The mood was sombre for much of Sunday service held at the Calgary Buddhist Temple this morning as the congregation — many of whom were born in Japan or have relatives there — reflected on the tragedy plaguing the nation.
As the carnage of Friday's 8.9-magnitude earthquake and the devestating tsunami it spawned was recounted, many in attendance could be seen shaking their heads in despair.
For Sensei Kyojo Ikuta, the tragedy hit particularly close to home as his niece, her husband and three kids were lucky to escape danger in Sendai, the capital city of Miyagi Prefecture which was hardest hit by the waves.
After this morning's service, Ikuta said the scope of the disaster — estimates this morning put the number of dead at more than 10,000 — is only beginning to sink in.
"It's a shock," he said. "You can't say this or that, we have to do something.
That's the helplessness we feel from here."
Ikuta watched Japanese television all day Friday waiting for word from his family.
Finally, they managed to send an email that evening assuring him they were OK.
Ikuta had warned his niece about living in the northern areas of Japan before she headed there three years ago to work as a teacher.
"Sendai is a nice city to live," he said. "If I had a choice, I would live in Sendai, but I told her watch out for earthquakes before they went, and sure enough."