Report from Tohoku area

A friend through the North Face brand here in Japan has put up a great report from his trip to the Tohoku area to deliver relief supplies. I have posted a small section here on my blog, but please visit his to read the rest and see the pictures. Thanks Toru for making this report, it is so important to share what is really going on in the Tohoku area. The TV news has failed horribly in keeping up the coverage so we rely more and more on these first hand accounts. The part where he talks about small children unable to play outside because of high radiation levels is heartbreaking.

Full post here.

7Nature Usagi Report

My impression about this trip

Relief goods in the evacuation centers seemed to be enough for the people living there. However, for those who have moved into the temporary housing and those who manage to live in their partially destroyed houses, the supplies including food, daily necessities are in shortage. People love the land where they were born and had spent most of their lives. I felt it would be difficult for us strangers to convince them to leave and go live in somewhere else.

Now people in Japan and in the whole world are focusing on Fukushima, but not the victims of tsunami and earthquake. This worries the victims a lot that the support for them may only for the beginning and won’t be carried on in the future.

Also there are a lot of children there who have closed their hearts to others because of the lost of their friends and parents.

I think that psychological care for children is a very important issue in the future.

Temporary housing is like an apartment room, where a college student would live, with refrigerator, air condition, washing machine, TV, etc. Actually it’s not as bad as I had thought.

However, once people move to the temporary housing, they will get 20 kg of rice as the last support and lose all the ongoing support including the supply of food and daily necessities. For this reason, a lot people who have lost their income sources have to give up the temporary housing and remain in the evacuation center.

After moving to the temporary housing, if they can get some minimum allowance every month until they find jobs and get everything back to track, the problem will be eased. All the provinces including cities and prefectures have their own fund for emergency use. I think it is imperative to pass the fund as allowance to people who move to the temporary housing.

I also strongly felt that individual care is needed because everyone we met had different difficulties.

Fukushima was filled with heavy atmosphere, which was something different with tsunami and earthquake.

We visited a kindergarten here.

The principal was having a headache about the situation. “The radiation dose inside is quite high but still in the safe limit, but when we move the Geiger counter to the outside playground, puddle under the slides, wet places, and plants, the alarm will go off immediately with a reading higher than 3.0uSv/h.”

Because it’s the third month since the Fukushima nuclear accident occurred, children here don’t wear masks anymore.

The city of Fukushima is taking measures to reduce the radiation by removing top soil from the playgrounds in schools and kindergartens. Meanwhile, radiation keeps leaking from reactors, it looks to me that they are doing a vicious circle.


Flight over Sendai

On my flight to Tokyo on Thursday, I was surprised to see the flight path take us almost directly over Sendai airport and along the entire Tohoku coast. For the last few months after the Tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, I knew that the flight routes had been changed to avoid flying along the Pacific coast. On previous flights, I had always requested a window seat on the left side of the plane hoping to catch a view of the Tsunami aftermath from the air. This time I did the same, and thanks to some good weather, I was able to shoot these views. Pretty much everyone on the left side of the plane was staring hard out the window, trying to see what the damage looks like from 10,000 ft. Even with my 300mm zoom lens, it was hard to get much detail, but there is a very brown feeling along the affected coast line. Usually cities with people and houses all seem to sparkle and flash in the sunlight as it bounces off windows and roofs and cars. However, the coast line does not have that look anymore, it is just brown.

I strained to catch a glimpse of Fukushima Daiichi, but clouds came up and I wasn’t able to confirm a view of the now legendary site. Maybe next time.

Tsunami Outlaws?

Check out this story told to me by a friend yesterday.

A friend in the snowboard industry dropped by my house yesterday for a visit and we of course talked about the 3/11 Earthquake and related topics. Basically that is all people really talk about in Japan after 9.0, so he tells me this story about his friend who made a trip in his own van to deliver donated goods to a remote area above Sendai in Miyagi Prefecture.

Called the Oshika Peninsula, apparently it has become a lawless untouched zone. So this guy packs his van full of stuff to distribute and makes the long drive north from Tokyo. He arrives in the area after dark. Keep in mind he is driving through areas that have been destroyed by the Tsunami. The roads have been cleared of rubble, but most are still one lane wide and of course pitch dark with no street lights etc.

So as he is driving, suddenly he sees two human corpses lying in the road blocking the way. Of course he stops the car. Suddenly his car is attacked by bandits with metal pipes, smashing the windows and demanding he get out.

What does he do? He steps on the pedal and drives right over the corpses into the night.

My friend tells me that the whole experience shocked his friend so much that he returned to Tokyo and checked himself into a mental hospital. Heavy story.

Here on the nightly news we don’t get story’s like that one. They like to show elderly folks in evacuation centers, or people picking quietly through the rubble of their former homes. It all seems rather orderly and under control on the TV.

The reality is that there are lots of areas that are just not getting the needed help and I can imagine how easy it can be for things to get rather lawless.

He also told me that some people are committing crimes in the hope that they get arrested. Wouldn’t you rather be in jail getting three meals a day instead of struggling to find food and work and a place to live? Some of these people might have been rough characters to start with, but many are just people who lost family in the Tsunami and now have nothing left to lose.

I am wondering if there is anyone else out there who has heard firsthand stories like this one. I am interested to know more of what they are not showing on TV.

On the other hand, there are stories about how Japan’s Yakuza made deliveries of food and goods before the Self Defense force or police even arrived. Check out this good article about one such story. The article also talks a lot about Mob history in Japan, quite an interesting read.

Mobsters on a mission: How Japan’s mafia launched an aid effort

Gumboots and Shochu!

The guys at Niseko Photography have done it again! They actually made a second trip to take relief items from their base in Niseko to “Otsuchi” one of the hardest hit towns during March 11th Tsunami.

They made a short film about their first trip called “A small Relief Effort” which I posted on my blog earlier. Now they have made a second and equally touching short film about their second trip.

Please watch this film it really gives you a great sense of not only the damage but also the will of the local people. The way they have so casually filmed and probably being “gaijin” has really made for a special kind of film.

Right now we are so overwhelmed with the sheer number of news stories about this disaster on TV. Plus the normal TV news reports all follow the same formula. They know how long to show a close up of a child crying, or an elderly person looking hopelessly into the distance, they know what shot is needed to evoke emotions in us the viewer. Plus I think it is really impossible for people to be natural when a TV crew shows up with huge betacam on shoulder, sound guy hovering around, lights, director etc.,

So it is really refreshing to see something made by real people just going down there to help other real people! They actually show local people smiling which is something that the mass media probably edits out of their reports.

Thanks again to Aaron Jamieson and Jay Mcgregor for going there and creating these films to share with us. Again great job guys.

I will post both videos here again watch from the first if you have not already seen it.

Lets not forget

I am continuing to collect these videos that show the destruction caused by the Tsunami’s of 3/11. Somehow it feels important to watch and re watch these terrifying moments. There is a lot to learn from watching these video’s.

The guy who filmed this is a nut case or he was very confident in his choice of location. Filmed incredibly close to the sea is interesting to see the filmer slowly moving to higher ground throughout the video. At about 8:15 in the video you can see a small car trapped on a highspot on a road as waves wash in front and behind. Then at the very end the waves pour completely over the concrete walls and the video cuts off shortly after that almost as if the camera man pressed stop in shock.

There is a lot of video footage of this city getting completely destroyed but this clip is quite graphic. The camera zooms in and out on people stuck on roofs, a lady getting in her car trying to get away etc.,

Amatuer video shot from a high hill side shows people running from approaching wave.

I certainly hope they show these movie to all future generations to raise the level of awareness concerning Tsunami danger. You have to see it to believe it.

Hardcore footage from people who are way to close for comfort.

Changing times

Well the 9.0 earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of March the 11th has become a very B.C./A.D. kind of event. To me it feels that important and that traumatic for the country.

From my view on the street level, I think we are starting to see the effects on the general population now. People are starting to “tune out” the “bad” news recently. It can be seem very clearly on TV, as I blogged earlier. The TV channels are showing as much normal programming as they possibly can. The problem is, nothing is “Normal” anymore. I will come out and say it straight, life is not going to be “Normal in Japan for a long time.”

I call a lot of friends in Tokyo to get a sense of the vibe down there and it is not good. People are stressed for sure. I can tell on the phone. They are trying to act normal and operate as if the world is working like it always did, B. 9.0 But lets face it, you can’t buy bottled water anywhere, tofu, natto and frozen foods as well. Gasoline is rationed, there are daily blackouts, everybody now knows words like milliservient and becquerel and Disney Land is closed! Things are not normal.

The people who are living in shelters and schools, and those on the cusp of Fukushima Daiichi, I am sure they are not tuning out the news. Why? because they ARE the news. You can’t tune out the devastation they are seeing right outside. They are just struggling to survive each day.

Yesterday, I saw a report about a small island off the coast that lost all connection with the main island for a week after the Tsunami. The whole population there survived on rain water collected from an empty swimming pool for over a week. They never got a single shipment of aid for that whole week and never even a mention on the news. They don’t have the luxury of ignoring the problems facing Japan today.

So now I am starting to wonder if Japan really has what it takes to make the changes necessary for Japan to survive in this new future or what I will now call A.9.0 (after 9.0).

Here is a good example. A short story from the LA Times.

By Rong-Gong Lin II, Los Angeles Times

March 25, 2011, 3:19 p.m.

Japanese officials are considering introducing daylight saving time to help cope with severe power shortages that likely will last for months.

Japan has resisted daylight saving time for nearly 60 years, dumping the practice after the U.S. occupation ended. While Japanese politicians have attempted to bring back daylight saving time in recent years, skeptics have feared it would just keep workers in their offices longer.

But according to Kyodo News agency, Japanese industry minister Banri Kaieda said bringing back daylight saving time may help avoid major blackouts in the summer, when energy consumption peaks because of scorching temperatures.

Kaieda also suggested other policy changes that could bring discomfort to people, according to Kyodo. He suggested raising electricity charges on households and extending workers’ summer vacations — a practice that could be difficult for a society known for a strong work ethic.

The first sentence “Japanese Officials are considering”

There should be absolutely no considering in this matter! Japan must restart using Daylight Savings Time! It is of the utmost importance. There are daily blackouts in Tokyo NOW in the early spring when it is still cold. What do you think is going to happen in summer when every one turns on their air conditioning. Japan must adopt Daylight Saving Time, no debate, no bullshit. This is the greatest opportunity to instigate positive change for the future that Japan may ever have, please don’t miss it.

These are the kind of things that evacuated and homeless people don’t have the time to be thinking out. This is the kind of thing that everyone outside of the affected areas need to be working on and thinking about. I am sure they will all be happy with an extra hour of daylight as they try to rebuild their homes and their lives this summer, don’t you agree?

Now here is another article worth reading

Wall Street Journal

Click to read