Report of the activity in Ishinomaki, Miyagi

I had worked on a project named "Smile Challenge" and visited Ishinomaki City which got a severe damage by tsunamis, a few days ago.

I started this project with thinking of children living at places of refugee under a lot of pressure and I wanted to provide the goods which help them relieve the stress. So, I decided to deliver books, especially comic books, to their place.
I started the project with one of my friends two weeks ago, and then I made a website which became a base of this entire project and started spreading information on Twitter.
The details of this project is here.

In Smile Challenge, we suceeded in collecting over 1,700 books, including about 1,100 comic books, 500 picture books and 100 novels by getting lots of support from many people, though our first goal was to collect 1,000 books.
My friends were kind enough to provide their books for this project and also people we got to know through Twitter donated lots of books.

Then, we headed for Ishinomaki City which is one of the most damaged areas in northern Japan on Friday night.

We first passed southern Fukushima which unfortunately became famous for the nuclear power plants on the way to Ishinomaki. It was very strange that we saw only a few cars which go to Fukushima and didn't see much light from the city there.

It was like a huge ghost town.

After we passed Fukushima Prefecture and got in Miyagi Prefecture, we gradually began to see the trail of huge tsunamis. The highway runs inland and I couldn't see the coast from there. However, I could easily find the trail of huge tsunamis such as the debris of buildings and broken cars on fields. I was very shocked to see this terrible scene at first and could then realize that huge tsunamis really swallowed the people's lives in those areas.

Picture in downtown of Ishinomaki


We arrived at Ishinomaki the next morning, but the situation there was much worse than any other area we saw by then. Most houses in the city were seriously damaged and broken, debris piled up literally everywhere in the city, cars were floated and some were on the roof of houses, and the city smelled terribly with sludge brought by tsunamis.
About a month has already passed since the first quake, but it seemed the situation there was still terrible and the time has stopped after the quake.

In Ishinomaki, we collaborated with a volunteer whose name is Yamane. He has worked on a project called "Book Library Project" locally, so our activities are similar and we decided to cooperate each other.
He first took us to Ishinomaki Library and we had a chance to talk with the chief of the library. Then, we knew that Kitakami area of Ishinomaki which is located near the coast got a severe damage by huge 20 meter tsunamis. He also told us that tsunamis hit the large part of villages there and the area was devastated.
Therefore, we decided to visit Kitakami area and give all the books we brought.

We were all literally stunned by the damage of tsunamis in Kitakami area. The whole village was diminished and only a few houses were barely standing.
I could easily understand that many people lost their lives by huge tsunamis which hit the village.
Two days has passed since I visited there, but I still clearly remember the terrible scene of Kitakami.

Kitakami Area

The facility we brought books had a functionality as a center of whole Kitakami area. Fortunately, staff there welcomed us warmly and they looked pleased to get support from us. It is mainly because Kitakami area is located far from downtown area of Ishinomaki city and it hadn't got enough leisure goods by then. So, they said that the goods given by us were greatly helpful for children and promised to distribute the books to each facility the next day.
So, we donated all 1,600 books to them and felt very happy to provide the goods to the people who need for the most.

After we unloaded all the books, we talked with the staff there.
They told us that there used to be 3 elementary schools and a middle school in Kitakami area. However, they lost 2 elementary schools and a middle school by tsunami and quake. So, they are now in a process to start a school at the safely remained elementary school.
I promissed to give them help as much as I can, and I am now thinking to come back this place sometime soon and want to contribute to the process of restructuring of this hugely damaged area.

This time, I visited the stricken area and saw the current situation there. As I wrote above, the situation there was lot worse than I had imagined.
Peple never doubt that they lose their life so easily and in one moment before the quake and tsunamis in 3.11. Now, they are forced to live under the huge pressure and with fear.
It was just a different world I know of Japan.

I will keep being a part of power which helps people get back the life they used to have before.


New Project "Smile Challenge"

I started a new project "Smile Challenge" with two of my friends yesterday.
In this project, we are aiming to give books, especially comics, to children living at places of refugee.

I have actually wanted to do something helpful for people who are suffering from this disaster.
I was really grieved at heart by hearing news on people who lost their houses, property, and family. In the first week after the quake, I literally couldn't do anything and I felt a big hole in my heart.

Now, necessities, such as food and water, are brought for the people by a lot of efforts from many people. There are still some areas at which people don't have enough food and water, but people are doing their best to deliver those necessities.

So, many people are now paying attention to physical stuff such as food and water. I now think they are very important but also stuff which make people's life better mentally is also needed.
Still people experience lots of aftershocks and spend sleepless night. I don't want people to feel much stress in that severe situation, especially children. This is because it is children that shoulder the future of Japan.
I want them to release the stress they have and get their life back as well.

That is the background of the story why I started a project which deliver books to children.
Our current goal is to collect 1,000 comics. This is not easy to fulfill this goal without getting support from many people.
Just one day have passed since we launched the Smile Challenge project, and now we already collected 113 comics from our friends.
We are now expanding to get support from more people. We have told to our friends and hope they tell also their friends and family. We just hope some of those people get involved in this project and give us a support.

The important point here is we encourage people to write the message by their hand when we receive their books. We will hand the messages to people at the refuges.
Moreover, we keep posting photos and blog entries about the state of our activity. We will report how the situation near the epicenter is and people there on our website when we visit there.
The website is here -> Smile Challenge

By doing these, I believe we can make this project as a two-way communication activity. Not only those who got support, but also those who provided support will have very positive feelings.

We're going to visit Ishinomaki-City, Miyagi, on April 9th and 10th. By then, we will try to get books and messages as much as we can.

Most of you visiting this blog are living abroad, I think. So, you cannot provide books and write messages to those people even if you want to.

Now, I suggest you to send us a message by email. We will write down your message on a letter by our hand instead of you and put also a translate in Japanese.
The email address is here: smilechallenge0409@gmail.com
This is an official email address of our project. So, you can feel free to send us messages, but please send a short one because it's tough for us to write down long sentences. haha
Just a short one please. :)

Hope many of you send a message to people who suffer from this tragedy through our project. They will realize people are thinking of them from the world.


Report from Tokyo

First, I want to make an excuse for not updating the blog for a few days.
This is a very person thing, but I had a graduation ceremony about 2 days ago and officially graduated from the college. I moved to Tokyo today, so I started a new life in Tokyo.
So, the last couple of days were very busy and didn't have time to write a new entry.

Anyways, I was in Kanazawa which isn't affected by the quakes, and now in Tokyo.
I found a big difference between those two cities.
In Kanazawa, everything seemed working fine and I felt like nothing serious happened in Japan even right after the quake. The city was filled with liveliness as usual.
Honestly, I was at a loss because of a huge gap between my mind and others'. I was actually very confused by it.

The news on TV and the Internet took me the motivation for any work.
I was not productive and really couldn't do anything other than to watch news and write a blog to let people feel the terrible situation in Japan at the time.
However, the environment in Kanazawa was very far apart from my sense then. Here, I don't blame or criticize that at all because we should be productive and get back the normal life we used to have as much as we can.
I just mention that I had a feeling which is that Kanazawa was too peaceful for me at that time.

Now in Tokyo, I think the atmosphere is a lot different from that of Kanazawa.
I feel something like worries from people. I think this is caused mainly from the information about the radioactive materials of nuclear plants and the planned blackouts.
People seem to be quiet and tired compared with before the quake.

We have faced a serious shortage of the power since the quake, especially in Tokyo area as you know.
Many people are now trying to reduce the use of electricity. Companies and household pull out plugs they don't use and turn off heaters in this cold day.
They cooperate each other in this situation and are doing what they can.
As a result so far, they haven't experienced blackout as many as first planned.

The below is a chart which shows today's consumption of electricity in Tokyo area, and I briefly explain it.

  • The vertical axis is power supply (10,000 kW) and the cross axis is time shift.
  • The top blue line shows the consumption of the same date of the last year.
  • The pink line shows that of yesterday.
  • The bar graph shows today's consumption.

As you can see from the chart above, the consumption of yesterday and today was greatly decreased compared with that of last year.
In addition, it was a cold day today but people didn't use heater with their effort.  So, it would exceed the consumption of last year if we hadn't done any efforts to handle this situation.
In my apartment also, heater is off and lights which we don't need.

It is good that people raise their awareness and take this power saving action.


Estimates of Japanese economy (short, medium, and long term)

I put data in order and write about the anticipated effects focused especially on its economy.
The below is my idea and ideas I got from analysts.
So it might contain incorrect facts, but I want you to read and think it over by yourself.
I divided into three terms: short term (〜 1 month), medium term (〜 6 months), and long term (〜 5 years)

■Short term (〜 1 month)
□Consumption fall
Consumer minds have cooled since the quake. This was a huge disaster which deprived many people of their family and property. We tend to refrain from getting goods which are not necessities. As a result, food service industry and toursit industry are damaged directly. We know that it doesn't help recovering from this situation and it makes the economic situation worse, but we just don't feel like to spend the luxurious life we had before.
Also, The government has called saving electricity to people because one of the biggest generators of electricity have stopped. Therefore, people in Tokyo area are now trying their effort to save power.
However, I think this kind of power saving action doesn't have any impacts and this accelerate depressed people's mind. When we are in a dark place and pay attention to power saving, our consumption drops.
Saving power is important, but I think the important point is the peak of the demand of electricity. If we avoid using the electricity in a peak time which is now from 4 to 6 pm, we don't need to consider the power supply at night.

□Affected manufacturing industry
Plants in northern Japan got damaged by the quakes and tsunamis, and it takes time to replace them. Moreover, there are worries of power shortage problems. So, many car companies and electrical equipment manufactures stopped some plants and it affects the entire system, such as Toyota, Honda, and Sony which had sustained Japanese economy.

□Many small businesses went and will go bankrupt in the stricken areas.
This will result in many unemployed people.

□Fall of exports
Many manufactures have got damaged and also will get damaged by both the quake directly and the short supply of electricity indirectly as I mentioned above.
In addition, the damage to the export of food is serious because of the radioactive problems. Some countries already annouced that they will check the radioactive levels of food from Japan, but the radioactive level is actually pretty low and doesn't affect any problems in human bodies. This is also becoming a domestic problem. People now avoid food in Fukushima Prefecture and also Ibaraki Prefecture.

■Midium term (〜 a half year)
□Supply shortage of the electricity
This will influence all the industries. The continuous planned blackout will be solved partially when it gets warm and people stop using heaters. However, it is estimated it takes at least a half year to get another thermal power plant start, and we will have next big planned blackout in summer.

□Immense government's expenditure
You know that the expenditure will largely increase to construct new buildings and support the victims.
TEPCO, which owns the nuclear plants will face a huge amount of compensation. The company has already spent huge amount of money on the management of this problem and will spent more. Moreover, TEPCO will have to pay for those who got negative damage, especially people who have residence and cannot go back and farmers who cannot sell their agricultural products because of a rumor of the radioactive materials.
Therefore, TEPCO might not be able to run a business as a private company, and the government might inject public funds for the company.

■Long term (〜 5 years)
□Company's shift to other Asian cities
Although I'm not sure about this, foreign companies might move their headquaters to other Asian cities, such as Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore. It was often said that the corporation tax in Japan is very high compared to other Asian countries. More overseas companies moved their headquaters to cities I raised above in the last ten years, and it is a good time for those companies to move in this time.

□Discontinuance of a sale of nuclear plants
The government won't be able to sell nuclear plants to the world anymore. The impact the problem gave to the world is enormous and it's not only a domestic problem.
The world has been shifting to use clean technology instead of fossil fuels. However, this accident blew off all the actions. Now, the world is very careful to use this technology and no countries will try to introduce it for the next some years.
Historycally US invested a lot on the nuclear technology but the country had to stop after Three Mile, and the countries which got profits from this were Japan and France.
Japanese government had proceeded the MOX project, but have to give it up. Japan will lose engineers and cannot sell the technology with standing at the front.

□Economic growth
It might be possible that Japanese economy change this disaster to the growth force. I mean here it's not a "recovery" but it's a "growth."
Domestic demand will become the driving force of the economy. Economists often said that Japanese economy has a little domestic demand and the economy remains stagnant in the situation of decreased population. However, the country can see this terrible accident as a big chance to lead the economy.
Construction industry will lead the economic growth.
Technology of storage battery will also be advanced and solar panel will gradually be spread because people realized the importance of storing and generating power by themselves.
Those two technologies are necessary for other countries as well in this 21st century. So, it has a huge potential.

I believe Japan will recover from this tragedy and rise again.


Time goes by and we have to take a step forward.

Yesterday was the seventh day after the first earthquake.
It was actually hard for me to realize that a week had already passed. This is because the impact the quake gave us was just too severe.
The last 8 days was one of the most painful time in my 23 years of life.

It was fortunate that the quake didn't hit my place. I felt only one small shock and I found out later it was the one caused the huge damage to northern Japan. At that time, however, I never thought the quake would cause the huge troubles and tsunamis.

I have seen lots of news which tell us a terrible situation in stricken areas.
And here, I have written this blog to get people's attention on this disaster from abroad.
The reason I started the blog was not to appeal for any help or fund-raising. I just wanted people to know this bad situation happening in Japan. I am just glad if some of you donate money or even address our situation to your friends.
I now want to thank you all visiting and telling friends this blog. I found out that most of you knew my blog through your friends and some are from me directly.
It is a good action to even think of people suffering in Japan, and I appreciate your attention.

Get the story back, and I actually feel like I have had a big hole in my heart since the earthquake. I heard many people got dispiritted after 9.11 in US. I think I have the similar feelings now.
Therefore, I feel the time passed so fast. It seems like it was only 3 or 4 days ago, but already a week.
We get more information as time goes by. The identified dead people were counted over 7,000 and still missing about 10,000 as of today. Also, the number of people who lost their house is countless.
It is very sad to accept those numbers, but we have to do it to step forward.

Lastly, I want to pick up a positive topic here.
We are a little dispritted by this situation, but people at stricken areas are really strong.
They are short of necessities such as water, food, gas, medicine and blankets. They are not sure whether they will be able to survive in this severe situation.
However, we often hear they help and respect each other. They cooperate and try to overcome the situation. They share one cold rice ball with others, but they never complain about that. Nurse who lost her parents by this quake is now working for many other old people.

Whenever I get those news, I am very proud of them and I feel happy to be Japanese.
I do hope we can get back a peaceful life again soon.


People working at the nuclear plants with a lot of fears

The problem of radioactive substances has attracted people's attention both in Japan and the world.
To check the fact of this, I saw lots of news and even learned about the system of nuclear plants.

I can say that the current radioactive level is safe for people in Tokyo and it shouldn't get any worries as of now.
The exposure to the air doesn't affect any bad on us. It is not harmful to be outside at all.

To tell the truth, however, I'm not sure how it will go in a next few days. I mean Tokyo will stay being safe, but am not sure about Fukushima where the plants are.
Fuel rods of some of the plants were exposed to the air, and people there are working to get the the fuel rods cooled down by water. This is not an easy situation.
I wrote about it here (What Is happening With Nuclear Plants)

Two new projects were carried out today and they are still going.

One was to drop the water directly from helicopters. The plan was postponed at first in consideration of radioactive risk to people who engage in the project. They excuted after it gets lower risk.
However, I guess the effect of this was very small.

Second was to spray water by water trucks from a distance of 50 meters.
This try has a very high risk for workers' health because they need to come very close to the plants. Although they wear a very special suits which blocks radiation, they cannot block all radioactive substances.
In addition, the amount of radioactive substances people receive greatly decreases by the distance. For example, the amount becomes 1/4 if you are 2 meters away from the site, and becomes 1/9 to 3 meters.
Therefore, workers got very large amounts of radioactivities.

In a past entry, I told the fact that my father had worked for TEPCO. He retired from the company last year after 40 years of his work.
Although he was not an engineer, he often worked at the sites. Every time when accidents occur such as typhoons, he stayed and worked all night. When I was a kid, I was very nervous about him when he didn't come home because of the work.
I have once asked him about his motivation for the work. He said that he and the company have a strong responsibility to keep people's lives. If the company stops, it means all social activities are lost. People in hospitals would be taken their lives by blackouts and all people would get deep anxiety in dark nights.

I heard about 700 employees are working with being exposed to radiation at the nuclear plants, and some of my father's colleagues might be working there. I called him and he said it might be possible.
The situation they are in is just terrible. I think they have a lot of anxiety, but they decide to work at the risk of their lives.

A news told us that there were many veteran employees voluntarily willing to go and work there. They are ready to sacrifice themselves and want to save young engineers.
I was actually about to cry when I heard this news.

All workers have their family and I'm sure they want to spend time with them. However, they are now working for the people and the country.
If the same situation happens to my father, I think I stop him from going there but I'm sure he goes to work with his responsibility and a thought on people.

So, I want all of you to know that this is the thing happening now in Japan.
The leak of radioactive substances has been focused, but there are many people working for us with being exposed to the radiations at the nuclear plants.

Text: A Message from the Emperor About the Great Eastern Earthquake

Japanese Emperor released a video message to all people living in Japan on 16th.
This is a very special case that Emperor leaves a video message.
I cited an article of Yomiuri Shimbun and the below is a text of the video message.
I was very moved and encouraged by his graceful but powerful message.
I am sure we can recover from this disaster by helping each other.

--- A Message from the Emperor ---

I feel great pain for the misery caused by the recent earthquake off the northeastern shore, which at Magnitude 9.0 was of a scale we’d never seen before. The death toll from the quake and tsunami climbs every day, and we don’t yet know how exactly many were sacrificed. I continually pray to hear news that even one more person is safe and sound. I am also very worried about the unresolved problems at the nuclear power plants, and I hope that the efforts of those involved will prevent that situation from becoming even worse.

Now as ever, relief efforts are pulling the country back to its feet, but in the midst of this bitter cold, many people do not have enough food, water, or fuel, and they are in grave conditions. Because of the alert and exhaustive efforts of many, some victims’ circumstances have changed for the better, and I hope against hope that our people’s recovery will continue. I am deeply moved by the valor of those who have pushed themselves to survive day after excruciating day.

I offer my deep thanks to national and local organizations, including the military, police, fire department, and coast guard, to those who have come from abroad to assist with aid efforts, and to members of emergency rescue teams for laboring day and night despite the danger of aftershocks.

Leaders of every nation have contacted me to offer their best wishes and to tell me the thoughts of all their citizens are with us. I pass these words along to the victims.

Many news stories from abroad have noted that in the midst of this tragedy, Japanese people are not descending into chaos but instead are responding in an orderly manner. From the bottom of my heart, I urge our people to continue to lift each other up, to show kindness to each other, and to ride out this unhappy time together.

I believe that we will all have to give a little more of ourselves to the victims in the difficult days ahead. I ask these victims to hold out hope, to take care of their health, and to preserve the will to live tomorrow and in the days to come. I implore our people to come together as one, to keep their hearts close to the afflicted areas, and to continue watching over the victims on the long road to recovery.