So, as I think a lot of you know from some earlier posts of mine last week, and from following me on Twitter, I live in Japan, and as I know you all are aware, Japan has been recently devastated by a massive 9.0 Earthquake and accompanying tsunamis. I wanted to take some time right now to talk about the situation in Japan and the latest updates on our situation.
Just so you have a little bit of information on my perspective on things, I thought I should talk a bit about where I live and how I have been taking this all in. I am an ALT (Assistant Language Teacher). I live in Yamanashi Japan, which is in the Mountains, west of Tokyo and north of Mt. Fuji. The Earthquake hit in Northern Japan, near Miyagi prefecture; I am hundreds of miles away from where the worst of this hit, but I was not unaffected. We felt the quake here in Yamanashi – I was at the Train Station when it hit and it tossed me off my feet (and almost onto the train tracks). It was exponentially larger than the most intense quake I’ve felt until now.
But, the quake’s direct shaking was not the primary cause of the huge disaster here in Japan. Japan has some of the most advanced earthquake readiness plans. Many of the buildings here in Japan are actually built on large balls, which allows them to move with an earthquake, thus preventing them from collapsing, but even Japan is not immune or capable of defending against a tsunami the likes of which hit Miyagi-ken. The Tsunami measured nearly 50 feet in some areas; in some locations there was only about 5 minutes of warning between the time of the quake and the tsunami.
Although the first day that the quake hit, reports showed that about 200 or so had been confirmed dead, now, the death toll has reached almost 10,000. There are still another 10,000-15,000 reported missing; the number of people who have been displaced because of the quake and Tsunami is now reaching almost half a million (around 460,000 is the most current number). People have been relocated from Miyagi-ken as far south as Saitama, not far from my wife’s home, to the Saitama Convention Center.
My family has been very lucky through all of this. As of now, I don’t believe that my wife’s family suffered any losses, though many of her relatives live in Miyagi prefecture near Sendai. However, other people I know were not so lucky. One ALT, who I met a couple of years ago has been missing since the time of the Quake, and is believed to have passed away in the Tsunami. Another friend of mine, who used to work in the area, teaching English at both Elementary and Middle Schools, told me yesterday that about half of his former students perished in the Tsunami. His girlfriend’s family home was destroyed, as was her work, and many of her students were lost as well.
This is a huge tragedy, the likes of which the world has not seen in a long, long time. Though the worst might be over, Japan is still very much having trouble. There are massive gasoline shortages and rationing on gasoline is limiting people’s mobility within the country. Last weekend, while in Tokyo, we observed lines some miles long trying to get into open gas stations. All last week, food was very scarce. For the first time, I saw supermarkets and malls which had been almost completely cleaned out on virtually any food items with preservatives. In my area, Yamanashi, we weren’t affected quite as badly, but even yesterday, we still are having shortages on many items and my fellow teachers tell me that gasoline shortages are still very much a problem.
Probably the biggest problem now is the Nuclear power plant in Fukushima. The tsunami hit the power plant at about 15 meters tall; it wrecked the plant and since then, the plant’s situation has been very much in question. Several explosions and the leakage of radioactive material were observed – some of this radioactive material has been detected even in Tokyo and where I live in the mountains (though the measurements of this material are virtually nothing and are no threat to humans). Still, now that the Fukushima plant has been updated to a Level 5 Nuclear Disaster, until the plant is completely brought under control, people in Japan will continue to tensely await any news regarding the situation there. Many governments are evacuating their citizens here, including America and the UK; these evacuations are spreading a great deal of panic and unease here, which is certainly not helping the situation at all.
So, if you want to help, find somewhere accepting donations and give your money to help people here. RPGNow has a donation service, as do several of the publishers on the site. I have a link to one of those, by Highmoon Games, here on the right on my blog. You can also simply donate to the Red Cross via their direct site. Please help the people of Japan. They still really need you.