In 2011, Japan faced the sort of disaster that no one could have prepared for. On Friday, March 11, 2011, there was an earthquake off the coast of the northeastern coast of the archipelago. This in and of itself was not unusual. Japan has more than 1,500 earthquakes per year, and minor quakes occur almost on a daily basis. The Asian country’s cities are built to conform to rigorous standards to ensure that they stay standing even during harsh quakes. The March 11 earthquake, however, measured at 9.0 on the Richter scale. The quake was the largest recorded in Japan and among the top five strongest recorded worldwide. In addition to its strength, the March 11 earthquake lasted longer than most quakes, but the worst was still to come.
The earthquake generated a tsunami that reached run-up heights of nearly 130 feet and traveled more than 6 miles inland. In Sendai, there was less than five minutes between when the quake finished and the tsunami surged ashore. To make matters worse, the quake and tsunami combination damaged the cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants causing a nuclear meltdown.
Religious groups in Japan poured resources into damaged areas despite Japan’s cultural distrust of religion. The Buddhist organization Soka Gakkai volunteers paid special attention to elderly survivors who are often overlooked, and religious organizations raised 42 percent of the total relief funds. The Catholic Church raised the equivalent of 21 million dollars, the most money of any religion despite there being less than 500,000 Japanese Catholics.