Adamu in Tokyo after the earthquake

There have been many many reports about what it’s like on the ground after the earthquake, but I thought I would offer my perspective.

The day of the earthquake, I was working in downtown Tokyo on the 29th floor of a two-year-old office building. At around 2:40pm it started rumbling, then swaying sharply back and forth. The bucho yelled for everyone to take cover, so we put on our emergency helmets and hid under the desk. The swaying continued for what felt like forever. Thinking this might be the end, I tried frantically to get my wife on the phone but it did not work. I got a hold of Mrs. Adamu via the office phones and she was fine.

Not knowing what else to do, some of us kept working on reports that needed to get published that day, even amid the aftershocks. Around 6, we started making plans to go home.

The head translator and I made our way to Ueno, where he wanted to get a hotel room. My plan was to continue all the way home. The streets were packed with people trying to get home, but it felt more like the crowd after a baseball game than a disaster. At a bicycle shop, some people were purchasing bikes to get home faster. I decided that would be a waste of money. The hotel rooms were all packed so I had the head translator stay with me.

At Ueno we decided to stop by Shoryu, a Chinese restaurant known for its big gyoza. This might not have been the safest move, since a fierce aftershock could have trapped us in the basement floor where it was located.

After that, the walk home was just a slog. The throngs of pedestrians thinned to just crowds and then just a small group as we approached Katsushika-ku.  The lines at the payphones died down around Asakusa where I updated Mrs. Adamu on our condition. On the way back, one family was offering passersby to use their toilet if necessary.

We eventually got home, turned on the TV and the first thing we saw was Kesennuma-shi on fire. Made me sick to my stomach. Wanted to shower but the gas had been turned off. We later realized it was an automatic shutdown for safety during the earthquake. The apartment was only lightly damaged. My computer monitor had been pushed forward off the front of the desk and was hanging by its cables. The laundry detergent had spilled behind the machine. For some reason all the sliding windows were open.

Couldn’t sleep because of aftershocks. The next morning Mrs. Adamu got late morning trains back home.

Since then life has been a little surreal. I have not missed a day of work, but I was among the very few in the office on Monday since the rolling power cuts left many train lines out of commission. The news is a constant, numbing stream of tragedy and emergency warnings. I have not really had the heart to do much blogging about it.

All in all, I am thankful that Tokyo was spared and cannot complain much about the situation given the devastation up north. Still, it’s tense and everyone is pretty nervous. Some friends and coworkers have sent their families elsewhere. Food is gone from the supermarket shelves. My mom has been receiving many many calls from friends and relatives asking about me, and she is freaking out about the nuclear situation.

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March 14: International Marriage Day

It may be inappropriate to move on to non-earthquake topics, but it just so happens that I just now discovered that today is International Marriage Day in Japan.

I was reading about Philipp Franz von Siebold, the German physician who traveled extensively across Japan for eight years from the time of his arrival in 1823, playing a key role in teaching Europe about Japan upon his return. The wikipedia article also contains this section:

Since mixed marriages were forbidden, von Siebold “lived together” with his Japanese partner Kusumoto Taki (楠本滝). In 1827 Kusumoto Taki gave birth to their daughter, Oine. Von Siebold used to call his wife “Otakusa” and named a Hydrangea after her.

That made me wonder — if mixed marriages were forbidden during the Edo Period, when was the restriction lifted? It took very little research to see that this came on 14 March 1873 (Meiji 6), from which time marriages to foreigners were permitted — a copy of the issued order being shown below. Consequently, 14 March — today — is International Marriage Day (although it’s not widely recognized, and probably no better known than 15 March being Shoes Anniversary Day).

The first recorded international marriage took place on 27 January 1874 between Mr. Juro Miura and Ms. Crausentz Gertamier (accurate Roman alphabet spelling unknown) after they met while Miura’s studied in Germany. They were married at a church in Tsukiji in Tokyo.

Importantly, government approval was required for Japanese women to marry foreigners, and they lost their Japanese citizenship (bungen) upon marrying a foreigner. Similarly, foreign women acquired Japanese citizenship upon marrying a Japanese man. In the 1870s, Japan was still in the process of developing its legal system and the concept of citizenship and citizen were not yet clear. This was put into law by the Meiji Constitution and Citizenship Law that were both enacted in 1899, but the system remained essentially unchanged until 1916, when Japanese women only lost their Japanese citizenship if they acquired foreign citizenship.

A note on energy conservation

Due to the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants being offline, the Kanto area is experiencing serious power shortages. According to Tokyo Vice-Mayor Inose Naoki as of  around 4:30pm, the electricity demand in the Tokyo Power area exceeded the supply by 1/3, and therefore a 1/4 reduction in electricity consumption will be necessary to avoid rolling blackouts in the near future.

What you see above is a map of Japan’s electrical grid, which for odd historical reasons is separated into a 60hz grid (same as North America) in the western half of Japan and a 50hz grid (same as Europe) in the eastern half. As you can see, the blue areas on the above map are the 60hz region and the red areas are the 50hz region. Although there is a crossover in the middle that allows frequency conversion, it is not high enough capacity for the Kansai (west Japan) grid to have much effect in compensating for the shortages in Kanto and Tohoku (east and north-east Japan).

According to Osaka City Mayor, Hiramatsu Kunio, the crossovers between the two systems only transmit a total of 1 million kilowatts, which is a smallish percentage of the electrical shortage volume in Kanto, which according to Inose’s statement was 10 million. Since there are also no energy issues going on in Kansai, there should still be enough power available to feed the 60hz/50hz crossover even without energy conservation efforts, and Hiramatsu has stressed several times that no extraordinary energy conservation measures are necessary at this time, and if they are deemed necessary later there will be an announcement.

Of course this does not mean that conservation is a bad idea – it never is! Residents throughout Japan would be well advised to take reasonable conservation measures, such as for example using gas or oil heat instead of electricity, whereas residents of the 50hz Kanto region should be conserving as much power as possible to help reduce the odds of a total blackout.

Update: Sounds like the national government just called for nationwide energy conservation, but my point still stands. Electricity conservation is FAR more critical for people living within the 50hz region.

[Update: March 14 2:10pm] Rolling blackouts have been scheduled for Tokyo, but due to successful power saving measures, especially suspending operation of many trains, this morning’s blackouts were avoided. Details of the blackout regions and schedule can be found here.

According to Tokyo Vice-governor Inose Naoki, some time in the next few weeks an additional thermal based power plant (natural gas or oil I presume, but unclear) with a capacity of 7 million kilowatts – which will go most of the way towards filling the 10 million kilowatt gap between the ordinary electricity demand load and the current available supply. I can’t find any other details as to what plant he is referring to, or what it has been doing this whole time.

On a lighter note, fans of the anime series Evangelion have half-jokingly began referring to energy saving measures as “Operation Yashima” (ヤシマ作戦) after an event in an episode of the show in which the output of the entire electrical grid of Japan is redirected into a massive energy weapon in order to defeat an invading alien creature. One fan has also made a nifty poster calling on people to save power in the graphic style of Nerv, the fictional government agency in the Evangelion series.

Who can and can not donate blood in Japan

[Correction: Accidentally typed Australia at first below, should have been Austria all along.]

There has been a lot of confusion over who exactly is allowed to donate blood according to Japanese regulations, especially foreigners. To try and clarify the situation I have translated the entire list of categories of persons who are NOT allowed to donate blood in Japan, from the Japanese Red Cross official web page.

The biggest confusion is regulations relating to foreigners, especially because of mad cow disease aka spongiform encephalitis (Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease).

The following categories of people are BANNED from donating blood in Japan.

Please do not clog blood donations centers if there is even a chance you fall into one of the following categories, and instead find some other way to help.

Please also note first of all that ANYBODY who has entered Japan in the last four weeks may NOT give blood.

First, the rules relating to BSE/Mad Cow Disease

To clarify the below rules, please calculate your TOTAL amount of time spent in ANY of the countries in categories 1~4 during the relevant risk period for that country. If your total period of time in a high-risk country during a high-risk period is equal to 6 months or more than you are banned from blood donations for life.

Similarly, if you have spent a total of 5 years total in any of the countries listed in all 6 categories during risk periods, then you are banned from blood donations for life in Japan unless a new medical test in the future causes the regulations to change.

Please note that no countries in North or South America are on this list; despite the worries over Canadian/US beef it was never transmitted to humans.

  1. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 30+ days in the UK between the years 1980 and 1996.
  2. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+months in the UK between 1997 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,3,4 in this total.)
  3. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+ months in Ireland, Italy, Holland, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Germany, France, Belgium, Portugal, between the years of 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,4 in this total.)
  4. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 6+ months in Switzerland between the years of 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,4 in this total.)
  5. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 5+ years in Australia, Austria, Greece, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, between the years 1980 and 2004. (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,3,4,6 in this total.)
  6. Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 5+ years in Iceland, Albania, Andorra, Croatia, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Czech Republic, Vatican City, Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Bosnia, Herzegovina, Macedonia, Malta, Monaco, Montenegro, Norway, Lichtenstein, Romania, between the years of 1980 through the present day.  (Note: Also include period of stay under category 1,2,3,4,5 in this total.)

Next the rules relating to blood parasite diseases.

  • Anybody who has entered the country in the past four weeks.
  • Anybody who has entered Japan after visitinga malaria high-risk area within the last year. This is true even if you were only at a resort area of the country. HOWEVER, if you have been specifically tested for malaria and been found negative you may donate blood.
  • Anybody who has entered Japan after living in a malaria high-risk area within the last three years.
  • Anybody who has ever lived in a region known for Chagas Disease, AKA American trypanosomiasis. (This is a blood parasite like malaria.)
  • Anybody recently returned from Africa or who has lived in Africa and ever tested positive for African trypanosomiasis (African sleeping sickness.)
  • Anybody who has ever tested positive for babesiosis, another blood parasite most commonly found in tropical regions such as Africa or Latin America.
  • Also anybody who has engaged in medical work, research, field work, etc. in any regions known for similar diseases should not donate blood.

Last are other categories of persons who may not donate blood.

  • Anyone who has or has had heart disease, or malignant tumor,
  • Anyone who has rheumatic fever or is on antibiotics due to risk of rheumatic fever
  • Sufferers from any convulsive disorder
  • Sufferers from blood-loss related diseases such as hemophilia or purpora.
  • Asthmatics
  • Stroke victims
  • Anyone with medicine allergies, nephritic syndrome, chronic inflammation disorders.
  • Anyone currently experiencing extreme hunger or sleep deprivation.
  • Anyone currently taking prescription drugs, except for those such at vitamins with no harmful side effects.
  • Pregnant women or breast-feeding mothers.
  • Anybody with a fever, specifically temperature of 37℃ or higher
  • HIV, hepatitis infected persons (free AIDS testing centers link)
  • Anyone who has ingested marijuana or other psychoactives within the last year
  • Any man who has engaged in homosexual behavior
  • Anyone with a history of sex with anonymous partners
  • Anyone who has been treated for hepatitis A within the past 6 months. Also, since it is often transmitted by shellfish, anybody whose family member has been treated for hepatitis A within the past 1 month. Hepatitis B and C stay in your system, so you are permanently banned.
  • Anybody who has ever RECEIVED a blood transfusion. (Due to the possibility of viruses as yet unknown to medical science.
  • Anybody who has gotten a body piercing (ears included) within the past year.
  • Anybody with a piercing on a mucous membrane such as the lip, tongue, nose, no matter when you got it.
  • Anybody who has gotten a tattoo within the past year.
  • Anyone who has been vaccinated using an inactive vaccine within the past 24 hours for diseases such as influenza, Japanese encephalitis, cholera, hepatitis A, pneumonia, whooping cough (pertussis), tetanus (may not be a complete list)
  • Anyone who was given anti-HBs human immunoglobulin in combination with a hepatitis B vaccine, anyone who was given an emergency rabies vaccine (that is, after being bitten) within the past 1 year.
  • Anyone given a vaccination for mumps, rubella/German measles, Bacille Calmette-Guerin (tuberculosis vaccine), or other mildly active vaccine (live attenuated) vaccine or any hepatitis B vaccine within the past 4 weeks.
  • Anyone vaccinated against smallpox within the past 2 months.
  • Anyone given an antisterum for tetanus, snake bite or other poison, gas gangrene, botulism etc. within the past 3 months.
  • Anyone who has had dental surgery that caused bleeding within the past 3 days.

Vital stats of the Fukushima Nuclear Plants

As there has been some incorrect and/or incomplete information being circulated regarding the details of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants in this post I have translated the vital details of the various reactors of both Fukushima Plant #1 and #2 from their official profile pages at the Tokyo Power Company (which is their owner) website.

Apologies for the bizarre amount of white space, something wacky with the table HTML I can’t fix now, but the information itself is completely legible.

In both tables, the numbered columns refer to the individual reactors of the plants. For example, Plant #1, Reactor #1, etc.

Profile of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Number One: (福島第一原子力発電所)

This was the first nuclear power plant build and operated by the company. It covers an area 75 times as large as Tokyo Dome, about 350,000 square meters.

Reactor #1

#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6



Output(万kW) 46.0 78.4 78.4 78.4 78.4 110.0
Construction start 1967/9 1969/5 1970/10 1972/9 1971/12 1973/5
1971/3 1974/7 1976/3 1978/10 1978/4 1979/10
Reactor type Boiling Water Reactor(BWR)
Containment Vessel Mark I マークII
% made in Japan 56 53 91 91 93 63
Primary contractor GE GE・Toshiba Toshiba Hitachi Toshiba GE・Toshiba
Heat output(10,000s kW) 138 238.1 329.3
Fuel assemblies(#) 400 548 764
Fuel assemblies(length in m) ~4.35 ~4.47 ~4.47
Control Rods(#) 97 137 185
Pressure vessel Gauge(m) ~4.8 ~5.6 約6.4
Total height(m) ~20 ~22 23
Total weight(metric tons) 440 500 750
Container vessel Total height(m) ~32 ~33 ~34 ~48
Cylinder diameter(m) ~10 ~11 ~10(Upper part)
Spherical diameter(m) ~18 ~20 ~25(Lower part)
Pressure control pool volume(metric tons) 1,750 2,980 3,200

Rotation speed (rpm) 1,500
Intake steam temp(℃) 282
Steam pressure(kg/cm2g) 66.8

Type Uranium dioxide
Uranium capacity(t) 69 94 132
Fuel assemblies(#) 400 548 764

Profile of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Number Two: (福島第二原子力発電所)

#1 #2 #3 #4



Electrical output(10,000 kW) 110.0 110.0 110.0 110.0
Construction start 1975/11 1979/2 1980/12 1980/12
Operation start 1982/4 1984/2 1985/6 1987/8
Reactor type Boiling Water Reactor(BWR)
Containment Vessel Mark II Mark II revised
% made in Japan 98 99 99 99
Primary Contractor Toshiba Hitachi Toshiba Hitachi
Heat output(10,000 kW) 329.3
Fuel assemblies(#) 764
Fuel assembly total height(m) ~4.5
Control Rods(#) 185
Pressure Vessel Gauge(m) ~6.4
Total height(m) ~23
Total weight (metric tons) ~750
Container vessel Total height(m) ~48
Diameter(m) ~26 ~29
Pressure control pool volume (metric tons) 3,400 4,000

Rotational speed(rpm) 1,500
Input steam temp(℃) 282
Steam pressure(kg/cm2g) 66.8
Type Uranium Dioxide
Uranium capacity(metric tons) 132
Fuel assemblies(#) 764
Nuclear reactor building Height ~58m、subsurface depth~18m(6 surface floors, 2 basement levels)
Turbine building Height above ground ~33m、subsurface depth ~5m
Waste treatment building(Shared facility) Height ~41m、subsurface depth ~18m(6 surface floors, 2 basement levels)
Central exhaust tower Height ~120m、altitude ~150m

Great Tohoku Earthquake imagery roundup

Instead of continuing yesterday’s post on disaster related info I decided to start a new one to post some of the more dramatic photos and video as I run across them. All captions refer to image above the text.

Make sure to check out this gallery of high res images.

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This video is filmed from inside the Sendai Airport terminal just after the main quake. It may look fairly clam at first, but watch all the way through to see the terrifying tsunami arrival.

This is the same airport shortly later.

A highway in the northern Tokyo suburban region of Saitama.

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Buildings swaying in Shinjuku, Tokyo during the quake. The swaying is by design, a safety measure. That which does not bend, breaks.

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Collapsed bridge in Ibaraki. Boats are trying to rescue people from cars that fell into water.

Narita Express train being evacuated after being stopped in response to earthquake.

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Tsunami alert in Odawara.

This flooded, broken street was said to be in Tokyo somewhere, but I have no idea where exactly.

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Butane gas plume burning at Chiba oil refinery, visible from Haneda airport.

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And from there air, I believe this is the same facility.

Those were all the images I had sitting around in open tabs. I’ll keep adding more later.

[Update: March 15, 6am] I’ve been doing other stuff than updating this post, but wanted to add this incredible, horrifying video shot right in the middle of an urban area as the tsunami rolled in.

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Tokyo earthquake

A really freakin’ big earthquake just hit Tokyo — strong enough to make tall buildings visibly shake around. My own office building (brand-new, finished last year) is still swaying like a ship on the high seas 20 minutes later. The force of the quake was enough to knock over one of the monitors on my desk.

From what I can see from the 17th floor, there is no major damage, though some smaller buildings have been evacuated and what look to be emergency response helicopters are circling overhead.

The quake was magnitude 7.9 centered in Tohoku. Nikkei is currently reporting that a tsunami of up to 6 meters is possible in that area, and USGS is warning of tsunami effects throughout the North Pacific as far as the west coast of North America. Hope our readers are OK.

[Edit by Roy below] People outside of Japan and/or without access to a TV should try Al Jazeera International’s high quality free stream to see the latest. They’re basically broadcasting the footage from NHK with experts at the USGS and such doing voiceover.

The get an idea of how massive this quake was, here in Kyoto – more than halfway across Honshu from the center, I felt my house shake for something like two minutes, although it was rather gentle and nothing even fell over. But even though it was not very strong here, it was still easily the longest quake I have ever experienced.

Please post your own personal observations or links to good live news sources in the comment thread.

[Update by Roy @5:00 pm]

Here is the Japanese Meteorological Agency tsunami warning map.

All place names that do not specify refer to the entire prefecture.

Regions with LARGE tsunami risk (red) are as follows:

Iwate, Miyagi, Fukuoka, Hokkaido Pacific coast central area, Aomori Pacific coast, Ibaraki, Chiba Kujukuri outskirts, Izu islands, Hokkaido Pacific East Coast, Hokkaido Pacific West Coast, Aomori Sea of Japan coast, Chiba interior, Ogasawara Islands, Sagami Bay and Miura Peninsula,  Shizuoka, Wakayama, Tokushima

Regions with REGULAR tsunami risk (orange) are as follows:

Aichi outer sea, Mie southern area, Kochi, Miyazaki, Tanegashima/Yakushima region, Amami/Tokara islands,  Hokkaido Sea of Japan southern coast, Mutsu Bay, Tokyo Bay inner bay, Ise, Mika Bay, Awaji southern region, Ehime Uwakai coast, Oita Seto Inland Sea coast, Oita Bungo Channel, Kagoshima East and West regions, Okinawa main island, Daito Islands, Miyakojima, Yaeyama Islands.

Regions with LOW level alert (yellow) are as follows:

Sea of Okhostsk, Osaka, Hyogo Seto Inland Sea coast, Okayama, Kagawa, Ehime Seto Inland Sea coast, Ariake/Yatsushiro Sea, Nagasaki western region, Kumamoto Amakusanada coast, Akita, Yamagata, Niigata Kaminaka and Kaetsuchi, Sado region, Toyama, Ishikawa Noto region, Hiroshima, Yamaguchi Seto Inland Sea coast.

Other regions do NOT have a tsunami warning or watch at this time.

[Update at 5:20]

I just heard that the Philippines raised their tsunami alert level to the highest in many years, NE coast, which faces Japan, will be hit in around 2 hours.

Here is a map from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) showing travel times for the tsunami to arrive at various areas, starting from the origin time of 2:45pm.


Areas in the Philippines with a level 2 (which is high) tsunami warning are as follows. Will start to hit between 5pm and 7pm local time. (From

• Batanes Group of Islands
• Cagayan
• Ilocos Norte
• Isabela
• Quezon
• Aurora
• Camarines Norte
• Camarines Sur
• Albay
• Catanduanes
• Sorsogon
• Northern Samar
• Eastern Samar
• Leyte
• Southern Leyte
• Surigao del Norte
• Surigao del Sur
• Davao Oriental
• Davao del Sur

Marianas islands and Russian Pacific coast also under high alert, Various Pacific island territories of Guam, Taiwan, the Marshall Islands, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Nauru, Micronesia and Hawaii are under a lower tsunami watch.

Where can an international lawyer go adventuring?

As some readers may know, Curzon is a lawyer — qualified in the US, but working first in Japan and now in Dubai. A common question that I’ve heard through my years of practice is, “How do you practice law if you’re a US lawyer in [Tokyo/Dubai]? Are you advising on US law?”

The answer to that is: no, not really. The role of many US and English lawyers working overseas is that of “international counsel.” (Why that role is generally limited to US and English lawyers is a story for a different day.) International counsel will often know or learn local law, but the biggest role for these lawyers is to “manage the deal.” Consequently, it’s not surprising that one of the core skills that international law firm say they are looking for today in lawyers is “project management skills.”

Of course, international lawyers practicing in various countries around the globe must comply with local law — and countries regulate foreign lawyers and their practice of law in a variety of different ways, which I break into four categories:
Continue reading Where can an international lawyer go adventuring?