Research Note: Documenting Religious Responses to 3.11 on Film

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This research note discusses the challenges of post-disaster filmmaking and introduces two short films about religious responses to the 11 March 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster in Japan that were produced to accompany this special issue. The first clip presents perspectives on the cherry blossom festival at Jōnenji, a Pure Land Buddhist temple that functioned as an evacuation center in the tsunami-stricken city of Kesennuma. Volunteers started the festival in 2012, and it has since grown into a major annual event that, besides commemorating the tragic events of 3.11, provides an important opportunity for recreation. The second vignette examines the training of rinshō shūkyōshi, literally “clinical religious specialists,” or “interfaith chaplains,” at Tohoku University in Sendai. As the video shows, this program, which comprises a distinctive collaboration of religious and nonreligious aid providers, has contributed to a shifting image of religion in Japan’s public sphere. Instructors and students may find the audiovisual component useful in discussing different intersections of religion and relief in contemporary Japan and as a means of exploring practical and theoretical dimensions of religious responses to disaster. The vignettes can be streamed or downloaded for free from Vimeo. Vignette One (Jōnenji): and Vignette Two (Interfaith Chaplains):
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)203-219
Number of pages17
JournalAsian Ethnology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Buddhism
  • Japan
  • disaster relief
  • spiritual care
  • rinshō shūkyōshi
  • 3.11
  • festival
  • recreation
  • film


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