It’s been a week since the Tohoku region of Japan got hit by a huge 9.0-magnitude earthquake which triggered a tsunami with waves of up to 10 metres high.
Despite what certain media sources would have you believe, most of Japan is now pretty much back to normal. I don’t want to belittle what happened – at the time of writing this there have been 6,539 recorded deaths, 2,513 injured, and still 10,354 people missing (Wiki). This is a tragedy on a scale which is difficult to imagine. Whole towns were engulfed by waves, houses picked up like toys, and cars and boats flung about like they were made of paper. I watched endless videos of the tsunami hitting, and couldn’t comprehend what I was seeing. If it had been a movie, I would have thought it far-fetched.
It will take the people in the directly affected areas a long time to pick up the pieces that remain (if any) and rebuild their lives. Miyagi Prefecture (with the capital city of Sendai) was the most badly hit. Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Iwate, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba Prefectures were also badly affected. Tokyo, too, got shaken up, but the damage there seems minimal compared to the destruction in Miyagi. Many other areas of Japan felt the quake, and some received a little damage. It was even felt here, in Hamamatsu (Shizuoka Prefecture), but wasn’t strong enough to make anything fall down.
Aid workers continue to help those in the most badly affected areas, but people’s attention has been drawn away from their hard work. Why? Because of a nuclear threat.
Fukushima Prefecture is home to one of Japan’s nuclear power plants: Fukushima Dai-ichi. The plant is run by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). After the earthquakes (the one big one I mentioned, plus literally hundreds of aftershocks), the power plant began to experience some problems. There are many news sources relating to this ongoing problem. I don’t know which ones to trust to be honest, and the situation is constantly changing, so I will just refer you to Wiki for more information for now.
Basically, at the time of writing this, some people (mainly non-Japanese, I think) are running scared from Japan – scared that we are all going to die from some kind of Chernobyl-like nuclear disaster. The media is only fuelling this fear. However, from what I can tell from reliable (scientific) sources, there is actually no reason to be scared right now. Despite what people are reporting, there is no huge ominous radiation cloud hanging over Tokyo, and there is no need for anyone to “evacuate Japan”, or even Tokyo. Officials have set evacuation zones around the Fukushima area though, which I’m sure is causing a great deal of distress for the people living there. But I think the rest of Japan needs to take a big deep breath and calm down.
Of course, earthquakes, a tsunami, and then the threat of a nuclear disaster, along with a week of unseasonably cold weather, has led to panic buying and hoarding. Shops (even here in Hamamatsu) are running low on stocks of certain items, notably: bread, rice, milk, yoghurts, toilet tissue, dried food, batteries and flashlights. It should be noted that some of these shortages are also due to power cuts. People in the TEPCO region are being asked to conserve power and are having scheduled blackouts. Other areas are also cutting back on their power usage (today at my school we decided to keep all non-essential lights off, for example).
However, the people of Japan are not about to hit starvation, as (again) some media sources would have you believe. Some people are going to have a tough time finding cheap basics, but (except for in the directly affected areas, which are of course facing difficult times) restaurants remain open, shops have plenty of other food (including rice balls, sandwiches and bento boxes), and we are far from starvation. I enjoyed a nice pasta lunch today, as usual.
So, I urge you to remember the following:
- Be careful about the media sources you choose to believe – there is a lot of scare-mongering going on out there.
- If you are in Japan right now, please conserve power if you can, and don’t stock-pile your food and other goods – remember to share!
- If you are in Japan right now – please don’t run away! Be sensible, be prepared, but don’t flee.
- If you are planning to come to Japan soon – of course, seek advice, but please consider going ahead with your plans. Japan needs you to help the economy.
Finally, I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has followed this blog over the last week. I hope you have found my comments useful! I’m so happy to have met lots of new readers, many seeking advice about the current condition in the Shizuoka Prefecture. I’m happy to say that, at the time of writing this, Shizuoka Prefecture (including Hamamatsu) is doing just fine! I have no reason to grumble, now that the earth seems to have stopped shaking. 😉
It’s been a hell of a week for the people of Japan but, now, let’s continue our lives with as much normalcy as we can and of course, if you are in a position to help, please consider making a donation to a trustworthy source (some can be seen on the Google Crisis Response page). (If you would rather make a more personal donation, my friend Ed – who used to live in Japan – is running a half marathon on the weekend and collecting sponsorship, which he will donate to the Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Relief Fund. You can sponsor him here if you want to.)
Kitty carefully studies the newspaper while seeking refuge under some warm gloves…
This is a Show Me Japan entry. See? If Show Me Japan is still up and running, Japan can’t be doomed just yet… 😉