Eight years have passed since the East Japan earthquake and tsunami disaster. A new Kannon statue was built, looking over the coastline of Minami Soma city, which had been severely affected by the tsunami and Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Powerplant, about 20 km away. This Kannon statue (Kannon, or Kuanin, the Buddha of deep understanding and compassion) was built several years ago by the bereaved family of the tsunami victims with the help of my father’s cousins.
“ The eyes of Kannon-sama (honorary suffix for someone for the higher state in Japanese) to be opening more and more.” Ms C, my father’s cousin, whom I have been started to connect after the sudden death of my father in 2014, said quietly. Looking up to see the face of Kannon-sama first, then she put her palms together in front of the statue. My daughter and I followed.
Thin clouds were spread over the early blue autumn sky. The Kannon-sama statue was standing in the middle of the little park, surrounded by some pine trees which survived the huge tidal wave. Some small bamboo had also grown since then. The statue was slightly leaning on the front, putting its palms together. Its face was peaceful, at the same time, however, it also looked as if looks beyond the sadness of the human world. This Kannon-sama had been watching over people who lost their lives there.
“So many friends and acquaintances who lived around here had passed away at that time. It is just recent that we can visit this place. “ Ms C started to talk about when the tsunami had hit this place.
“ This was a land where children played small games of baseball and other sports. It was surrounded by the fence. Since this was the highest point in this area (near the sea), when the tsunami came, 20 or 30 residents who lived around here came here to evacuate. But, the height of the waves was enourmous…15 meters or something. Then people realised that they needed to run away from here too, but because of the fence, they stuck in this place and the tsunami took all the lives who came here…” Listening to Ms C, my daughter and I could not possibly imagine what it would be like, the fear and the terror.
When near-by residents came up here, after being shocked by the huge earthquake, I wonder how they perceived that huge tidal wave came towards them. The horizon rose 10 or 15 meters high then came towards them, about to crash into pieces. What did they see? What did they think? Did they know that it was a tsunami? They would be surprised first at the sight of the tidal wave. Then they would realise that they should be leaving quickly before realising that they were stuck there because of the fences surrounding the land. What was the very last thought of these people?
“ The bereaved family members and us (Ms C and her family) decided to build a Buddha statue here as a commemoration of people who lost their lives from the tsunami. We bought the stone then decided to design the statue by ourselves, as the quote of the design of statue from professionals cost 4 times more than the stone itself. We discussed a lot, then decided that the Kannon-sama should be putting hands together, praying for their family who lost their lives here.“
While I was standing and putting hands together for the Kannon-sama statue, I felt a sense of deep, profound peacefulness. I found this is a bit odd as I was standing exactly where people lost their lives. Why did I feel calm and peace here? Then Ms C, whether she understood how I felt or not, said softly as if she was whispering;
“This Kannon-sama, called ‘Shou Kannon Sama’, is not human. She has been the divine existence from the beginning.”
Does this mean that this Kannon-Sama statue has a heart that is much bigger and goes beyond that of humans’? It is not merciless but has a strength not to be suffocated by the human emotions, therefore standing here right from the beginning till the end, watching over us with its compassionate eyes and heart.
This Kannon-sama statue remained my thoughts for a long time afterwards. This was not only because the statue was built by the bereaved family and my father’s cousins, but also Ms C’s words that that Kannon-sama was beyond human mind and world, were deeply ingrained into my mind and heart.
I got an idea after I came back to Australia. The Kannon-sama spirit had been there before the statue was built, or even before the tsunami in 2011, or a very long time ago. Sho Kannon, who goes beyond human wisdom and capacity, according to Buddhism, might have known everything right from the beginning. Everything about people who lost their lives here, and their bereaved family and friends who will carry unforgettable and indescribable deep sadness for the rest of their lives, everything, as well as probably what will happen in the future.
“Being born to this world, live and die, and born again, and this is how this world is made up. And always in the higher up in the sky, Sho Kannon-sama and other Buddhas and gods are watching over us,” explained Ms C. I translated what she said to my daughter. My daughter of 14 years, who had been taken to where her mother grew up for the first time in 8 years, nodded silently, then we both put our hands together again.