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Friday, Oct. 21, 2011

Statue lost in tsunami, found afterward — twice


MORIOKA, Iwate Pref. — A Buddhist statue in a small fishing neighborhood in Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, has led a charmed life, repeating history this year when it was washed away in the March 11 tsunami disaster and then recovered.

News photo
Charmed life: This statue of the Buddhist goddess Kannon was lost and found by residents of Kamaishi, Iwate Prefecture, following tsunami disasters in 1933 and this year. KYODO PHOTO

The 24-cm wooden statue of Kannon, the goddess of compassion, was also lost and found after powerful tsunami devastated the town in 1933, killing more than half of its 613 residents.

This time, resident Toshio Kasai, 64, found it stuck on a sea wall in late March.

"It was not tainted (with mud) so I was able to spot it," Kasai said.

He asked 70-year-old Sayoko Chiba to keep the statue in her house, which stands on a hill and survived the tsunami.

"The Kannon statue is an emotional pillar for local residents, and some people come to my house to bow in veneration to it," Chiba said.

"When houses (in the area) are rebuilt, I want to build a temple hall and enshrine it there," she said.

Following the 1933 tsunami, the statue was found by a 5-year-old boy on the coast about 4 km outside of town. Chiba recalled how the statue was worshiped by residents back then who survived the disaster.

"I remember how a mother who lost her family in the tsunami used to come and give offerings to the statue almost every day," she said.

The fishing town also saw a bizarre repeat of history, only in a more tragic fashion.

After the 1933 tsunami, residents moved to higher ground and built their homes to avoid any possible tsunami.

The temple hall that housed the statute was also moved to a higher location near those houses.

But as memories of the 1933 disaster faded, many locals started in the 1950s to move back down toward the shoreline, and the temple hall was moved there as well. They were all destroyed by the March 11 monster tsunami.

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