TOKYO (BP)--Thousands of the little wooden prayer tablets rattle softly in the cold, spring breeze, a symphony of soft clattering that drifts out from the Shinto shrine.
Images and characters burned on one side of the tablet symbolize hope. On the other side, carefully handwritten prayers and wishes are written to the deities of the Meiji Jingu Shrine.
Not surprisingly, the "prayer wall" focuses on Japan's triple disaster -- a 9.0-magnitude earthquake, a tsunami and nuclear crisis.
"My sister is missing. Please bring her back."
"Prayers for the victims."
"These disasters will not destroy us. Be strong."
One young Japanese woman spends 15 minutes writing her request in perfect characters. She stuffs her prayer, "… protect my family from nuclear radiation …," in a waist-high box. Don't try to estimate the number of these requests -- people just keep stuffing whether there is room or not.
"I do not normally come here to pray," the young woman explains, "but given the disasters, I am not sure what else to do."
Proud of their secular society, most Japanese are not religious. But in a time of crisis, International Mission Board missionary Gary Fujino says they tend to fall back on an old Japanese expression, "The god that you depend on in times of crisis."
"What that means is when things are bad, you will go to the temple and shrine because nothing you've tried thus far worked," Fujino explains. He notes that, once the crisis is over, no one goes back to the temple or shrine.
Thousands of prayer tablets hung in one-day testify that the crisis in Japan continues to grow and people are trying to find ways to cope. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear site has been rated a 5 on a 7-point international scale for atomic incidents, just two levels lower than the Ukraine's 1986 Chernobyl disaster. The head of the UN's nuclear watchdog warns that stabilizing the plant is a race against time. In Japan's disaster-ravaged northeast, 6,405 people are confirmed dead and about 10,200 are listed missing. Read More