East Japan Earthquake    March 11, 2011

Heavenese Live Concert at the Offering
to God Feast at Local Shinto Shrine
"Kurosaki Shrine" in Rikuzen-Takata.

October 9, 2011

Every four years the Offering to God Feast takes place in the city of Rikuzen-Takata. Each neighborhood in Rikuzen-Takata takes part in this community wide event. Due to the March 11th catastrophe there arose conflicting opinions about whether this feast should be held or not because so many integral people and feast items had been lost. Those for having the feast felt it was necessary since the people had been through so much. The feast was on and off again several times until it was officially decided to hold it just a couple weeks before it was to take place.

Despite the immeasurable hardships faced by the people in Rikuzen-Takata and the difficulty of organizing the feast in the disaster zone, they made the bold decision to hold the feast this year. Heavenese became involved in this event when we were invited to take part in it by a representative from Kurosaki Shrine who had come to see Heavenese's live concert at Hirota Elementary School in Rikuzen-Takata on August 15th.

Never before have we had this type of opportunity to perform a live concert at a shrine. With that in mind, forty people from our church headed to Rikuzen-Takata and arrived there early in the morning on Sunday, October 9th. As the sun was rising we began setting up for the concert. Once again we had additional support from the East Japan Stage Corporation which is a concert stage setup company in Tochigi prefecture. They graciously sent two of their workers to help  Heavenese with this event.   

When we arrived at the shire, there was thick fog creating an unearthly atmosphere, but as the sun rose, it burned off and we had a very nice day.  At Kurosaki Shrine, the feast started right on schedule at eight forty-five in the morning. The event started with Heavenese on the stage. Mr. Kanno, the representative who had invited Heavenese to participate in this event, ran up to Marre and while holding Marre's hands said, "I am moved to tears when I think about what it took to make this day possible." 

Following the opening remarks we had a minute of silence for those who were lost on March 11th. This quiet moment contrasted the busy atmosphere that had just existed as everything was getting set up.  

Mr. Kanno  addressed the crowd and encouraged all those who were going through great hardship due to the March catastrophe to find courage and power in the entire nation's support for them in order to move forward. 

After the opening prayer and remarks , Heavenese played the song titled "The Place You Were Before Birth, and we felt as if time had stopped.
Originally, Heavenese had been scheduled to perform later in the feast, but a priest from the shrine asked Heavenese to play a song right at the beginning. This song was so fitting that people from the shrine were especially moved. Marre, who wrote this song, felt at that moment that this song had been created for this specific occasion. God, who sees beyond space and time, made this happen, and it ended up deepening the bond between Heavenese and people of Rikuzen-Takata.

Following the solemn opening, the main event kicked off with Nesaki Hashigo-Toramai. This dance (the tiger dance) was performed at the top of a twenty-five meter ladder without safety ropes to the rhythmic beat of taiko being played by men and women from Rikuzen-Takata, a taiko town.  It was amazing to watch this breath taking dance performed at such heights.  

While this dance was being performed, a mikoshi (a portable shrine) was being carried from Kurosaki Shrine.  It was headed to eleven places throughout the community. Over the next four to five hours music and dance would be offered to God at Kurosaki Shrine until the mikoshi returned. Due to the loss of so many who would have normally performed, individuals and groups who are closely associated to Rikuzen-Takata performed in their place. Heavenese was one such group along with an local enka singer (Japanese ballad), a folk group, and the traditional Japanese dance group, Yosakoi. 

Mobile Kick Back, which has become well-known with the locals, was open for business in the parking lot of Kurosaki Shrine. All of KBC/Heavenese's support and involvement with Rikuzen-Takata began from this truck. 


As the sun rose into the sky, Heavenese was set to take the stage at 11:30.  They gathered to review their routine, and Marre led them in prayer.  Just as at the performance on August 15th, Heavenese was about to use their God given talents to glorify the Lord wholeheartedly.  

With the L.A. tour just around the corner, Heavenese played some of the songs they had modified for the American audience.

Heavense's concerts in Shibuya have featured a sword fight, and the group who puts it on, Shibasaki Action Project, made their first appearance in Rikuzen-Takata. The crowd had a great time watching the swordsmen put on a great show.

As the day wore on, more and more people came to the shrine.  More than a thousand people were there when Heavense performed.  The shrine representative, Mr Kanno said, "Usually the audience thins out as people leave after watching what they came to see, but this time nobody seems to have left at all.  Everybody seems to be staying all day; this has never happened before."

Marre has been researching the arrival of early Christianity to Japan through the Hata tribe.  This happened long before "western Christianity" arrived in Japan.  He has found aspects of Christianity in Shinto that is practiced today.   From ancient times to now, the reverence of God has been part of the Japanese people, but its true meaning has been lost.   Marre's desire is to awaken the Japanese soul and return the people to what their ancestors first believed.  With this passion, Heavenese is heading overseas.

Just as on August 15th, today in Rikuzen-Takata Marre shared a short message with the audience.  He started it with, "There is something I would really like to share with you today." His message was about how the world was moved by the great care the people in the disaster area have had for each other all the while not cursing God.  Their courage was a light of hope in the world.  

After his message to the people, "Taisetsu na Hitoyo" (To a Dear Person) was performed which has become a familiar song to the people of Rikuzen-Takata. 

Daisuke Kaminaga (DK), a shakuhachi player (traditional Japanese flute) made his first appearance in Rikuzen-Takata. 
His music harmoniously blended with the natural setting and drew the people's attention. 

After the March 11th disaster, DK visited Rikuzen-Takata afor the first time and thought, "It would be great to have a Heavenese concert here someday."  He didn't imagine that his desire could come about so quickly, and that there would be so many people their to watch them.

This picture is of the site-director for Heavenese, Retsu Ann (left) and Mr. Sakai (right) a local fisherman we met when we first started coming to Rikuzen-Takata. Our readers may be familiar with Mr. Sakai since he has been talked about regularly on this site. Behind them the ocean can be seen which is his workplace so to speak.

This performance which seemed to be taking place in a different dimension was quickly coming to a close. Heavenese finished off their set with their taiko routine just as they did on August 15th. Today's cool weather was a sharp contrast to the previous concert held in Rikuzen-Takata which was on a hot summer day. What will the next Heavenese concert in Rikuzen-Takata be like? 

After only half a year and a handful of visits up north, we have made a lot of friends and memories.  We have so many things to share concerning our friends and outreach in Rikuzen-Takata that this site will never be short of news. 

Here are some people from Total Care Center which is located in Hamamatsu.  They are the ones that the Mobile KBC truck belongs to, and today they served delicious Japanese curry and rice.  

At the end of this well received feast, the mikoshi (portable shrine) which had had been visiting eleven places throughout the community returned to Kurosaki Shrine.  In Japan, mikoshi are believed to house a deity in many ways resembling the Ark of the Covenant that the Israelites carried in Old Testament times. 

A picture of Heavenese taken on the steps leading up to the shrine. 
Heavenese was so thankful because their dream to hold a concert at a shrine had come to fruition. 
It would be nice to use this picture for the cover of an future CD. 

While taking pictures, we were called to join a reception inside the shrine. 
We were greeted by a representative and two priests from the shrine. We were a little apprehensive because we didn't know what to expect; however, the reception was very light and full of laughter. If what had been talked about there were put into a book, it could be popular.  

After saying good bye to those at the shrine, we started packing up our gear.  We were met by a man who had been one of the people who performed the Nesaki Hashigo-Toramai (the tiger dance) that was performed at the top of a twenty-five meter ladder.  He said, "I wasn't sure if we should have this feast or not, but in order to move on we should give it a try no matter the outcome.  After it is all said and done, I am so glad it took place."

Rikuzen-Takata has faithfully observed this feast for 300 years, so today was very significant.  We were surprised to learn that one of the men who took part in the Nesaki Hashigo-Toramai, dancing at the very top of the ladder, would be turning 60 next year.

The shrine's representative said, "Tomorrow things will return to normal, life continues to be difficult with people out of work and the living situation difficult, but we will draw strength and encouragement from today's event."
His comment helped us see the deep strength and the resolve to carry on that the Japanese people have demonstrated throughout history when facing great natural disasters.   

Officially Rikuzen-Takata has endorsed Heavenese's upcoming L.A. tour that will start the end of October.

On-site Report ----------------------

Kana's Hometown
A building stands in the rubble in Rikuzentakata, northern Japan after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami struck the area, March 13, 2011.

Rikuzen-Takata:5,000 Homes Under Water and 15,000 People Missing

On March 12th, the Self Defense Force of Japan started its rescue efforts of most all of the households of the city of Rikuzen-Takata that has been demolished by the recent earthquakes which is estimated at 5,000. From the rescue efforts in Takata area, the most damaged area, 52 bodies were recovered on the 12th, and on the 13th, 114 more bodies, totaling 166 in the 2 days. The rescue effort, however, has been slowed because of the debris blocking all traffic to the city whose population is 23,000. According to the task force of the city, roughly 8,000 people are staying in emergency evacuated areas. The city is doing what they can to locate the the rest of the population. The City Hall, a 4-story building, was engulfed by the tsunami and out of 300 workers there, the whereabouts of 100 employees hav not been determined. Also, the city resident registry has been lost causing difficulty in identifying who the victims are.
There has been some positive news as the Self Defense Force of Japan has been successful rescuing 37 people isolated from roofs of buildings. Rescue efforts will continue. (March 13, 7:48PM(JST), NHK)



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