An earthquake stopped time, another resurrected it | Global World Blog

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The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that devastated the Japanese prefectures of Fukushima and Miyagi on March 11, 2011 washed away almost everything in Fumonji Monastery, leaving only desolation and ruins. Among the rubble was a hundred-year-old wall clock, with its hands stopped. Monk Bunshun Sakano, then 48, picked it up and tried to fix it, over and over again. Always without success. The water had damaged the mechanism.

Or so it seemed. Almost exactly ten years later, on February 13, another earthquake struck the monastery again. As he was inspecting the main hall for possible damage, Bunshun Sakano thought he heard a tick. He took a good look. And there it was: the old clock that everyone had considered irreparable was working again. Two months later, and although the monk feared that he would stop again at any moment, he continues to mark the hours and minutes without a break.


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PHOTO GALLERY | Ten years after the destruction of the Japan earthquake and tsunami

“It is a sign of encouragement. He tells us that the real recovery is about to come ”and that we must not lose hope, the monk told the Japanese newspaper this week. Mainichi Shimbun.

Sakano's relationship with the watch is deep and ancient. The monk found it in an antique shop years before the earthquake: a classic wall clock, round, with a winding mechanism, a sober design and about 80 centimeters in diameter. It was manufactured by the Seikosha firm (now Seiko) sometime in the late Taisho era (1912-1926) of Emperor Yoshihito, or perhaps at the beginning of the Showa era (1926-1989), when the Emperor Hirohito. Sakano liked it and bought it for his monastery. Hanging on the wall at the entrance, it accompanied the monks' daily labors with its rhythmic cadence.

And so it was until the fateful March 11, a decade ago, when a magnitude 9 earthquake swept through and around Fukushima prefecture and unleashed a violent tsunami, with waves of 15 meters. And this, in turn, left the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant without electricity, causing one of the worst nuclear accidents in history. More than 160,000 people had to be evacuated.

The monastery was badly damaged. Located near the sea, in Miyagi Prefecture, the surf ripped the walls of the entire first floor by itself; only the columns and the roof remained standing. The rest, rubble submerged in the water or buried in mud. From among them, Sakano rescued the watch. Although it did not work, he decided to keep it as "one of the few memories left after the tsunami."

For a decade, the contraption, though mute, served as inspiration and companionship as he tried to rebuild the destroyed community. This year, the monk was not going through his best moment: the pandemic forced him to suspend volunteer work and neighborhood meetings, and he wondered if he should definitely cancel those activities and forget everything. But when the mechanism worked again, he interpreted it as a signal. Maybe it's pushing me to continue with a new determination, he thought then.

Consulted by the Mainichi Shimbun On the reason why the watch has returned to work after being stopped for ten years, a representative of Seiko considers that “perhaps the pendulum, which had stopped, started to move again due to the shaking of the earthquake. Or the dust that had accumulated inside came off. "

Whatever the mechanical reason, Sakano is clear about the message the watch sends him: "Get going again." He has listened to him: the monk has once again looked to the future and wishes to relaunch his work. "The rebuilding really starts now," he says.

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