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Teens sharing photos of themselves 'praying' for victims of Tohoku disaster cause stir

52 Comments
By Philip Kendall

Last Tuesday marked the third anniversary of the 2011 Tohoku disaster, a day on which tens of thousands of people lost their lives and many more were displaced, never able to return to their homes. At 2:46 p.m., the exact moment the quake struck three years ago, people across the country stopped to take part in nationwide moment of silence.

Teens across the land also took a moment to pay their respects that day, although the actions of a few were perhaps a little misguided. Soon after the moment of silence, photos emerged online showing kids “praying” inside "purikura" sticker photo booths, which were quickly shared and “favorited”.

Internet commenters reacted angrily to the images, calling them disrespectful and deploring how the smartphone generation feels the need to broadcast almost everything they do.

Although some people, busy as they were, went about their day oblivious to the fact that the moment of silence was being held, the vast majority stopped what they were doing and took a few seconds to reflect. Even on the streets of Tokyo, hundreds of people came to a sudden halt as memorial services were broadcast on big screens.

Not long afterwards, a number of photos appeared online showing teens supposedly praying and showing their respects for the dead. Many included messages such as “in memory of those who lost their lives on March 11, 2011,” and seemed quite genuine. Others less so.

Naturally, the online community was both surprised and angered to see such photos, which were mostly taken in "purikura" photo booths, which require manual operation and for the participants to strike a suitable pose while the machine takes their photo. They’re also almost always located within noisy video arcades, begging the question of whether these kids were really taking their reflection seriously.

Despite being daubed with the kanji characters for silent prayer (黙祷), few netizens believed that these shared displays of respect for the dead were genuine, and found the very idea of taking photos of oneself during a time like this, not least then sharing them online, in very poor taste.

“What on earth are these people doing sharing photos on Twitter of themselves praying? What on earth is wrong with Japan?” wrote one of the many angry Twitter users in response to the photos, adding that surely the money spent on taking the photo would have been better given to a relief fund to help those affected by the disaster.

The majority of the comments made online, however, were far blunter:

“Man, this pisses me off.” “Idiots.” “These kids have zero morals.” “Are they even praying properly?” “Purikura is anything but silent prayer.” “Silent prayer isn’t some event you know!”

In fairness, we’re sure that at least some of the kids who took photos like these genuinely meant well and that their hearts were in the right place. They’re young and, what with growing up in the age of smartphones and selfies, by sharing their photos in this way they may have felt that they were showing their respects appropriately. Rather, it is down to their teachers, parents and even older siblings to tell them that while social media can be a wonderful tool for spreading a message, there are times when we should put down our phones and appreciate the gravity of the situation, and certainly not just for show.

Stepping into a purikura booth to document your prayers for the dead is most definitely not a good idea. But then again, sharing photos of yourself supposedly passionately kissing your boy/girlfriend, or taking time out from “having an amazing time with the best friends ever” to Tweet or update your Facebook status with is perhaps just as idiotic, so maybe we’re not really setting the best example?

Source: Hamster Sokuho

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Remembering the people of Tohoku three years on -- Heartbreaking video game remembers the victims of the 2011 Tohoku tsunami, raises money for survivors -- 70 Japanese students volunteer to help clean Canada’s shores of Tohoku Tsunami debris

© RocketNews24

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52 Comments
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I don't see why you should publish yourself doing that, remember and pray for the lost but in your own way, not for the world to see.

I was half expecting the outrage to be like in the west about atheists saying it was wrong, glad that isn't the case.

unless it serves to help people remember the lost, I don't see a point in broadcasting yourself.

2 ( +8 / -6 )

Kids will be kids. However I'm not sure what the problem is. The kids photograph themselves while praying for Tohoku, while I wouldn't do this myself at all and hope its not going to be a trend, I don't see anything wrong with this. They didn't laugh or make fun of the victims.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Big deal... they weren't being disrespectful, they were trying to share their prayer in the place they are on 24/7.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Seems the smartphone generation isn't aware of what praying means. It doesn't mean photograph it in a way like you do when toiling around with your friends.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

I find this ironic. Japan, land of the badly faked apology and insincere bow is chewing out these kids for being insincere?? ... amazing, truly amazing. All this shows is a staggering lack of introspection from the adults criticising them.

16 ( +25 / -9 )

I find this ironic. Japan, land of the badly faked apology and insincere bow is chewing out these kids for being insincere?? ... amazing, truly amazing. All this shows is a staggering lack of introspection from the adults criticising them.

Well said. But you know, for most of the old farts who shape this country, there is a right way and wrong way to do everything, and that includes how to give a fake apology and an insincere bow. More power to these young kids!

0 ( +5 / -5 )

We live in the day of high tech and the spread of information is going to happen in one form or another. They are sharing that they have taken a moment of silence and in the very least, it shows that they remembered and that people are thinking about Tohoku. Don't understand for all the uproar.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Maybe not the most sensitive thing to take a selfie while praying but these do seem to be Junior high school age kids on the pic, not adults so....

Frungy + 1 - indeed.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

I was going to make the same point as Frungy, and add that perikura and taking photos when they should not be taken is not something that started with the 'smart phone generation'.

As to these kids and these particular perikura and/or selfies, it is indeed pretty tasteless. I fail to see how posting said photos on social media and/or thumbing up other like photos is considered 'silent' prayer.

-4 ( +7 / -11 )

I find this ironic. Japan, land of the badly faked apology and insincere bow is chewing out these kids for being insincere?? ... amazing, truly amazing

What I find amazing, truly amazing, is that your comment, which is suggesting that Japan is a fake or insincere country, is considered by some to be acceptable discourse.

I also see nothing wrong with sharing these photos. The same images were shown on TV and people watched. As long as nothing tasteless was shown or written, I fail to see the big problem. Young people deal with sadness and tragedy differently than adults. That does not mean they way they deal with it is wrong, just different.

Remembering the victims and spreading the message is the most important thing. If the photos and messages help do this, it is a fitting tribute to the victims and their families.

4 ( +9 / -4 )

slumdog: "The same images were shown on TV and people watched."

Was it the kids filming themselves for the news, slumdog? Again, what exactly is 'silent' about wanting to be seen and thumbed up for praying? It's like someone who does a good deed in order to receive congratulations, not for the deed itself.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

All forms of positive prayer are good! I don't see the need to post pictures of yourself but at least they took the time and thought.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Was it the kids filming themselves for the news, slumdog?

? It was filmed, to be shown. We saw it. Whatever difference does it make who took the footage in the end?

Again, what exactly is 'silent' about wanting to be seen and thumbed up for praying?

Well, if they were not talking, they would have been silent. Wanting to show others what they did, does not necessarily diminish what they did.

It's like someone who does a good deed in order to receive congratulations, not for the deed itself.

If the good deed gets done, that is all that matters.

I agree with Stuart above. All forms of positive prayer are good. Everyone has their own way of dealing. This was these young people's way of dealing.

It is a new world and with it comes new ways of doing things. This does not strike me as one of the new things we should all be up in arms about.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

slumdog: "? It was filmed, to be shown. We saw it. Whatever difference does it make who took the footage in the end?"

The difference is the whole point of the issue! These kids stepped into a booth, POSED for a photo, then shared their 'silent prayers' in order to be seen praying and to get thumbed up or favourite rankings. A film crew taking footage of people praying for the news is NOT AT ALL the same thing. And hey, if you can't see the difference, just look at the fact that this is an issue at all.

"Well, if they were not talking, they would have been silent."

If you take the word absolutely literally, then yes (and if you ignore the text they typed as well).

"If the good deed gets done, that is all that matters."

Not at all, if you are not sincere about it, and showing your 'silent' respect and prayers for all the world to see is not respectful at all, but a cry for personal attention.

"I agree with Stuart above. All forms of positive prayer are good."

This is not 'positive', it's disrespectful, and quite frankly, a little disgusting.

"It is a new world and with it comes new ways of doing things."

Especially when being re-tweeted and liked as much as possible is your priority.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

smithinjapan, by your definition anyone who ever goes to a shrine, temple or church to pray or offer their respects is then also disrespectful? Since they're doing it in public where other people could be watching?

These people went to a photo booth, prayed, and took a photo, then shared. The same way you send a condolence card, the same way you send a congratulation card. Does the fact that they sent the pic made the action any less important? No it didn't. This is the way the younger generation does things, they do it online. They reminded people that there was something to think about on March 11, and this is their way of showing respect.

9 ( +11 / -2 )

Maria M: "smithinjapan, by your definition anyone who ever goes to a shrine, temple or church to pray or offer their respects is then also disrespectful?"

No, not at all. I'm saying that, let's say, if I went to one of the sites of the 3.11 disasters to get a selfie to post on twitter and not engage in the 'silent prayer' and 'respect for the dead and living victims' that THAT would be disrespectful.

"Since they're doing it in public where other people could be watching?"

You call a perikura booth public where others are watching? And, sorry to have to point this out to you as I had to with slumdog, but me seeing you at a temple, shrine, church, or what have you praying is not at all the same thing as you posing in front of a camera to post YOUR OWN act of 'praying' on Twitter.

"These people went to a photo booth, prayed, and took a photo, then shared."

No, they went to a photo booth, put in the requisite coins, posed for the camera, doodled, then sent it to friends to get praise.

"The same way you send a condolence card, the same way you send a congratulation card."

I don't congratulate or send condolences to someone by taking my own picture and posting it on social networking services for everyone to see ME doing it, sorry.

"They reminded people that there was something to think about on March 11, and this is their way of showing respect."

First off, I doubt anyone in this nation has forgotten what happened, just as a side note. Second, they weren't doing it to 'show respect', they were doing it to be seen posing and to get Twitter hits. If you want to pray and show respect for the victims, you don't send mass emails and/or Twitter posts asking people to pray 'silently'. And as the article said, girls like those in the pic above were at a perikura booth, which means likely they were at an incredibly loud, incredibly flashy arcade -- far from solemn and silent.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

There was no harm intended and just goes to show that some people will complain about anything.

What message are all these disgruntled adults sending to these well meaning young people? I'm sure it will make them think twice about commiting any altruistic act in the future.

I do wonder what form of prayer the complainers have indulged in, but let's hope they have done something before criticising other's good intentions!

2 ( +4 / -2 )

“Man, this pisses me off.” “Idiots.” “These kids have zero morals.” “Are they even praying properly?” “Purikura is anything but silent prayer.” “Silent prayer isn’t some event you know!”

The comments on the photos (and the JT posters who are supporting them) tell us more about the narrow mindedness of each person who made the comment. Why cant these girls remember the day in their own way? The people who write these comments are trying to push some non-existent doctrine of correctness. I see nothing but 'fear of other' and envy in these comments.

STOP telling these kids how to live and feel and pray and show respect etc. They have every right to define their own reactions to events just as you do.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

HowardStern: "They have every right to define their own reactions to events just as you do."

Well, then, forgive me if I don't go to the grave of someone I knew and ask someone to take a pic of me posing for prayer so I can post it on the internet and look for likes.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

For Pete's sake!

The kids have done NOTHING wrong in this photo, for crying out loud! Those who see a great wrong in this clearly need to do a re-think. Heck I am not a religious person BUT I applaud their taking a moment!!

Heck whenever the date of some past tragedy or war comes along the boob tube fills up with images of people paying respects, whats the difference, ...........there ISNT one

End of story, hai karumba!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

For the most part with the generations after 1970 they seem to have lacked getting the values of their parents or grandparents.

They are, in my perspective, the Gimmie generation that wants everything handed to them handed to them and sees no wrong in ANY action they do.

With the government looking into every aspect of a person's life, they are the one's to blame for giving the wrong ideals to those that seem to want the government to do it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Wow, young people taking the time to remember, and in their own way, acknowledge the tragedy. Who would have thought? Welcome to the 21st century. Times change, and young people will drive that change. Young people, I applaud you.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

I guess the kids should of just ignored the day then? Far too many angry people in this world..

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Surely it's the sentiment that counts, remembering those lost. Does it really matter how they do that?

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Taking a purikura while praying is not the problem. It's the sharing of that moment online which makes this prayer all about "me, me, me" and not about the victims. That's like saying "Look at me, what a good person I am!" This kind of selfishness is maybe ok in America but clearly not positively received in Japan.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

I am for the kids. I believe they were sincere and expressed their heart-felt feelings the best way they knew how. By condemning them people are in effect telling them the best--safest--course is to do nothing. Punish these kids and you will raise a generation of cynics.

Here is a somewhat analogous story that is apparently true. In olden Europe a juggler was arrested for juggling in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary. He explained that the Virgin had granted him a wish and that he did not know how to repay her. So he decided to give her his most precious thing--his act.

When the Emperor visits with Tohoku victims his very presence brings comfort to people. The kids don't have that power. If they pray for the victims no one knows and no one cares. The photos are saying "I care."

The people I cannot tolerate are the people with political and economic power go to Fukushima and other places in Tohoku, mouth the usual sympathies, leave having made themselves look good and then do nothing to relieve the suffering that Tohoku is experiencing--Fukushima in particular.

I am writing this as a survivor of the 1995 Great Awaji-Hanshin Earthquake. I well remember the slimy LDP politicians flying into Kobe, showing their phony sincerity and then getting back to Tokyo in time for cocktail hour while I was living without running water.

The kids are all right.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

Kabukilover, nice contribution! I guess it's really about whether we believe in the good of humanity or not. Let's give the kids the benefit of the doubt, not the politicians whose words are meaningless. The kids prayers were most likely sincere, they just don't know yet that life is not all about twittering and sharing.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The kids are all right.

Great post!

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Meanwhile, Americans just slap a bumper sticker on their car that reads "Help the victims" (or some variation). I don't know how many people/causes have been helped by bumper stickers on American cars. And these are grown ups. Leave the kids alone.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Thanks for the good words, friends. I might add there is nothing wrong with expressing your compassion through social media.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

Well, I don't know how seriously to take any posting from someone going by the handle of "Hamster". Me? I think kids showing their concern on the latest media is just fine.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Kabukilover: "The people I cannot tolerate are the people with political and economic power go to Fukushima and other places in Tohoku, mouth the usual sympathies, leave having made themselves look good and then do nothing to relieve the suffering that Tohoku is experiencing--Fukushima in particular."

I myself cannot tolerate that either, but I can't help seeing these kind of photo ops as a micro-cosm of the same thing. I do not doubt that in most cases, if not all, the people taking these kind of pics truly want to acknowledge the tragedies and think they are in their own way praying for the dead, but ultimately when you ask someone to take a picture of you doing so so you can Tweet it or what have you, it ceases to be about the tragedy and becomes about the person tweeting or posting on Facebook.

Ranger_Miffy: "Me? I think kids showing their concern on the latest media is just fine."

When was Perikura created? And how many thumbs up does it take to be genuinely 'concerned'? If the girl on the above right gets 50 favourites is she more concerned than the girl on the upper left who looks more solemn and only gets thirty favourites for posing in prayer, in a perikura booth, in a noisy arcade, on a day of 'silent prayer'?

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

What the hell has to be wrong with one to get angry about such things? Religious US popstars like Justin Bieber have been "praying" in public (and for PR) repeatedly, so it's no wonder some kids all around the world want to do the same. After all, it's just a nice and pretty useless gesture (if you're not Christian yourself, or anything) -- at least they show they have registered and are thinking about this important day in Japanese history.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I don't think this is a big deal. I suppose instead they could just as easily have donated the money they spend on disaster relief, but they meant no harm. If anything, it helped to keep us aware that it was a mere three years ago. There is still much rebuilding to be done.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

One thing you have to ask yourself before putting down these kids, is what they have to gain. I'd say nothing. When the Emperor and Empress visit people in temporary shelters it inevitably boosts the image of the emperor system. Yet no one dumps on them for being opportunists. The very best reason for this is that the Emperor and Empress are sincere and kind. They are doing the best that they can given their positions. And they do raise the spirits of the people they visit. Remember the last Tora-san movie? Tora-san visited Kobe right after the earthquake. No one that I recall condemned the movie for taking advantage of the earthquake victims. i was happy to see the movie come out when it did because we in the earthquake area were starting to fade from the collective memory.

I also think that where and how these children made their pictures is irrelevant. Art is seldom if even made in angelic circumstances.

It is easy to dump on children because they cannot fight back. They do not have the power of fame and money to fight back. They have no lawyers or publicists--or hired thugs when all else fails.

Anyway, I think they did a good thing. They are keeping the issue of help for Tohoku alive.

I have to confess that when I saw the photograph with this article I was moved. I am not the least bit religious but I was moved. This may be the first time in my life that I was ever moved by a picture of people praying.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Politicians get to pray and know that they will be photographed. It's all just as choreographed, the only difference is that these kids aren't famous enough to ensure someone takes their photo.

I think they should be applauded. Other kids take photos of themselves beating someone up or doing disgusting things.

You can do worse than take a photo of yourself praying. And in Japan, praying usually just means putting your hands together and being quiet for a few seconds. So they were praying in a purikura box.

Really, there are worse things to get upset about.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The kids are being kids the adults are being adults well the whiner are yes whiners

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Er... how is this even news? I can't believe someone was paid for this article.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Mokutou can be used only for the dead. And it can never be used for living people.

In the photo at the top of this article, Mokuto is prayed for Hisai-sha which means victims. But usually, Hisai-sha is used to mean living victims in the context like "interview with Hisai-sha in the Tohoku region". And if all of the victims are dead. We do not use the word Hisai-sha to mean them. We use Gisei-sha or dead people.

So many Japanese felt very wired when seeing the photo in which "Mokuto" is prayed for Hisai-sha (living victims). And that makes us feel as if they were praying for the death of living victims. It is a very bad expression mistake.

I think that is the main reason for the photo in the article being retweeted many times in critical contexts.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Although some people, busy as they were, went about their day oblivious to the fact that the moment of silence was being held**,

Instead of criticizing the kids' actions, which I don't think were disrespectful, why not criticize the "some people" who failed to show any respect at all.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Internet commenters reacted angrily to the images, calling them disrespectful and deploring how the smartphone generation feels the need to broadcast almost everything they do.

I concur! It's absolutely NOTHING like how "internet commenters" feel the need to broadcast their comments on almost everything under the Sun. Not one bit similar! (rolls eyes)

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Japanese society can bring on conflict to young people by exasperating them with too many traditional and unnecessary demands or inappropriate rules. Maybe the society is failing to be respectful to the young generations, making them feel as though they are unheard and their opinions don’t matter. Traditional Japanese cannot ask a young people to show respect when they fail to demonstrate it themselves. The goal is to get to the truth, then society must be willing to hear it and act on it. Look at their own attitudes first, because you can always make changes in yourself and that will model respectful behavior in your children.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

It's just a sign of the times, that's all.

I understand that the older generation will consider praying to be a very private act, but nowadays it is the norm to broadcast your activities to your friends. There is no right or wrong about it, it's just the way it is.

There is no reason - and therefore no justification - for doubting the sincerity of their prayers. Furthermore, by publicising their prayers they might encourage others to do likewise, which can only be a good thing.

If I may be forgiven for mashing-up Pink Floyd and The Who, 'Leave them kids alone, the kids are all right!'

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I would've thought its better to pray than play.....^ ^

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Yuhki Yes, well explained, but why should people get upset that young people had good intentions but made a cultural mistake. Maybe older people could correct them without being critical but recognizing that they meant well.

@sfjp330 That was one of the most sensible, understanding comments I've read in ages.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I only hope one day they notice their act was so shamefulness. there're something unforgivable even though you were kids.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

It's just a sign of the times, that's all. I understand that the older generation will consider praying to be a very private act, but nowadays it is the norm to broadcast your activities to your friends. There is no right or wrong about it, it's just the way it is. There is no reason - and therefore no justification - for doubting the sincerity of their prayers. Furthermore, by publicising their prayers they might encourage others to do likewise, which can only be a good thing. If I may be forgiven for mashing-up Pink Floyd and The Who, 'Leave them kids alone, the kids are all right!'

Cosigned.

Talk about generational disconnect; to these kids - the ones who are serious, at least - this was their way of showing solidarity with 3/11 victims. The backlash seems to be primarily a failure of the older generations to understand the new digital culture. Were some of the participants insincere attentions seekers that hopped on the bandwagon? Undoubtedly; but there is no reason to believe that they exist in any proportion greater than the number of persons who spent their "moment of silence" sans any sort of serious reflection or thought for the victims.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

It's the thought that counts and given the popularity of social media sites, they probably wanted to get the word out and inspire others!!!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why is the opinion of a few loudmouths on Twitter newsworthy? People say all kinds of junk in all languages, most people have the good sense to just ignore them in move on.

Why give them publicity?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Think of it like this, as long as the photos exist there will be a prayer going out to all those who died and those whose lives have been destroyed. Pray on kids and post...nothing on the net is ever truly deleted.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Its not really the fault of the kids ultimately. Japanese society in general has a tendency to often trivialize matters that would demand great sensitivity or respect in most of the world, while simultaneously elevating the trivial to a position of inappropriate importance. So to get angry at the kids is to put the cart in front of horse.

Many times people in Japan will laugh when told about something ghastly. It is out of nervousness to be sure, but it is an inappropriate gesture and comes of as being extremely insensitive.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

SmithinJapan- I dont get why you are slamming these kids, when there is tons of other kids out there who would barely bat an eye or even acknowlege the "silent prayer" AT lease these teens gave an effort. I dont see a problem with them taking a photo. How would you know that they didnt "pray" in silent before they took the picture? YOU DONT. Maybe they took it afterwards or before. BUT you ovbiously know. Just because you and older generation beleive they should "conform" to the old culture of "praying" you give backlash and the rant of "they just want likes on twitter or facebook, blah blah blah. How would you know their intention? OH wait you don;t cause YOU ARE NOT THEM. I dont find anything wrong with this, People have diffrent way of coping with tragedy. Who are you to tell someone they are right or wrong on how to cope with ones own emotions and way of coping?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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