watched images of the events, I got goose bumps all over
my body, and was at a loss for words. When a horrific photo of the
disaster-struck area covered the front page of the next day's newspaper, I once
again felt the gravity of the situation.
People in Britain were quick to take action. They immediately set up
various charities, and collected relief funds and donations for the affected
areas. On the front page of one newspaper was the red sun of the Japanese flag
with the Japanese words "がんばれ日本、がん ばれ東北 (Ganbare Nippon, Ganbare Tohoku: Don't give up Japan, Don't give up
Tohoku)." People I did not know were giving me encouragement. I think this
kindness of the British people was the driving force behind the service I was
The ceremony was carried out with solemnity. Passages from the Bible
were read; hymns and pipe organ music echoed from the high ceilings of the
sanctuary. As the program proceeded, to my surprise, Kenji Miyazawa's poem Ame ni mo makezu (Be not Defeated by the Rain) was read aloud. The power of
its words struck me deeply. It dawned on me that this, too, is a form of prayer. Up until then, I had thought of
prayer as putting one's hands together or kneeling down in devotion to God. I
realized, however, that there are other forms
I think what is meant by prayer is 'the power of thought.' Even
Japan's restoration and rebirth cannot begin without thoughts. It is through
thoughts that action takes place. People say that prayer alone will not change
anything, but in times of crisis, I think it is what we need most. Indeed, all
I can do at present is pray, but it seems to me that this is by no means an
insignificant force. When all of us who had gathered at Westminster Abbey
united our hearts and prayed together, I believe that our thoughts became a
great force that reached the areas affected by the disaster.
Another thing that moved me was the international cooperation. I could
feel intensely the kindness of the British people toward Japan, and their
strong desire to help. Many people are praying for the restoration of Japan and
the happiness of its people. Amidst this, I feel that I have caught a glimpse
of the true warmth of international cooperation.
This great disaster has brought about changes in me. It led me to
reconsider the meaning of prayer, which I had only experienced in form, and to
learn what true prayer really is. I was also able to understand the spirit
underlying the words 'international
cooperation,' which I
had previously understood as merely a political term. In the future, I hope to
use this 'power of
thought' that I
keenly felt during recent events to reach out to the international community.
The 'power of prayer' and 'power of thought' are infinite.