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The Situation in Japan after the 3/11 Earthquake

Hey everyone. I wrote this out on facebook for my friends and family last week, but haven`t gotten around to posting it here as well.

Thank you to everyone who sent me messages with concern over my safety. I`m okay. Please read the following:

TL;DR version;
– I`m okay, all JETs in Gunma are safe
– We won`t likely be too affected by any more major quakes
– …but I`ve prepared for the worst anyway
– contrary to media sensationalization, I believe the nuclear reactor situation is under control
– things are a bit weird as it`s kind of normal here, even though it`s a disaster zone 250km away.
– we will start having scheduled rolling blackouts starting today.
– please help out a bit and donate to the relief efforts if you can
– much love to all my friends and family. Go hug your loved ones.

Okay, so if you`re still with me, this could get a bit long so I hope you are comfy. As you guys are no doubt aware, Japan has been hit by its greatest crisis since WWII. I know a lot of you are worrying about me and are kind of in the dark about what the situation is like here “on the ground”, so I`m writing this note to clear things up and hopefully provide a clearer picture of what its like. Hopefully it will alleviate a lot of your worries as well.

First off, I`m so grateful to everyone for the outpouring of love, support, thoughts and prayers. I am seriously touched and thankful to have friends and family like you in my life. As to my general safety, well, fortunately Gunma is quite safe relative to the rest of Japan. My prefecture; Gunma, is a landlocked (surrounded by other prefectures on all sides) in the center of Japan. I live on the southern tip of Gunma in a city called Fujioka. Fujioka sits on the Kanto plains and is surrounded by mountains. It`s position makes it insusceptible to Tsunamis, and much less susceptible to earthquakes, especially from the area where the 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit off the north-east coast of Japan. In Fujioka, when the earthquake hit, my furniture moved around a bit, and while scary and unverving, the most damage I suffered was the loss of a single drinking glass, which itself was perched precariouly near the edge of a table (although my fridge had moved a solid 2 feet and my TV almost fell off it`s shelf).

From what I have read and heard (I have been doing a lot of research on this), it is extremely unlikely that a major earthquake will hit my region, and that any earthquakes that hit off the north-eastern coast of Japan will dissapate significantly by the time they reach Fujioka. That`s not to say that I haven`t been preparing for a worst case scenario, though. The earthquake reminded me of the importance of preparation and to that end, I`ve been trying to do what I can. Some of the precautions I`ve taken include packing emergency bags and leaving them in my car, stockpiling some water, energy drinks, canned food and nonperishables, taking breakables things down from shelves, and buying emergency supplies like flashlights, batteries and candles. I keep an unobstructed path to the front door, sleep with my shoes outside the bedroom and all the doors open, and make sure that there is space to dive under a table if necessary. It`s probably a bit much given where I live, but I`m going to have things set up like this for a couple weeks just in case. Currently, there is a 70% chance of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake hitting the same area as last time within the next 48 hours. While it will most likely just be felt as tremors and noticeable shakes where I live, I think it`s good to be prepared and err on the safe side just in case.

Currently, the major topic of concern is the fear of a nuclear meltdown at the reactor in Fukushima. There has been a lot of coverage on this in the news and there have been many conflicting reports. The news is getting more and more sensational, and I feel the possible danger of a nuclear meltdown is being inflated to sell headlines. However after doing lots of research myself and reading tons and tons of articles, I have reached the personal conclusion that we are not in grave danger of a nuclear fallout or radiation poisoning, and there is no immediate need to evacuate the country, especially from where I live.If you are interested in the details, please, please read this piece on the nuclear situation by Dr Josef Oehmen, a research scientist at MIT. It is extremely concise and well written and is currently being shuttled around the internet as a credible and understandable explanation of what is going on:

http://theenergycollective.com/barrybrook/53461/fukushima-nuclear-accident-simple-and-accurate-explanation

For those who are too lazy to read through the (admittedly rather long) article, the gist of it is that there is no immediate threat of a meltdown, and the (very little) radiation that has been released into the air poses no long term health risk to humans. In addition, the winds are blowing east into the ocean.

With regards to the general feeling of thigns in Japan, over here where I live in Fujioka, it sort of feels like there is a strange disconnect from reality. Everyone is already going about their days as if unaffected by the earthquake, even while the news replays scenes of devastation from only 300 km away. However, there is still a sense of anxiety in the air over concerns with the nuclear reactor. People are engaging in panic buying, some supermarkets are emptying their stocks of bread, water and canned foods. There is also a huge shortage of gas. I have been unable to fill up all week due to gas stations closing out after massive lines buy up all the gas. Unfortunately, I hear that this is the situation throughout most of Japan. Hopefully things will settle down as the week progresses.

Another development in the situation over here is that we have started having rolling blackouts 3-4 hours a day so that power can be sent to the affected areas without power. While it will affect things like hospitals and street lights, it’s really a small inconvenience on our part in comparison to the challenges they face up in the heavily hit part of Japan.

Overall, I have been incredibly impressed with how the Japanese people have handled this overwhelming national catastrophe. Everything has been very orderly and even with all the “panic buying”, I haven`t seen any rushes to buy out everything, with people trampling over each other in the process. Whereas back home if this situation broke out, riots would be on the street and people would be looting stores…over here, people are patiently line up outside supermarkets that are full. It just seems like grocery stores are emptier than usual and lines are longer at gas stations so gas is a bit short. Most essential services are back up and running, and trains and busses are slowly coming back on, although right now the schedule is really irregular.If you want to follow along with the situation in Japan, I`ve found NHK`s english streaming coverage to be quite good. Here`s the link:http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nhk-world-tv

BBC`s coverage is not that bad either, and they also have live streaming at www.bbc.com. However, I would take their reporting on the nuclear situation with a grain of salt.

This note is already pretty long, but I don`t know how to end it really. I`m sure I`ll come back and edit as I think of stuff I missed but for now I`ll just finish it off. Thanks again so much for all your concern. I am very fortunate to be okay, but the the north east coast is a complete disaster zone, and they are still bracing for more tsunamis and earthquakes. If you can spare a little, please donate to the red cross. Even $5-$10 would go a long way, and they need a lot of help right now.

UPDATE:

Some of my friends/fellow JETs have left the country. Hopefully only temporarily. There`s a lot of fears on the news right now about radiation contamination reaching the food supply. It`s kind of scary, but right now it`s not supposed to be at harmful levels. Hopefully it will be okay.
This whole situation is crazy. On one hand we have the inconveniences and some looming threats overhead. On the other hand, it feels like I`m living through history.
I really hope things settle down soon. The Fukushima 50 at the reactor site have been making great strides. For now, all we can do is pray and hope.

It`s times like this that really make you realize what are important in life. Cliche, I know but its nonetheless completely true. Go tell your friends and family you love them, and be with them – just spend some time together. Many, many people are not fortunate to have that opportunity, and it`s probably a good idea to remember that from time to time.

Thanks for reading.

Author Bio
Albo Agunday

Albo Agunday

Hey, I'm Albo, co-founder of TJC. I was a JET in beautiful Gunma Prefecture for 5 years. I started thejetcoaster.com to teach and inspire others how to live a life of travel, learning and adventure.

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