Tag Archive for tohoku

My 11th March story

My story isn’t as harrowing as those up north, but it is my story. I’m in Nagoya, halfway between Tokyo and Osaka, well south of the Tohoku earthquake.

11th March 2011 was a very cold, but sunny day. At about 2.47pm I felt my building beginning to sway, and then it got violent.For the first ten minutes the NHK broadcast was only the automatic computer system announcing the basic facts in Japanese, English, Portuguese, Mandarin, and may a couple of other languages. Then later we saw confused, hurriedly arranged news anchors starting to pass on info to us, including the first images of the tsunami sweeping across low-lying homes and fields. The earthquake swayed and shook us at various intensities for the next five hours. During that time, I wondered if I should evacuate my building or not, but I stayed glued in front of my TV. I remained standing behind my couch with heavy winter jacket on ready to run, eyes on the TV updates, and all I had was my wallet, keys, and mobile phone in hand. Now, I have a backpack with emergency survival kit, and I’d ensure I have my camera. Looking outside, I saw that water in the nearby canals was slopping side to side, like coffee in my mug as I walk from the kitchen. I slept with my clothes next to my bed for a few days, and always a good pair of shoes ready at the door.

In the following days and weeks, I wondered if the nearby fault, the Nankai fault, might also be triggered. The Nankai fault was the one that was expected to be the next big quake, affecting mainly Nagoya and the central region, and the northernmost limit of affect is Tokyo. There apparently is over 80% chance of it slipping, creating a magnitude 8 earthquake, resulting in a tsunami expected to be over 10 meters in some areas, which will overwhelm many coastal storm surge barriers. It is expected that 10,000’s in my region would die from what is called the Great Nankai Earthquake. Consequently, it was because there seemed the very real possibility that the Nankai earthquake could be triggered, is why I remained in my region and didn’t head north to visually record the devastation. Apparently, experts feel that the Nankai trough is in very real danger or slipping, even more so now the shape of the earth has changed. I also learnt in the months afterwards that the whole earth had sped up, and the earth’s angle of lean changed ever so slightly, as a result of the Tohoku earthquake (Wikipedia).

The picture below is my commemorative art for the event. Please see the Nuclear Spring gallery for more, and the Nuclear Spring blog posts for details.

Donations not from international contributors?

Tonight on Japan’s national broadcaster NHK it was reported that victims of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami would receive financial assistance from the Japan Red Cross. It was reported that the donations collected nationally by the Japan Red Cross would provide each victim with JPN¥350,000 (about USD$4,100 or GBP£2,500). Some people may focus on the amount saying, ‘that’s all?’ with sympathy for the victims, and perhaps there should be more exclamation in their voice than initially said.

The problem is that the report said that the Red Cross collected money nationally, that is, domestically in Japan. This ignores the huge international donations directly to Red Cross Japan via Google (including .com and .co.uk among others), it also ignores the donations made via the British Red Cross, the Australian Red Cross, other branches of Red Cross International, and via alternative charities. It is excellent that the survivors are getting financial assistance to survive and re-establish their lives, however, the international contribution has either been ignored or not counted (yet).

This could be regarded as an understandable omission, however, in the first week of the earthquake crisis there was never a single report of any sort of international response on the evening national news. Only because of the BBC website did I know that other countries were responding to the crisis. It would have been easy for the Japanese people to believe that they were alone in the crisis for at least a week. Though, a brief mention by the Japanese Prime Minister that he spoke to Barack Obama on the phone was mentioned during a press briefing that was aired live just once. Eventually, there was a short news story of the New Zealand contingent fresh from their own earthquake disaster, then a short story on some of the international contingents including a group of Israeli doctors, but several news stories of the US Army and US Navy’s support took the greater portion of the pie. If there is an Australian contingent here, I’m sure the Australians should feel a little ignored and unappreciated. Likewise any German, British or other countries contingents.

What’s the cause of this? I have lived in Taiwan and South Korea, and notice the differences. In Taiwan and SK, the news programmes and general media recognises the international community and contributions in the everyday lives of people in these countries. Hong Kong and Singapore news cannot survive without mentioning their neighbours. In contrast, Japanese media seem very ethno or ego-centric. For instance, their travel reporters only speak to people who speak Japanese (obviously sourced via the embassy) or use charactatured voice-overs. Such voice-overs deny the informant their own cultural identity. Business news programmes only really report on what Japanese companies are doing in Japan, and rarely what they are doing overseas. Very, very, very rarely is there a report of what Japanese competitors are doing. That is, I remember only one news story about how the South Korean government and companies have been investing in Asian countries, and how they are successfully out-competing Japanese interests.

It would be nice for the international community to know that their efforts in supplying support personnel and money are being recognised and appreciated within Japan.

See a photo of Japanese yen here at my Asia Photo Connection Portfolio.

Tohoku Earthquake


The major 8.8 magnitude earthquake now has a name, the “Tohoku Earthquake”. It seems that by 6pm all the tremors in Nagoya that began at 2.46pm have subsided, and the small tsunami had passed causing one seagull to be slightly startled. Otherwise, all the excitement has been in our living room watching the news on TV.