Live Blog: Earthquake in Japan

TUTV is going to update with videos and other resources of information about the recent crisis in Japan caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off the northeast coast.

Please visit our new blog, After the Earthquake in Japan, for ongoing updates about the situation and Naoko’s trip to Japan.


Update: Friday at 11:00 p.m.
Power generators have reactivated and cooling system has been working at some reactors according to NHK news. This is very good news.

My American friend I know from high school is in Okinawa right now and coordinating U.S. military. He said U.S. military are airdropping aid but having hard time locating the shelters and people who are waiting for aid. He wonders if there is a way to determine where the main distribution centers for the shelters are. Maybe twitter can be used for this also? I’ve seen earlier this week some tweets asking for rescue and aid with certain hash tag.

I talked to my grand mother over the phone. She said lack of gasoline is serious everywhere. She was surprised how much I’ve been keeping up with news I tried to explain what is ustream and twitter are but I don’t know how much she understood. All of my family and friends are fine and they said Tokyo is recovering pretty quickly.

I think I’m going to visit Japan as I planned next week. However, I would like to make my trip little different this time. I don’t want to just see my friends and family. Of course I’ll look for any opportunities to help the damaged areas (I actually have group of friends who are making rice balls and distributing to shelters in Ibaraki Prefecture; so I might be able to go there to help them make rice balls!).

Another thing I’m interested in doing this time is to learn about my uncle I never met. He was involved with an anti nuclear plants activist group about 30 years ago. He was protesting one day and found being beaten to death in fall 1980. The police never found the killer. Some of my relatives think police killed him. Nobody knows what happened. The statute of limitation had reached. When I was little, I was told he died because of car accident; but I recently discovered he was killed. My grand mother told me his friends still remember the day he died and visit the scene where he was found dead with flowers every year. I would like to meet his friends if I can while I’m there. I don’t know anything about my uncle. Only thing I know about him is that he was the sweetest guy who plays guitar and violin very well.

Update: Friday at 11:00 a.m.
One of the most frustrating things I’ve read so far is how the Japanese government is not allowing aid to be airdropped to the damaged area. Why aren’t they doing it? Apparently, the self defense force of Japan has no experience airdropping, and they are concerned about safety. Concerned about safety? Are you serious? People are dying in the damaged area because of lack of food, water, and supplies to keep them warm. US troops are there to help, and they have enough of people with training and experience on airdropping aid.

If you are reading this and you are a Twitter user, could you try to tweet about this and spread the word? Maybe US government would do something about this. Japanese government should request US troops to airdrop aid ASAP! Please spread the word more and more!

Update: Friday at 8:00 a.m.
I’ve briefly caught up with the news and looks like the situation at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is a little better. Radiation levels around the plants are still high. It’s close to bedtime in Japan. I will catch up more and will update this blog today.

Another press conference held by Tokyo Electric Power Company to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. Everything is translated in English.
Watch the video here.

Update: Friday at 1:00 a.m.
Oh my!!! Do you remember I was talking someone suggesting using concrete pumping vehicles on Twitter yesterday? Japanese government really listened to his idea, and they’ve sent concrete pumping vehicles to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant to splash water to the reactors! I’m so amazed!! This is just so awesome to see an individual’s idea get all the way up to the government in three hours via Twitter, and they actually acted upon it in a timely manner.

Everyone should speak up their ideas on Twitter right now! I think people definitely are starting to feel like their opinions and ideas do matter right now in Japan. This is good. There’s a huge attitude change happening in Japan. I hope this will help cool down the reactors!

Good night Japan! I hope I can see you in a week!

Update: Thursday at 5:00 p.m.
According to The Mainichi Daily News, Tokyo Electric Power Company made a request to the government to evacuate from the Fukushima nuclear plants two days after the first explosion on March 14. The government told them they couldn’t leave the location, and that they had to keep working. I wonder if this is true.
Read more here.

Update: Thursday at 3:32 p.m.
“Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that engineers were able to lay an external grid power line cable to unit 2. The operation was completed at 08:30 UTC. They plan to reconnect power to unit 2 once the spraying of water on the unit 3 reactor building is completed. The spraying of water on the unit 3 reactor building was temporarily stopped at 11:09 UTC (20:09 local time) of 17 March.”
Read more here.

It very good news that they got the power line cable to unit 2 (the reactor No.2 mentioned previously). This will help to get the cooling system to function.

Still not sure if I should go back home to Tokyo next week or not. I really want to go.

Update: Thursday at 12:12 a.m.
I just saw someone tweeting to suggest that the government use a concrete pumping vehicle to pump seawater into the reactors to cool them down. He works for a company that produces concrete pumping vehicles. He was hoping the government will get the message. Many people RT his tweet. His tweet was received by the government after three hours. There was another person who suggested the same also. Both of them said it would help them to control the direction of water remotely. We’ll see if the government can mange to get concrete pumping vehicles to Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants. It’s so fascinating to see people trying so hard to share ideas like this on Twitter.

Good night Japan! Ganbare Japan! I love you!

Update: Wednesday at 11:30 p.m.
New York Times posted a very easy to comprehend diagram of radiation levels and map. Check it out here.

Update: Wednesday at 11:00 p.m.
Yen hits highest exchange rate against dollar sine 1995.

Self Defense Force’s helicopters are now splashing seawater to the reactor No.1 and No.3. Then, they will splash water from the water cannon truck. I’m crossing all of my fingers. Ten fingers are not enough.

There are over 336,000 people who are evacuated in shelters. That’s crazy. Children and seniors are dying at shelters because they don’t have enough food and supplies. These news makes me really hurt. Meanwhile, Osaka city, the second major city in Japan, announced they prepared 2,000 houses for victims to evacuate to. Big thumbs up for Osaka city with big heart! I hope more local governments will make these coordinations and decisions quickly instead of waiting to be ordered what to do by the federal government.

I don’t like to share negative news too much but can’t help myself so I’m going to do it anyway. Shintaro Ishihara who is the Governor of Tokyo said the earthquake and Tsunami are “divine punishment” because of the egoism of Japanese people so they should wash away their egoism with water of Tsunami. First I thought I was losing my mind and my mind is making something up. Unfortunately, my head was clear; that is what he said at the press conference. I never liked him but this time, I hated him with passion. I wished he would be dumped into the nuclear plant in Fukushima immediately so he can get some shock therapy. Obviously, he wants people to be angry at him and get attention. People (especially media) need to start completely ignore him in this kind of situation. He recently announced his candidacy for next election for the Governor of Tokyo. Since I’ve been studying abroad and living in U.S. for a while I haven’t voted (shame on me), but I’ll definitely find a way to vote for this election from abroad somehow this time.

Updat: Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.
Used nuclear fuel not being able to cool down seems like the most serious problem in Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants right now. The water cannon truck from the Police Department has arrived; they will try to cool down used nuclear fuel at the reactor No.4 by splashing water from crack on the exterior of the reactor sometime this morning. Let’s hope this will work!

Update: Wednesday at 4:57 p.m.
Tokyo Electoric Power Company says they are having difficulty cooling down used nuclear fuel at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant. They discovered that used nuclear fuel are heating up. It got on fire at the reactor No.4 yesterday. They have tried to splash water from the top of the reactor from helicopter but the level of radiation was too high to operate so they could not do it. This reminds us that people who are working around the reactors are getting exposed to radiation very much. They are all risking their life to stabilize the reactors. Only thing I can do is pray that their efforts will lead to stabilization of reactors soon.

The area where people evacuated are in serious shortage of foods, medicines, and gasoline. I saw some tweets that children are starving to death in a shelter. It is very frustrating to hear news like this. I would hate to hear more survivors of earthquake and Tsunami die because aid are not getting distributed. Some cities that were hit by Tsunami really hard are not only destoryed but also vanished. So the funciton of city government do not exist in those cities which makes it very difficult to get proper support from the federal government. On twitter and facebook, I see many NPOs and individuals’ messages who try to do something about this heartbreaking situation by coordinating aid to be distributed without the direct government involvement (they still need to get an approval to enter certain damaged areas).

I have an plain ticket to Tokyo Narita Airport leaving on next Wednesday which I reserved few months ago, planing to take my friend from Philadelphia around Tokyo. I told her to cancel her trip but I still haven’t decided what to do about my trip yet. If I go I want to engage in support efforts in some ways so I’m doing research.

Update: Tuesday at 11:56 a.m.
Just to make it clear, many people in Tokyo still have to go to work. I saw a Facebook comment by an American who works in Tokyo that said, “My family made me leave Tokyo, and my boss called me a coward… it’s stuck with me and i feel like i’ve let a lot of my friends down. but our own safety is the most important thing.” I was very sad when I read this comment. I couldn’t believe his boss was judging him for wanting to be safe and with his family. Some of my friends told me they would stay in Tokyo no matter what. I respect that also. It should be up to individual to decide how to ensure safety and how to deal with this crisis.

It is an extremely difficult time now because obviously the government cannot order everyone what to do at this moment. I heard on NHK news earlier that someone got in touch with Matsudo city in Chiba on his/her own and asked to take 24 people from Tomiokamachi and Naraharamachi in Fukushima, which are both within 20 to 30 km distance from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants, the area where the government ordered people to stay inside. The mayor of Matsudo city immediately accepted the request. 24 people traveled 138 miles by bus to evacuate. These 24 people did not follow the government order; instead, they made their own decision. It is tough, but I was very happy to see these 24 people finally finding ease of mind, being away from the danger of the power plants.

Update: Tuesday at 10:56 a.m.
It is going to be freezing cold in northern Japan today. Shelters are in serious need of heating oil and gasoline. It will be a difficult day for people who are staying in shelters or are outside waiting to be rescued.

White smoke was seen around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant this morning, and the radiation level increased around the plants up to 6.4 mSv. Tokyo Electric Company ordered the people who were working around the plants to leave the area due to the high radiation level. Tokyo Electric Company is not sure which reactor produced the smoke.

Update: Tuesday at 3:00 p.m.
Erin Palmer, Assistant Director of Study Away, shared links with me via email that she had received from the International School she went to when she was in 7th grade in Tokyo.

The best way to support the situation in Japan right now is to donate money. There will surely come a point in which physical goods and manpower is needed to rebuild the affected areas in the north of Japan. However, at this point the situation is changing daily and professional emergency relief teams need financial support to get the goods they determine are needed on the ground and to continue their operations.

Donations to Doctor’s Without Borders fund for Japan

Donations to International Medical Corps
( or by calling (800) 481-4462. You can also text MED to 80888 to donate $10, which will be added to your next cellphone bill.)

Update: Tuesday at 1:18 p.m.
A powerful earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.0 jolted the Tokai area of Japan (central Japan, close to Tokyo) on Tuesday 11:31 p.m.  There are nuclear plants in this area, which has caused concern. Many people want them to be shut down as soon as possible before another large earthquake occurs. Many Twitter users are sharing petitions online to submit to the government requesting to shut down these power plants because they are worried more accidents will happen.

Update: Tuesday at 08:06 a.m.
Good morning! I’m watching NHK live on Ustream again to catch up with what is going on. They found two holes on the exterior of the reactor No.4 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The fuel rods of the reactor No.2 are covered halfway with seawater now, great news. They are still pumping in more seawater. Tokyo Electric Power Company admitted that there are not enough people to help with the reactor crisis and that they can’t even communicate to exchange basic information about the current situation of each reactor. Those people who are working there are in danger of radiation exposure. I feel bad for them, but I also deeply respect these people. I hope they can cool down all the reactors without a major accident.

People who evacuated are not getting enough supplies and information. They are very frustrated because, while everyone is being very patient and trying to support each other to stay calm, the government is terrible at communicating with them about the current situation. The representatives have to go to the government and confirm “Is it safe to stay here? Are you sure we are safe to not to evacuate further?” instead of the government telling them what to do or keeping them informed about what is going on. They feel like they are abandoned. They have had to go to the government to get supplies by themselves instead of the government making arrangements to deliver supplies.

My friends and family are good but tired. They have to go to work. Planned power outages make it hard for them to commute via train. It’s difficult because I feel like the government should order them to stay home if their business is not necessary in this crisis. However, the economic loss will be so huge; if people in Tokyo stop working or start leaving Tokyo, the stock market situation in Japan will probably worsen (obviously investors are selling stocks so much right now). Most of my friends are trying to encourage each other and spend their days as usual as much as they can. I also have a friend from the U.S. who is working in Okinawa to coordinate U.S. troops. Everyone is working hard, and I wish I could go to those damaged area to help.

Update: Monday at 12:06 a.m.
According to Tokyo Electric Power Company, a fire has been extinguished at the reactor No.4 thanks to US troops’ help. Radiation level has increased in Kanto area, but it is not harmful. High radiation levels of 400mSV were measured around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant; Tokyo Electric Power Company says it could be related to the fire at the reactor No.4 earlier today.

I’m going to sleep now, and I hope the situation in Fukushima will be stabilized when I wake up.

Update: Monday at 11:06 p.m.
I just saw a press conference held by Prime Minster Naoto Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano about the current situation of the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima on Ustream. There is fire at reactor No.4. The amount of radiation level increased to an amount that could be harmful. Now people who live within 20 to 30 km from the the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear plants are advised to stay inside (earlier people who live within 20 km have been ordered to evacuate). People who live in the areas where the government ordered to evacuate cannot communicate with the government in timely manner; they are afraid, frustrated, and exhausted.

I’m from Tokyo, and most of my family and friends live in Tokyo. From what I’ve heard from the press conference, the government does not advise people in Tokyo to evacuate or stay inside. However, people are afraid and confused. Many of them feel like the government does not share enough information. There are lots of rumors that it is not safe to stay in Tokyo.

It is amazing that we can share so much information via Facebook and Twitter (the US Department of State even advised people in the US to use Facebook and Twitter to get in touch with their family and friends in Japan). However, it also makes it easy to spread bad or untrue rumors very quickly. Media literacy is extremely important in Japan right now.

I was excited to find the article “Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors” by Josef Oehmen, a research scientist in mechanical engineering and engineering systems at MIT via Twitter. I originally found the Japanese translated version of this article also via Twitter and found the original later. Some people are too excited to criticize the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company or spread rumors on Twitter; but others are trying to share informative articles and keep the online community informed. I’m also following Dr. Hayano, Chair of Physics Department Tokyo University on Twitter because his tweets are easy to understand. He is constantly trying to answer people’s questions on Twitter. People are also exchanging ideas on how to save power and how people who are evacuating should be treated by near provinces etc., on Twitter.

I used to think Twitter was stupid, but now I’ve completely changed my mind. It can influence people in negative ways, such as spreading rumors or overwhelming people with too much information, but I really appreciate Twitter. Now I can hear how people feel from all over Japan, which makes me feel like I’m closer to them in this crisis.

Ganbare Japan!

Update: Monday at 2:46 p.m.
The BBC has released this amazing before and after slideshow showing the extent of the damage using satellite photos of Japan’s northern coast.

Update: Monday at 2:22 p.m.
According to this article from Nikkei, Tokyo Electric Company has stated that vents have been opened to release pressure exerted by water vapor at the Reactor No.2 Unit of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. They have reported that the pressure decreased from 1.71 megapascal (mpa) to 0.63 mpa. However, the fuel rods are still exposed.

Update: Monday at 1:03 p.m.
If you are interested in what is happening with the nuclear plants in Fukushima, you can read this informative article “Why I am not worried about Japan’s nuclear reactors” written by Josef Oehmen, a research scientist in mechanical engineering and engineering systems at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Update: Monday at 12:13 p.m.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company said water levels have fallen far enough that they are not be able to measure the water level at reactor No.2 of Tokyo Electric Power’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) reported today. This has exposed fuel rods to potential damage. The power company is having difficulty pumping in seawater to cover the rods again because the vent is capped due to the high pressure.

Travel Alert: Monday at 11:54 a.m.
The United States Department of State has issued a Travel Alert for Japan that has an expiry of April 1, 2011.  For more information on traveling to Japan and getting in touch with your family and friends in Japan, please read the following update (it is very informative):

Update: Monday at 10:28 a.m.
Below is a video in both English and Japanese of the press conference held by Masahi Goto, former Toshiba nuclear power plant designer who gives a briefing on the earthquakes’ impact and damage to the nuclear facility in Fukushima to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan. If you don’t speak Japanese, this video can help you understand the current status of the nuclear plants in Fukushima.

Government Travel Recommendations (in English):

Other Government Travel Recommendations (in English):

Nuclear Issues:

Web Resources – News:

Other Resources:

This entry was posted in . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.