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Online prayers in times of tragedy

 The Big Issue Japan 01 April 2019

Since the beginning of time, people have felt compelled to show their support during tragic events. Flowers, photographs and notes are left as a reminder that even if we don’t know each other, we are together in grief. Whilst those manifestations of support have long been constrained by space, the Internet gave people tools to express shock, solidarity and compassion online. Grief might not have changed, but now it is conveyed in 140 characters. (672 Words) - By Kayoko Yakuwa


BIJapan_Online prayers in times of tragedy

 The Pray for Japan web site /

The editor of The Big Issue Japan,  Kayoko Yakuwa, collected some of the messages that people worldwide shared on Twitter, as a sign of support after the country was hit by a 9.0 earthquake and a tsunami.

While the disastrous earthquake deprived many of their livelihoods and compelled them to living in shelters, messages from Twitter have been keeping people's hearts bright.

How do the tweets come to convey the unparalleled disaster? This tweet was sent from the heavily battered Sendai city, on the spot:

"It is so dark that the stars look more beautiful than I have ever seen before. Everybody in Sendai is looking up." (Talk on the spot) @smazasm

There were also tweets to express concerns and compassion towards others in the stricken area or the Tokyo metropolitan area that has been put under a planned blackout.

"I was waiting on the platform and becoming really tired, when the homeless people there said it was cold and gave me some cardboard to sit on. This is even though we have never looked at them in the eye before. I feel so warm." @aquarius_rabbit

"For every green light, only one car was able to cross, but still people are driving politely and steadily. I feel moved by such a sight. Sometimes the traffic is completely paralyzed, but for ten hours, I have heard no honking." @micakon

"Last night I walked home from the university. The bakery was already closed, but the auntie from the bakery was giving out free bread. It is moving to see people who found ways to help and carried them out, even among such mayhem. My heart was warmed up. Tokyo is still a nice place." @ayakishimo

"I think I walked four hours from the city center. Although the sidewalk was overflowing with people, everyone was walking orderly and silently. Convenient stores and other shops were working in calm manners. Everywhere facilities were opened to accommodate people who had difficulties in going back home. It was said that railway was also restored and ran all through the night. This is an amazing country. It does not matter what rank its GDP has." @resaku

Cheering shouts were also heard from abroad.

"I have just got an email from my Korean friend. 'You are the only country to have suffered nuclear bombing. You have also lost the world war. Every year there are typhoons. Earthquakes, tsunamis... Although you are only a small island-nation, you have weathered it all and stood up. Isn't that what made Japan? Hang on! Hang in there!" By the way, I'm crying right now." @copedy

Having seen the older generation, the children with the future on their shoulders also stood up saying they want to make an effort.

"The conductor told me a little kid said to him, 'thank you for putting all your efforts into keeping the train running last night.' The conductor cried and I'm wailing." @oka_0829

"My two-year-old son put on shoes on his own, and wanted to go out. 'I'm going to arrest Earthquake!' he said. I gained strength from the courage and sense of justice in his tiny body. Everyone, keep up the spirit and fight on!" @hirata_hironobu

"This is from my friend in Chiba. An uncle in the shelter muttered, 'what will happen from now on?' At that time, a boy beside him who looked like a high school student rubbed the uncle's back and said, 'don't worry, when we grow up, we'll definitely work it all back like before'.

"Don't worry, we have a future." @nekoshima83


Another example of a platform where people can share support messages, is the website "Pray for Japan" (, created by a 20-year-old student staying at a shelter in Tochigi Prefecture, who stayed up the first night during the blackout to create it.  The website is now advancing as a multilingual project because of volunteers who endorsed the cause on Facebook and Twitter. The page which displays the messages ( can be read in at least 13 languages, from English to Spanish, French, German, Italian, Korean and Chinese.


Please credit the article as follows:

Translated into English by Dali Su

Originally published by The Big Issue Japan

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