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Buddhism after the Tsunami

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Buddhism after the Tsunami

Michael Abele reviews Buddhism after the Tsunami, directed by Tim Graf and Jakob Montrasio (2012, 63 minutes)

Much has been said of the terrible events of March 11th 2011 in the West, but comparatively little attention has been paid to the survivors left behind. As narrator Tim Graf notes early on in Buddhism after the Tsunami, the narrative in the West surrounding the Japanese response to the events of March 11th is one of resilience in the face of disaster. Meanwhile, the spiritual needs of those who survived are almost always ignored.

This sentiment summarizes a key theme of Buddhism after the Tsunami, which explores the role played by Buddhist institutions and individual monks in the areas affected by the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster. This film makes an important contribution to the study of the Tohoku disaster by focusing on this oft-neglected element of contemporary Japanese culture: religion, specifically Buddhism, and its place in the lives of ordinary Japanese. By focusing on the role of Buddhism in a time of disaster, this film also says a great deal about the role of Japanese Buddhism in contemporary Japan more broadly. Additionally, though filmed by a specialist in Japanese Buddhism, and using Buddhism as its primary lens, the topics addressed by this film go far beyond religious studies.

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