9 Years On: Fukushima Priest Drives 400,000 Kilometers to Visit Followers

Society

Fukushima, March 11 (Jiji Press)--A Buddhist temple master in Fukushima Prefecture has driven as much as 400,000 kilometers to visit parishioners who fanned out across Japan in the nine years since the March 2011 disaster hit the northeastern prefecture.

Some 40,000 people from Fukushima still live as evacuees in and outside the prefecture in the wake of the powerful earthquake and tsunami, as well as the ensuing nuclear accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant.

"Before the disaster, most parishioners used to live within 10 kilometers of the temple, but they are now scattered around the country," said Ryushin Hangai, 68, chief priest of Henshoji temple in the town of Okuma, which hosts the disaster-stricken plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. <9501>.

All residents of Okuma, totaling approximately 11,500 people, were forced to leave the town following the accident. Some 600 parishioner households of the temple took shelter in prefectures including neighboring Miyagi and Oita, southwestern Japan.

With the temple located in a designated no-entry area, Hangai visits parishioners from a newly established branch temple in the nearby town of Hirono.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press