After the disaster: Update from the Jesuits in Japan

First of all, let me express my appreciation for the many messages of condolence and encouragement we have received from around the world. You are surely aware of the enormity of the these catastrophic days in Japan, beginning with a 9.0 magnitude earthquake, followed quickly by colossal tsunami, and crippling the nuclear power plant that supplies a large portion of electric power to the Tokyo metropolis. Myriad aftershocks are felt daily.

While we pray for the thousands of victims and their families and other thousands who lost their homes or who have to evacuate the nuclear reactor vicinity, we can report that our own Jesuit men and their works were not seriously affected, as we have no presence north of Tokyo. We have heard no reports from the Sendai Diocese. There are many Catholic facilities in that diocese but most of these are inland from the shore.

Our Tokyo and Kamakura houses and schools experienced violent shaking but no irreparable damage. Several statues fell, losing an arm or a head. The cross at the pinnacle of the tower of St Ignatius Church in central Tokyo was wrenched from its moorings and hangs menacingly upside down held only at its base. The area below the tower has been cordoned off.

In order to reduce the use of electric power, all the areas surrounding central Tokyo will be on limited power outage for several hours each day. The number of trains carrying thousands of people into Tokyo every day has been drastically reduced and, despite official pleas to remain at home, most workplaces in Tokyo will surely do their best to remain open, thus putting pressure on employees to use available means of transport.

We are being warned that there may be further seismic activity during weeks and months to come. Some of this may affect the metropolitan area more directly. We hope for the best but prepare for the worst.

Sincerely in Christ Jesus,
Kajiyama Yoshio, SJ
Provincial of Japan
March 14, 2011