Life in Japan after 3/11

Life in Japan after 3/11

Life in Japan after 3/11

March 17, 2010

When the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11, Don and I were in Seattle waiting for the birth of our first grandchild. During our year in Japan we have made many friends, and shortly after the quake we emailed them and asked if they and their families were OK. It was a tremendous relief to us that all responded in the affirmative.

The huge 9.0 magnitude earthquake that occurred at 14:46 on Saturday (in Japan) was the biggest earthquake in Japan in 1200 years; however, most people don’t realize that there has been a huge amount of earthquake activity following this big quake and its devastating tsunami.

Go to the following link:

The map clock starts when you land on the page. When it gets to Friday afternoon, things really take off. Even the aftershocks are pretty big quakes and they just keep coming. There have been over 500 so far.

As of this morning the number of people either dead or missing has reached 15,000 and 387,000 people have lost their homes and are in shelters. Of all of the countries in the world Japan is the most prepared for natural disasters, but this was beyond all expectation of the experts. Rescue attempts are ongoing, but infrastructure is broken; roads are impassable, there are no trains and electricity and fuel is at a minimum. The people are without warm clothes, blankets, and adequate food and water. And then yesterday it snowed.

The biggest problem now is the nuclear emergency at Fukushima and the fear of radiation spreading over a large area. We sit here at home searching the newspapers for news and watch events unfold on television. We watch the horror of these events and feel so helpless.

We sent out another email to our friends asking them:

“What is happening in Japan regarding what people are thinking, feeling, doing regarding the earthquake/tsunami, Fukushima disaster?

We would like to understand more about what is happening with the people in the part of Japan where we have been living and traveling. We feel so far away.

Can you recommend anything that we can do to help?”

We have received replies from many of them. The following are are few of their replies:

From our shipping agent in Tokyo:

“Current status in Tokyo is as follows.

Number of aftershocks getting decrease.

Every offices and shops open and working normal.

Scheduled power failure was done by 5 group (5 different area in Kanto area

and different time) About 3 hours a day. Transportation works about 80% of

usual service.

Central of Tokyo, such as our office, never done power failure.

It is hard to take gas for cars as demand is too strong for protection of owns life. Rumour said big aftershock likely to be attacked Tokyo area by 3/16

but not happend.

Re Fukushima disaster, Frankly speaking we do not know real status of the

Nuclear plant. Government worked hard to extinguish fire by support of

US Military but seems not succeeded at present.

US Embassy declared US citizen to escape from Fukushima or stay inside if not available order avoid radioactivity.

People living in Tokyo is watching carefully progress calmly as we have no

country to be backed.

Otherhand western part of Japan, as you feel, they are doing normal and had

no bad affection from earthquake/tsunami even Fukushima disaster.

My idea is better to stay at Ashiya for a while and sail out for Hawaii on April after see fuel supply condition.

Will keep you advised further progress.”

From a friend in Ashiya:

“Terrible, isn’t it. Still, though, the effects are very small on the Kansai area. We’re all glued to the TV to see what’s happening. At this point, you wouldn’t notice any real difference in Ashiya. Everything is going on as usual, no panic buying, no changes to the train schedules, nothing.

I asked if they might start diverting our electric power to the Kanto to help out, and was told that they can’t because the areas use different hertz. And the loss in converting the power would be so great that it wouldn’t be worthwhile. Don can probably understand that better than I can.

As for what you could possibly do, I’d say just pray. Right now, they’re still calling for blankets, food, and fuel for the people who are staying in emergency centers, like schools and large auditoriums. The problem is, though, that the roads and train lines are damaged, so they can’t even move the stuff up there when they get it.

I imagine they’ll move pretty fast to clear the roads.

The nuclear reactor meltdown is a more immediate problem, and from what I hear, you’re probably getting better information on that than I am. Hopefully they’ll be able to get off-site power to the plant and cool the reactors with pumps and seawater. That seems to be the plan right now.”

From a friend in Ashiya

“As you know the earthquake hit in Fukusima and Sendai and Sanriku seaside. There was an earthquake of magnitude 9 which was outrageous and huge area got damege. Even now we do not konw how many people were killed or missing.

In Fukusima the nuclear power plant had big damege which is more serious problem than earthquake.

So even in Tokyo they don’t have enough electricity, that why power cut time to time at home and the train can not run normal time table. And that area destroy everything that why we can not get there, no road no train track etc.

In Osaka area we spend normal life fortunetly. So we donate money. That only things we can do now.

But even Osaka area some people buy rice and water. Yesterday when I went shopping there were no rice and water.

How stupid people they are.

Sorry my English is not good enough to explain. I hope you enjoy staying in home town.”

From a friend in Yobuko on Kyushu:

“Thank you very much for your e-mail and your warm hearts.

Northern and east Honshu has been stricken by the biggest earthquake and tsunami, about 30 feet,10 meters, high.

Japan had been stricken by equal biggest earthquake, about 1,200 years before !

By the time, there are 5,000 over bodies and about 10,000 peoples are missing. But many peoples took refuge.

So, 300,000 over peoples are in places of refuge and shelters. The tsunami struck Fukushima nuclear power plants and destroyed the cooling system for plants. A cooling system are needed absolutely for nuclear plants. Now, the firemen and soldiers are putting out fires and cooling down the plants.

The west Honshu (of course Ashiya) and Kyushu are not affected by these disasters. I and my families are safe. But Hokkaido were attacked by tsunami. So, Hakodate was covered with sea waters, about 7 feet high. My house is a apartment house, in 5th floor, of course is safe.

My wife is fine.

All Japanese peoples are starting to save and help them, by their own ways. Many peoples gives words of encouragement by radio and the other way. And many fund-raising campaigns have started. I think Japanese are calm and cool, and easy to accept own situations. And we help each other. 

I will go to Miyako-city in Iwate prefecture, one of damaged city, when would be able to go to there.

Because I had been in that city, I had worked at Miyako fisheries high school, when I was young. There are many close friends. 

I want to see and help many friends of mine. Now, the telephone are not available. But I checked them by anyways as I could. They almost are safe !

But I am only observing this situation closely, now.

Thank you very much for you warmest words and hearts, but I don’t need your help.”

From a friend in Kyoto:

“Everything is going on as usual in the west Japan. We have quite ordinary days in Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto.

But the more we know the damages to the Tohoku (=north east) area the more our shock become serious. Today it is snow there but people in harbors has no heating, no foods and no medicines. There are a lot of things. People are trying to send the tsunami victims everything which must be helpful for them, but roads and airports are destroyed and no gas, no vehicles. The Self-Defense-Force began to reconstruct the roads and to find victims who are not found.

The power station in Fukushima is serious. Four building of six were blown off by steam. But containers of nuclear energy are safe so far. The radiation level is high so the people in that area are evacuating by cars.

We cannot believe what is happening and that we live same as before. But we have to rebuild safer and more peaceful cities and lives as Kobe people did. Please look at the following site.

(My note: the following site is an amazing example of the calm dignity of the Japanese people in the face of disaster)

Our life continues as usual, with the exception that we are preparing an emergency disaster kit for Seattle, something that we have told ourselves to do for years. We are closely monitoring the situation in Japan and currently plan to return to Starr in Ashiya on April 1. We will provision, fuel and hope to leave by April 8 (weather permitting) and make a direct passage of 3700nm+ to Honolulu, Hawaii. The number one rule of making an ocean passage, however, is “to remain flexible”, which we will. We and our crew/friends, Gary and Jean Coard, Viktor Grabner, and Dave Schmidt, are all waiting to see what happens in Japan.

We are also sending money to:

Donate | Doctors Without Borders

Help Survivors of Japan’s Earthquake | Mercy Corps

It’s amazing how a disaster looks so different from far away when it wears the faces of your friends and the people of a nation who we have grown to love.
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