It is our second day in Miyagi, Kesennuma, and it has been an adventure full of stories already. Today we spent time at Seiryoin Temple, a Zen Buddhist temple, where we were delighted with the Monk ceremony which opened us to another perspective of traditions in Japan. Obon is a season where it is said that the ancestor’s spirit might return to the earth to visit the relatives. The family members of the deceased were really kind and open to us, by letting us witness their “Hoji”, a ceremony to remember and pay respect to the family member who had passed away. “Hoji” is commonly held during the Obon season in August.

The Hoji ceremony reminded me so much of a Mexican tradition to honor our ancestors, in “el dia de los muertos.” What they both have in common is that the person is honored at an altar. Being immersed into another religion and belief exposed me to the ideology that each religion is full of different tradition. The only place I have ever heard about monks was in the animes that I used to watch, which were really different. Actually, meeting and practicing za-zen with a monk in a Buddhist temple in Japan was something I would never believe I would be doing, hearing their stories and how they managed their lives was very interesting to me and to everyone.

The head monk, Jushoku, talked to us briefly about how he contributed in 3.11 and how the temple was used actually as a shelter and how they evolved the concept of the temple which is now a place of hope for the community. After the ceremony, we shared food with them, which was pretty good, but I’m still not used to the green tea here. We thanked them for their kindness and we left that temple with a sense of hope, friendship, and deep feeling of happiness by the monks and their families.

Mr. Nishant Annu later gave us a presentation of who he is, and gave us a tour. He mentioned to us that he was in the JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Program, and we learned that after his experience here in Japan he wanted to move back after he went back to the States. What I found the most entertaining of his presentation was when he told us that since his first name is Nishant, and in Japan people have more of a struggle trying to pronounce it, he started to use another name, Nishia. We walked around the downtown area until the sun set. It was a great way to end his presentation, and with that we headed back.

The overall day has given me a new perspective about the Great East Japan Earthquake, and how through hope and perseverance we can continue.

Check out Mr. Annu’s blog. It has a lot of information about Kesennuma:

Jerusalen Elizaldi
Bell Multicultural HS

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