ISHINOMAKI, November 5: 500 metres into the coastline of the Pacific, the port city of Ishinomaki in northern Japan is a picture of desolation.
Waves, some as high as 17 metres struck the once important shipping city, bringing in debris and destroying everything on its path.
What remains now, facing the ocean, are piles of mangled cars, ruined schools buildings, and flowers in front of twisted pillars that once supported homes.
On that fateful day of March 11, when an earthquake measuring 9 on the richter scale sent waves as far as 12 kms inland, over 4000 people died in Ishinomaki alone.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama, traveling for over an hour by road from Sendai arrived in Ishinomaki earlier today to attend a memorial service at the Sai Kou Ji temple.
Inside the main prayer hall filled with bereaved family members and friends praying for their lost ones, photos of young boys and girls placed on the side of the altar reminded of humankind’s helplessness in front of nature’s fury.
A young mother silently wept with a photo of her son on her lap as the Dalai Lama lead prayers in the hall that was left inundated in over a metre of seawater following the tsunami.
Outside the temple, on flattened grounds, hundreds of more people sat in the cold November weather in front of giant screens, listening to the Dalai Lama.
“I have come here today, to share your pain and suffering,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said.
“My brothers and sisters, you are not alone in this time of great tragedy,” remarked the Dalai Lama while confessing that he was “moved to tears,” witnessing the destruction and the suffering on the faces of the victims.
“But the tragedy has already happened,” His Holiness remarked. “Now is the time to think broadly, to utilise our human intelligence, self confidence, and warm-heartedness to transform this tragedy into enthusiasm”.
Sharing from his own past difficult experiences of having to escape into exile on the night of March 17, 1959 and the consequent shelling of his residence in which thousands of Tibetans, including some of his close friends were killed, the Dalai Lama noted that he used his “intelligence, belief in truth and self confidence to transform tragedy into strength.”
“Now, for almost 52 years, I have always kept my determination and enthusiasm”.
Encouraging the Japanese people to seek inspiration from their feat of rebuilding the country from the “ashes of World War II”, the Dalai Lama asked the audience to “look forward, work hard with mutual cooperation and a rebuild a better life and a better town”.
“Take care of your children. Give them the opportunity to study and to grow up as another happy generation”.
Thanking the Dalai Lama for providing “compassion and inspiration” at a time of great emotional distress, the Mayor of Ishinomaki invited the Tibetan leader to revisit his town.
“Your Holiness, you have inspired and encouraged us with you words and actions. Please visit us again once we have rebuilt our town”.