Souls of Zen looks at Buddhism in post-tsunami Japan

Today marks the second anniversary of the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that killed 19,000 people in Japan, causing massive devastation and a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Two years later, a 19-mile area around Fukushima is still blocked off, and hundreds of thousands of residents may never return to their homes.

Souls of Zen — Buddhism, Ancestors, and the 2011 Tsunami in Japan is a new documentary that looks at Japanese Buddhism and the way it has chanced in the wake of the disaster. The directors, Tim Graf and Jakob Montrasio, traveled from Tokyo to the hardest-hit prefectures in Eastern Japan, interviewing scholars, clergy, and laypeople from the Soto Zen and Jodo Pure Land traditions.The film provides a complex portrait of Buddhism in the aftermath of the triple disaster, and looks at the changes that have happened in Japanese Buddhism both because of the disaster and because of demographic changes and religious pluralism.

Souls of Zen has been screened at several film festivals around the world and is now being screened at select locations around North America. Click here for a full schedule, and follow the film on Facebook for more updates.

Buddhist teacher Michael Stone is also at work on a documentary, called Reactor, about Japan’s response to the disaster. The film seeks to answer several questions, including “How are the old Zen traditions and cities of beautiful temples responding? How are the young rethinking the stories of their lives? How can we embody the Bodhisattva vow in this time?”