4 Years After Japan Tsunami, 250,000 Residents Still Displaced


4 years since the triple disaster in Japan, many of the Japanese are still displaced.

From an article in weather.com.

Four years after a massive earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated their homeland, a quarter of a million Japanese citizens still have no place to call home.

The horrors of that magnitude-9 temblor and the tsunami that wiped coastal towns off the map are still fresh on the minds of locals, but there’s another threat that’s keeping so many people from returning home to rebuild their lives: radiation from the nuclear meltdown that occurred at the Fukushima plant, reports USA Today.

Two years after the quake, there were 300,000 displaced by the level-7 meltdown, according to Live Science, so little progress has been made to shrink that number over the last 24 months.

“At first, I thought we would be gone a few days or weeks. Now, I’m not sure if we will ever go back,” said Yumi Kanno, a mother who used to live in a village near the Fukushima power plant, in the USA Today report.

(PHOTOS: New Book Shows Humans’ Far-Reaching Effect on the Planet)

Four years after the disaster, radiation levels are still 10 times above safe levels in the areas surrounding the nuclear plant, USA Today also noted. According to Press TV, radiation deaths in the area increased by 18 percent in 2014, with 1,232 deaths in the last year alone linked to the nuclear disaster.

It’s no wonder that in areas that have been declared safe for living by officials, residents aren’t eager to move back. They received bad evacuation orders during the catastrophe and didn’t get a clear message about the dangers of the radiation in the disaster’s early-going, harboring a deep mistrust of authority, USA Today added.

“The situation is not finished at all,” Hatsuo Fujishima, a senior official in Fukushima prefecture, told USA Today. “We are moving ahead, but it will take another 30 years, probably more. This is going to be a long, uphill battle.”

But there have been some small victories in the recovery effort. Yagisawa Shoten Co., which made soy sauce since 1807, is back in business. Its headquarters and inventory were washed away by the tsunami, according to The Associated Press. Thanks to private donations, the salaries of all 38 employees were paid throughout the entire four-year ordeal.

“If you don’t give up, no matter how painful it gets, there will always be a way,” said Michihiro Kono, the ninth-generation head of the company, in the AP report.

Dozens take refuge from Japan quake aftershocks


This aerial photo shows collapsed houses after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014.  Dozens of villagers ...

This aerial photo shows collapsed houses after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Monday, Nov. 24, 2014. Dozens of villagers remained in shelters Monday as aftershocks rattled a region in central Japan hit by a weekend earthquake that injured at least 41 people and destroyed more than 50 homes. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

 

A really strong earthquake (6.8) hit Japan last weekend. Doing serious damage to these houses..

TOKYO (AP) — Dozens of villagers remained in shelters Monday as aftershocks rattled a region in central Japan hit by a weekend earthquake that injured at least 41 people and destroyed more than 50 homes.

The damage in a mountainous area that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics was worse than initially thought, though many were rejoicing at the lack of any deaths.

At least 20 people, including one 2-year-old, were pulled from homes toppled by the magnitude-6.7 earthquake late Saturday night.

“Words cannot express my gratitude,” Kimito Tsutaki, 73, told national broadcaster NHK after she was pulled from her quilt bedding. Neighbors used a car jack to lift collapsed timbers from on top of her.

Seven of the injured had broken bones, many after being crushed by heavy furniture as they slept on their tatami floors.

Some residents said they used the flashlights on their mobile phones to find their way to safety in the pitch dark.

Local experts said the structure of the mostly wooden houses, which are built to withstand loads of many feet of heavy, wet snow in the winter, helped prevent more casualties.

“Houses in that area are built with many strong supports and that may be a reason why there was not more damage,” Reiji Tanaka, a professor emeritus at Tohoku University of Technology, told the Yomiuri newspaper.

The quake struck west of Nagano city at a relatively shallow depth of 5 kilometers (3 miles) in an area prone to strong earthquakes due to an active fault, experts of the Japan Meteorological Agency reported.

The agency reported nearly 80 aftershocks by midday Monday.

The same area was struck by a magnitude-6.7 earthquake the day after the March 2011 quake and tsunami that devastated a long stretch of Japan’s northeastern coast, killing about 19,000 people.

The disaster affected a relatively sparsely populated area, but renewed concerns over preparedness for major quakes in major cities like Tokyo. The Asahi newspaper cited local governments saying that most of the towns likely to be affected by a major quake expected to strike off Japan’s eastern coast were not prepared to provide emergency housing. Land for such facilities was in extremely short supply.

The hardest-hit area appeared to be Hakuba, where at least 43 homes were destroyed there, and 17 people injured, national and local disaster agencies said. Another seven homes were lost in Otari, a nearby village to the north. Non-residential buildings were also destroyed, with officials assessing the extent.

Many parts of rural Japan are occupied mostly by elderly people, many of them living on their own. After a 2004 earthquake to the north in Niigata, communities organized teams to ensure that no victims would be stranded or unaccounted for.

“Villagers Unite, Zero Casualties, Thanks to Everyone,” said a headline in the Nikkei newspaper.

This aerial photo shows collapsed houses after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.7 ear...

This aerial photo shows collapsed houses after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.7 earthquake shook on Saturday night the mountainous area that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics destroying more than half a dozen homes in the ski resort town. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

This aerial photo shows buildings collapsed after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.7 ...

This aerial photo shows buildings collapsed after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.7 earthquake shook on Saturday night the mountainous area that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics destroying more than half a dozen homes in the ski resort town. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

This aerial photo shows buildings collapsed after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.7 ...

This aerial photo shows buildings collapsed after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.7 earthquake shook on Saturday night the mountainous area that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics destroying more than half a dozen homes in the ski resort town. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

Firefighters and rescuers examine buildings collapsed after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magn...

Firefighters and rescuers examine buildings collapsed after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook on Saturday night the mountainous area that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics destroying more than half a dozen homes in the ski resort town and injuring at least 30 people, officials said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

This aerial photo shows houses collapsed after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.8 ear...

This aerial photo shows houses collapsed after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook on Saturday night the mountainous area that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics destroying more than half a dozen homes in the ski resort town and injuring at least 30 people, officials said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

This aerial photo shows houses collapsed after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.8 ear...

This aerial photo shows houses collapsed after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014. The magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook on Saturday night the mountainous area that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics destroying more than half a dozen homes in the ski resort town and injuring at least 30 people, officials said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

Evacuees have breakfast after spending a night at a shelter Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014 after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Sat...

Evacuees have breakfast after spending a night at a shelter Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014 after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Saturday night. The magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook the mountainous area that hosted the 1998 Winter Olympics destroying more than half a dozen homes in the ski resort town and injuring at least 30 people, officials said. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

A rescuer with a sniffer dog examines a damaged house Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014 after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Saturday ...

A rescuer with a sniffer dog examines a damaged house Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014 after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Saturday night. More than 20 people have been hurt after the magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook the mountainous area that hosted the 1998 winter Olympics. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

A man takes a photo of a damaged houses Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014 after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Saturday night. More th...

A man takes a photo of a damaged houses Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014 after a strong earthquake hit Hakuba, Nagano prefecture, central Japan, Saturday night. More than 20 people have been hurt after the magnitude-6.8 earthquake shook the mountainous area that hosted the 1998 winter Olympics. (AP Photo/Kyodo News) JAPAN OUT, CREDIT MANDATORY

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/wires/ap/article-2846168/Damage-worse-thought-Japanese-earthquake.html#ixzz3KGrYmLHG
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Tales from Survivors of Japan’s Earthquake and Tsunami..


 

Strong in the rain

Strong in the rain.

Written by 2 journalists who combine science, history and storytelling. Reading the excerpt brought back memories of serving in Tohoku after the tsunami.

It is also the name of a poem, 雨にも負けず by Kenji Miyazawa. Here in this link with the poem read by Ken Watanabe.

By Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill

Excerpted with permissionStrong in the Rain: Surviving Japan’s Earthquake, Tsunami and Fukushima Nuclear Disaster,by Lucy Birmingham and David McNeill. Available from Palgrave Macmillan Trade. Copyright © 2012. (Scientific American is part of Macmillan Publishers.)

“The world is heavy on us sometimes,” says Katsunobu Sakurai, recalling the day it almost crushed the life out of his city. The disaster began for him, as for millions of other Japanese, at work. The mayor of the coastal city of Minamisoma, Sakurai was with a group of visiting delegates on the fourth floor of the city hall when the building began to shake, gently at first, then in jerky, violent movements that seemed to go on forever. In some parts of the building, he could hear people crying. Others began pleading to the distance, to God, perhaps to the ground itself: “Tasukete!” (Help!); “Tometekure” (Please stop). Cracks opened up in the walls above his office. It was, Sakurai found, difficult to stay upright. He looked up at the ceiling of the 40-year-old building, then focused on a jug of water on the desk in front of him, catching it before it tipped over and spilled, jolted by the power of the quake. He was surprised to find himself not especially afraid. What will be will be, he thought.

There was nothing on the morning of March 11, 2011, that suggested it would be different to any other, or that Sakurai would become one of its unlikely heroes, his pinched, exhausted features beamed across the planet during the depths of the crisis. As he did every weekday since January 2010, when he was elected mayor, Sakurai strolled through the main entrance of the shopworn local government building, cheerfully greeting clerks before walking upstairs to his third-floor office overlooking a lattice of dense, squat housing stretching to the coast about seven miles away. When the summer sun shines, the coast is famously beautiful, anointed in the azure waters of the Pacific, attracting thousands of surfers to Kitaizumi Beach. In the winter, the majestic mountains to the west turn snowy white, throwing the dun-colored, aging buildings in the city below into sharp relief.

A typically busy schedule lay ahead: In the morning, a meeting was scheduled with his staff, followed by a speech to hundreds of youngsters at a graduation ceremony in a local middle high school. By the end of the day, about one hundred of the city’s children would be dead, some laid out in a makeshift morgue, and he would wonder, when he found time to ponder such things, if any were among the graduates he had met. After lunch, he was to meet a delegation of politicians from the Diet, the Japanese parliament, who were visiting the city. In the evening, he would see his elderly parents, both in their late 70s and struggling to manage.

A diminutive, birdlike man, Sakurai’s unprepossessing appearance hid a formidable will. Locals around Minamisoma were used to seeing him jogging around the countryside, training for marathons. He had been driven into political life partly by anger. After working the land locally for a quarter of a century, he watched in despair as Fukushima Prefecture, where Minamisoma is located, licensed an industrial-waste processing plant close to his five-acre farm. All the hard work that he and other farmers had done to build up the reputation of local organic rice and vegetables, purifying the soil of chemicals, was ruined, he thought. They took the plant operator to court in the nearest big city, Sendai, in nearby Miyagi Prefecture, but after a 12-year battle, lost. Throughout the fight, Sakurai was harassed and sometimes threatened by violent Yakuza gangsters, who control much of the labor for dirty, dangerous work in such factories and who resented his attempt to block its construction.

The clash with corporate power and the sense that it had conspired with officialdom against him and other small farmers left him shell-shocked. “We weren’t even allowed in the courtroom to hear the verdict,” he recalls. “I was angrier than I’ve ever been in my life. How could people far away from us make decisions that would affect our lives so profoundly?” He decided there was no point in just using the law to fight; he had to be in government, and so he ran for office.

Sakurai’s waking life was effectively parceled out among the coastal city’s employees and 71,000 citizens. The days filled up with school visits, speeches, reports, and meetings with parents, farmers, and workers—an exhausting commitment to public service that left little time for his parents, with whom he shared a house. Most days he was in his office till dark, toiling beneath framed pictures of his stern-faced predecessors framed on the wall above his head.

At 55, Sakurai considered himself steady in a storm, the embodiment of his favorite poem by Kenji Miyazawa, with whom he shares an alma mater, Iwate University: “Strong in the Rain / Strong in the wind / Strong against the summer heat and snow / He is healthy and robust / Unselfish / He never loses his temper / Nor the quiet smile on his lips / That is the kind of person / I want to be.” Those qualities were to be tested to the limit.

The explosive force that Mayor Sakurai and the townspeople felt at 2:46 p.m. had been released by one of Japan’s most unstable faults, about 60 miles east of his office and 19 miles beneath the sea. The earth’s crust is made up of eight large tectonic plates that have been moving and grinding against each other for millions of years, and the largest—the Pacific Plate—dips under the slab of rock underneath Japan’s main island, Honshu. Eventually, the stress of that friction is released, but seldom as violently as on March 11. Scientists would later estimate its force at over one million kilotons of TNT—the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 released fifteen kilotons. The force of the quake tugged the Pacific coastline 8 feet closer to the United States. Ancient Japanese blamed earthquakes on the angry gods. Even modern inhabitants of one of the planet’s most technologically sophisticated societies sometimes wondered if they were not right.

The shaking subsided. It had lasted perhaps five or six minutes. Sakurai took a deep breath to collect himself, led everyone he could find out of the building, and then began to round up his 15-member executive team. They would have to set up a temporary disaster response headquarters outside the building. As Minamisoma was a coastal city, a tsunami was very likely. The 40-year-old city building was too far from the sea to be threatened, and it had withstood the initial quake shock waves, but nobody would bet on it surviving aftershocks. People shivered in the bitter cold, but nobody wanted to risk being inside. Men and women began dialing cell phones to check on relatives, some crying when they realized the network had crashed, overwhelmed by data traffic 60 times heavier than normal. The huddle of voices around the mayor was tinged with fear, panic. Unknown to Sakurai, some of his townspeople were already dead, crushed under roofs. A 23-foot tsunami was 40 minutes away. And at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant 15 miles to the south, the power was out, detonating a chain of events that would, in a few days, turn Minamisoma’s incipient disaster into an existential crisis.

Japan has an earthquake detection and warning system second to none. The nationwide online system detects tremors, calculates an earthquake’s epicenter, and sends out brief warnings from more than a thousand seismographs scattered throughout the country. The system first detects evidence of P waves (for primary), which have fast, short wavelengths and do little damage. These are followed usually several seconds later by the destructive S waves (for secondary) with longer wavelengths. These snakelike seismic waves are the terrifying movements that destroy buildings and create landslides.

 

1 in 4 kids need help after the 2011 Japan tsunami


Aftermath: Miyako, in Iwate prefecture after the tsunami in March 2011. Photo: Reuters
Aftermath: Miyako, in Iwate prefecture after the tsunami in March 2011. Photo: Reuters

 

This article caught my eye today. In a disaster of such a scale, I wonder how many people fell through the cracks.

Researchers in a report released Monday said 1 in 4 nursery school children who survived the 2011 quake and tsunami has psychiatric problems and warned the effects could last a lifetime if left untreated.

Paying respect at Fukushima, one year on: More than 18,000 people died when the tsunami hit. Photo: Reuters
Paying respect at Fukushima, one year on: More than 18,000 people died when the tsunami hit. Photo: Reuters

The researchers found 25.9 percent of children aged between 3 and 5 suffer symptoms including vertigo, nausea and headaches, with some exhibiting worrying behaviour such as violence or withdrawal.

The health ministry study said kids were scarred by losing friends, seeing their homes collapse, being separated from parents or by the sight of the huge walls of water that crashed ashore.

The team, led by professor Shigeo Kure of Tohoku University School of Medicine, said young children who do not receive care could develop more serious problems later in life.

These could include developmental disorders and learning disabilities, which would have a knock-on effect on academic achievement and employment prospects, it said.

More than 18,000 people died when the 9.0-magnitude Great East Japan Earthquake sent towering tsunami across the Japan’s northeast coast in March 2011. The nation’s worst postwar disaster was compounded by the three reactor meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant that forced tens of thousands of people to flee from radiation.

Researchers looked at 178 children whose parents or guardians agreed to cooperate in the three prefectures hit worst by the catastrophe — Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima. They used an internationally recognized child behavior checklist and met with the children between September 2012 and last June.

The level of children who need psychiatric care is more than three times that seen in other parts of Japan unaffected by the disasters.

Officials at the health ministry and medical organizations involved in the study could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

“It is known that children need (psychiatric) care right after an earthquake disaster, but this study was done more than a year and half after the fact, so that concerns me,” said Makiko Okuyama of the National Center for Child Health and Development, who participated in the study.

Tomioka: Eerie images show what is left of Japanese city abandoned after tsunami and Fukushima nuclear meltdown


 

Road to nowhere: The way into Tomioka, Fukushima, has been blocked off, preventing residents from going back because of dangerous radiation levels
Road to nowhere: The way into Tomioka, Fukushima, has been blocked off, preventing residents from going back because of dangerous radiation levels
Devastated: The coastal area was virtually wiped out by the 2011 tsunami. The beach used to be popular with tourists in the summer
Devastated: The coastal area was virtually wiped out by the 2011 tsunami. The beach used to be popular with tourists in the summer
Stuck: A fishing vessel that was washed ashore during the devastating tsunami still lies on the side of the road
Stuck: A fishing vessel that was washed ashore during the devastating tsunami still lies on the side of the road
Isolated: The boat has been left there for three years on the outskirts of the deserted city, which was evacuated because of radiation fears following the nuclear disaster
Isolated: The boat has been left there for three years on the outskirts of the deserted city, which was evacuated because of radiation fears following the nuclear disaster
Playground: A children's swing set that has not been used since the city was abandoned lies in the middle of overgrown grass and below a cherry blossom tree
Playground: A children’s swing set that has not been used since the city was abandoned lies in the middle of overgrown grass and below a cherry blossom tree
Worship: A group of statues line up along a footpath leading towards a shrine. It is surrounded by chains to prevent intruders from going inside
Worship: A group of statues line up along a footpath leading towards a shrine. It is surrounded by chains to prevent intruders from going inside
Last stop: The train station has become overgrown in the years after the town was evacuated. Residents were asked to leave in 2011 for fears of their safety following the nuclear disaster
Last stop: The train station has become overgrown in the years after the town was evacuated. Residents were asked to leave in 2011 for fears of their safety following the nuclear disaster
Empty platforms: The images, including those of the empty station,  were caught on a drone which hovered over the abandoned community
Empty platforms: The images, including those of the empty station, were caught on a drone which hovered over the abandoned community
Ruined: Signs that would welcome people into the station are left hanging from the derelict platform. The overheard lines used to power the trains have also collapsed
uined: Signs that would welcome people into the station are left hanging from the derelict platform. The overheard lines used to power the trains have also collapsed
Eerie: A home destroyed by the tsunami, which was triggered by an earthquake, is left surrounded by debris
Eerie: A home destroyed by the tsunami, which was triggered by an earthquake, is left surrounded by debris
Nature: The desolate buildings surround the city's beautiful cherry blossom tunnel, one of the biggest in Japan
+20 Nature: The desolate buildings surround the city’s beautiful cherry blossom tunnel, one of the biggest in Japan
Broken: Windows have been shattered in houses around the city and floors have been cleared away
Broken: Windows have been shattered in houses around the city and floors have been cleared away
Aerial view: The drone captures how the edge of the city, the train station and the coastline have been devastated by the natural disasters
+20 Aerial view: The drone captures how the edge of the city, the train station and the coastline have been devastated by the natural disasters
Stripped away: Storeys in homes are barely standing. Many of the grass areas and gardens in the city have been left to overgrow
+20 Stripped away: Storeys in homes are barely standing. Many of the grass areas and gardens in the city have been left to overgrow
Cleared out: Pieces of furniture and old toys are scattered over the floor in front of an abandoned building
+20 Cleared out: Pieces of furniture and old toys are scattered over the floor in front of an abandoned building
Crumbled: A large hole in the side of a house created by the tsunami which struck in 2011. The city did have 15,000 residents living in 6,000 properties
+20 Crumbled: A large hole in the side of a house created by the tsunami which struck in 2011. The city did have 15,000 residents living in 6,000 properties
Rusting: A set of monkey bars sits in a park next to a house. Almost 300,000 people have been evacuated across the Fukushima coastal region
Rusting: A set of monkey bars sits in a park next to a house. Almost 300,000 people have been evacuated across the Fukushima coastal region
Empty: An abandoned car lies in the middle of a field in Tomioka. An earthquake off the east coast caused the nuclear meltdown
Empty: An abandoned car lies in the middle of a field in Tomioka. An earthquake off the east coast caused the nuclear meltdown
Remains: Clothes still hang from a line outside an empty apartment. It shows how quicky the residents were forced to leave
Remains: Clothes still hang from a line outside an empty apartment. It shows how quicky the residents were forced to leave
Power: A solar panel is still harnessing sunlight and generating electricity, despite there being no residents to use the resources
Power: A solar panel is still harnessing sunlight and generating electricity, despite there being no residents to use the resources

Miyagi town marker, washed up in Canada after 2011 tsunami, comes home


Hiroki Takai, a staff member of the International Volunteer University Student Association, holds a marker from Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture, that washed ashore in a Canadian town after it was swept up by the March 11, 2011, tsunami. (Hideaki Ishibashi)
Hiroki Takai, a staff member of the International Volunteer University Student Association, holds a marker from Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture, that washed ashore in a Canadian town after it was swept up by the March 11, 2011, tsunami. (Hideaki Ishibashi)

By HIDEAKI ISHIBASHI/ Senior Staff Writer

A plastic boundary marker belonging to a town in northeastern Japan, swept out to sea by the March 2011 tsunami and ending up on a beach in Canada, has made the long journey back home, thanks to a group of college volunteers.

When the students from the Tokyo-based International Volunteer University Student Association (IVUSA) visited Ucluelet, British Columbia, in March to clear debris that had drifted there from the disaster, they were asked to return the marker to the town of Yamamoto, Miyagi Prefecture.

Ucluelet Mayor Bill Irving, who learned that the IVUSA had assisted recovery efforts in Yamamoto, made the request.

Irving added that he hoped that the town will exhibit the sign in a conspicuous manner, and its return will bolster friendship exchanges with Canada.

Hiroki Takai, 32, an IVUSA staff member, is expected to consult with Yamamoto town officials on how to present and exhibit the post.

“Bonds were formed as a result of the disaster,” he said. “We want to utilize the connection.”

Residents of Ucluelet, a small town on Vancouver Island, discovered the marker on a beach in March 2013. It is about 60 centimeters tall and has the town’s name engraved on the upper portion.

After inquiries to Japanese living in Canada, town officials handling environmental issues learned that it came from Yamamoto.

The IVUSA dispatches volunteers, who are college students in Japan, in and out of the nation on assignments.

Yamamoto, a coastal town devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, was one such site where IVUSA assigned volunteers. They helped evacuees in

temporary housing and other recovery efforts in the town on about a monthly basis.

In Ucluelet, the 70 Japanese volunteers recovered and sorted through about 10 tons of debris that collected on the beaches, including fishing nets and pillars of houses.

According to an Environment Ministry estimate, about 5 million tons of wreckage was swept out into the Pacific Ocean by the raging tsunami.

They visited Ucluelet at the suggestion of Takai, who previously was involved in clearing wreckage that had washed ashore from the tsunami in the Canadian town. When the disaster ravaged the Tohoku region, he was studying in Vancouver. He returned to Japan last year.

Of this, 70 percent sank in Japan’s coastal waters and the rest drifted across the ocean. Localities along the western coasts of Canada and the United States began reporting the arrival of some of the debris in late 2011. But the bulk is expected to reach those shores through autumn, totaling about 400,000 tons by October.

The Japanese government has offered a total of $6 million (612 million yen) to localities in the United States and Canada to help dispose of the wreckage.

3 Years After Japan Tsunami, Cat and Owners Reunited


Photo: The Asahi Shimbun via Getty Images
Suika returns to his owners’ home in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, after disappearing in March 2011. (Wataru Sekita)

I can’t imagine a cat lost for 3 years would one day reunite with it’s owners.

News report from Asahi Shimbun.

By KAZUMASA SUGIMURA/ Staff Writer

OFUNATO, Iwate Prefecture–A cat was reunited with its owners on May 9, more than three years after the pet disappeared and was presumed killed by the 2011 tsunami that devastated this northeastern city.

“Where have you been?” Kazuko Yamagishi, 64, asked her long-lost pet, Suika, during the reunion at the Ofunato Health Center. “It’s just like a dream.”

Kazuko and her husband, Takeo, 67, were living peacefully with their black domestic short-haired cat at their house in Ofunato when the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami struck the Tohoku region on March 11, 2011.

Unlike much of Ofunato, their house escaped damage in the disaster, but the couple could not find Suika.

They searched for three months before finally giving up hope that Suika survived.

On April 10 this year, a couple spotted a black cat curled up in a cedar forest in Rikuzentakata, another disaster-hit municipality in the prefecture. They took in the cat, which wore a collar and was friendly, and reported the animal to the Ofunato Health Center.

Days went by with no one showing up to claim the cat. So the center decided to print the cat’s picture in a local newspaper.

When an employee was taking the cat’s photo on the morning of May 9, he noticed faded letters and numbers on the collar. He deciphered the name as “Yamagishi” and made out the numbers. They turned out to be the cellphone number of Takeo Yamagishi.

It is unclear how Suika survived the ordeal and how long he had stayed in Rikuzentakata, which is 15 kilometers from Ofunato.

But a bell on his collar indicated that someone had taken care of him.

Suika looked content with his eyes closed and back in the arms of Takeshi and Kazuko.

Kazuko relayed the news about their pet of 12 years to the couple’s 36-year-old daughter in Tokyo. The daughter cried with joy during the phone call, Kazuko said.

 

Tsunami-battered day care center gets new life from military, volunteers


Image_42504446.jpg
The Hoikuen Aihara nursery school and day care center’s graduates, right, bow to their classmates during a ceremony held recently. After spending money to renovate the building following the destruction caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami in 2011, the area was then declared a danger zone by the government. ERIK SLAVIN/STARS AND STRIPES

By Erik Slavin

Stars and Stripes
Published: May 10, 2014

ISHINOMAKI, Japan — In 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake cracked open the Hoikuen Aihara day care and nursery school. The ensuing tsunami, which rose as high as 65 feet in this small coastal city, battered it further.

The government wrote it off as another casualty in a city full of tragedy — 3,162 dead, 430 missing, 50,000 buildings damaged or destroyed.

Three years later, at the end of a one-lane road in a neighborhood of squat, vinyl-sided warehouses and empty dirt lots, Hoikuen Aihara endures.

The renovated building is compact, but the tidy, wooden-fenced playground is spacious, and today it is dotted with plastic Easter eggs donated by U.S. military families. Inside, two 6-year-old girls are giving a graduation recital for their parents and teachers.

Miyagi mackerel bounce back


Good to see the saba catch increasing this year. Ithelps yo get the fishermen back on their feet. Reported in the Yomiuri Shimbun today.

image
The Yomiuri Shimbun

Kinka saba mackerel are processed at a fish processing company.

SENDAI—In recent months, there has been a recovery in the saba mackerel hauls from waters off Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, largely because of growth in the saba population due to suspended fishing in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake.

This is contributing to brisk sales and purchases of Kinka saba, mackerel fished around Kinkasan island in waters off Ishinomaki.

Many people in quake-stricken areas hope the increase in Kinka saba catches will help revive their tattered fishing industry.

Kinka mackerel is a high-quality type of chub mackerel fished between autumn and winter around Kinkasan island. They weigh more than 500 grams each with fat content of more than 15 percent. The high-grade mackerel reportedly accounts for about 10 percent of chub mackerel landed at Ishinomaki fishing port.

The estimated catch of the mackerel from last October to this February is about 2,100 tons, which is three times as much as that of a year earlier, or about 700 tons. The catch has been increasing since 2011, when it was 350 tons.

Kinka mackerel were not caught for a while as fishing boats had been swept away by tsunami from the quake, and fishermen voluntarily refrained from fishing, which resulted in the increase in the fish population.

According to a survey conducted last summer by the National Research Institute of Fisheries Science in Yokohama, it is estimated that the number of chub mackerel in waters near Kinkasan is 4.2 billion, or 2.6 times as many as in the summer of 2010 before the disaster occurred, and there are about 1.67 million tons of adult fish, or 80 percent more tha

Tsunami survivor speaks out


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Western Washington University international relations majors Yumi Higano, left, and Ayami Sato, right, speak to audience members attending their presentation on Higano’s experience of the 2011 Japan earthquake on Friday, Jan. 24 in Arntzen Hall. Both students are foreign exchange students who are attending Western through the Asia University America program. // Photo by Jake Parrish

Reed Strong

Yumi Higano, a student from the Asia University America Program, was in class in Ishinomaki, Japan, on March 11, 2011, when an earthquake hit. At the time, she thought it was only aftershocks from a quake a few days earlier, but the vibrations increased in power and frequency. A little while after the initial hit, she received a text message from her brother.

“Everyone was hit by the Tsunami,” her brother said in the text. “Dad and I survived, miraculously, and we’re on the roof of a factory soaking wet. I’m sorry, I couldn’t save Mom, Grandpa and Grandma. Yumi, are you OK?”

Higano spoke to more than 50 attendants at “Mirai: Story of a Survivor,” a tsunami relief event hosted by Western Washington University’s Japanese Student Association.

“I remember that I burst into tears there after I read the message,” she said.

Initially, the JSA wasn’t going to hold an event this year because they were worried about sensationalizing the disaster. But the opportunity to have Higano speak changed their minds, junior JSA officer Liana Teofilo said.

When Higano’s family found and confirmed the body of her mother, she felt like she had finally been faced with reality, she said. While the emotional shock and depression is still present, she keeps moving forward.

It wasn’t until three weeks after the earthquake that electricity and water were restored, Higano read.

“I struggled to live every day,” she said.

Teofilo helped Higano prepare for the event. Teofilo works for the AUAP program — a study abroad program that brought Higano to the United States along with 52 other students.

For Higano, it is important to share her story of survival and give a viewpoint aside from what is depicted by the media, she said.

Higano worked with fellow foreign exchange sophomore Ayami Sato, volunteering for the Yotsuba foundation in Japan, which helps and deals with people at evacuation shelters, Higano said through Teofilo, who was translating.

Sato held a presentation on the Michinoku Future Foundation, which pays study abroad tuition for students who have lost one or both parents in the disaster.

It is a collaboration between several Japanese businesses, including a pharmaceutical company, that comes up with full tuition funds for students who need it, according to their mission statement.

The foundation is responsible for Sato’s study in America, and she has interest in supporting it further, she said.

“It is difficult to restore everything to the way it was before the earthquake,” Higano said. “However, we should continue to give aid until the reconstruction of the city is complete. I think it is my calling in life to tell about this experience.”

Higano is one of many people affected by the disaster and hopes to move past loss and realize the dream of a restored future, she said in her speech. Her stay with the AUAP lasts until mid-February.