Continuing Bonds in the Tōhoku Disaster Area

Locating the Destinations of Spirits

in Journal of Religion in Japan
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This paper is a report of qualitative and quantitative research on “continuing bonds” between the bereaved and the deceased in the areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. The disaster victims recount that it is normal for them to have conversations with the deceased, and that maintaining continuing bonds with the deceased makes them feel better. Communities of grief, within which stories about the deceased are shared, have emerged among the bereaved. There appear to be two types of representation of, and relationship with, the dead: namely, as “familiar spirits” and “unfamiliar spirits.” The closeness of relationships within a community decides which type is dominant. Many victims consider their connection to the deceased to be stronger than their connection to the priests who facilitate these bonds. Finally, based on these findings, this paper examines how religious specialists have been engaged in spiritual care, and whether such care will be successful as a post-secular activity under the conditions of “recovery secularism.”