Many people on the ground in the Tokyo area (and their loved ones abroad) are no doubt locked into all the twists and turns of the earthquake’s aftermath. There are a lot of ups and downs. This is a very stressful situation, and that makes it extra important to try and manage stress levels every now and again. The Air Force radio station this morning broadcast some good common-sense tips. The general tips are in bold, with my own advice added on:
Take a break from the news every now and again. Though events are unfolding rapidly, you can’t change what’s going to happen from your computer chair. Take an hour to watch some TV, talk to your spouse, or anything that you enjoy. Or just lay down for a while. The world will still be there when you come back.
Get plenty of sleep. For this one, I would also add, don’t bring your iPod Touch/iPhone/smartphone to bed with you. If I do I find myself tempted to check the news just one more time, and then again, and then yet again and before I know it it’s 1am.
Eat right. Make sure to eat square meals, especially breakfast. I would also add don’t feel bad about eating stuff you like. It’s not inappropriate to laugh and smile.
Avoid excessive alcohol. Not only will too much booze not relieve stress, you’ll be unprepared if something actually does happen. Stay alert!
Exercise. This is one I have not been doing well on, but keeping active is always a good way to let off some steam.
Obviously, the worst victims of the quake are in the northeast, and their stress levels are sky-high (JP). But it’s important not to let the situation get the best of you no matter where you are.
It is still very early into this tragedy, and a lot could change in the coming days/weeks/months. But I wanted to give some initial impressions. I have been going to the office as usual and basically heading directly home to keep updated and try and calm down my mother via Google Talk. Here are some of my observations so far based on my experiences and the reports I have been reading and watching in English and Japanese. To save time, I have not included links to some stories I did not feel like digging up:
Japan rocks – The reaction to the earthquake has been impressive, though sadly even the best response is unequal to adequately deal with the massive destruction in northeast Japan. The buildings were strong enough to stay standing through the quake, the streets were safe enough to walk home when no trains ran, and a full court press came to the rescue the next day. As far as planning and citizen preparedness goes, Japan has the whole world beat, hands down. It seems like in many ways the authorities learned from the failings of the Kobe earthquake. I feel very proud of my adopted home. Note that the emperor agrees with me. In his recent national address, he noted with admiration that foreign observers praised the Japanese people for their calm, helpful reaction to the quake.
Unfortunately, even the best plans cannot protect against one of the biggest earthquakes/tsunamis ever known. The damage is immense, and it will take a long time to recover. But I am confident that Japan has what it takes to get through the disaster and emerge as strong as ever.
As the days unfold, I notice that one advantage Japan seems to have on its side is a very adversarial media. From the outset, I think the Kan administration has done its best given the circumstances, and I don’t really agree with the assessment of some media outlets that it was too slow to set up shop inside Tepco. However, on top of that the mainstream media covering this story have (admirably) shown very little deference to the prime minister and Tepco. I think this has put the fear of God into these officials to disclose as much information as possible and be as cooperative as possible. Also, the US (among other countries) is offering very generous support and has been among the most supportive governments in backing up Japan’s response. It has issued statements saying they are “in agreement” with the Japanese assessment of the nuclear situation. Betraying US confidence at this point would not go down well. With all that pressure, attempting to hide things could easily turn Tepco into the next BP (and then some) and the Kan administration into the villain that Murayama is remembered as being during the 1995 Kobe earthquake.
Twitter has also been a big positive, in my opinion. It helps average people exchange trusted information (and lies to a much lesser extent), and there is a kind of wisdom-of-crowds quality in which certain proposals are retweeted by enough alpha-users that they grab the attention of the authorities. For instance, I saw some prominent Japanese Twitterers retweet a request to have sign language interpreters at press conferences, and a day later sure enough there they were. On the other end of the spectrum, there have been some chain letters spreading untrue rumors. I received one about “poison rain” due to the Chiba oil tanker fire, and I have heard about others. It is worth noting that the person who sent that one emailed me after she learned it was false.
Supply shortages in Tokyo should be resolved soon – At this point, it is hard to tell what is more to blame for the empty shelves – the hoarders or the reduced shipments? All the same, manufacturers are reporting sufficient capacity to supply the area, and any disruptions in deliveries should be relieved by next week’s release of emergency oil reserves. The reserves should alleviate the supply shortages and give time for availability even in Tokyo to get back to normal as early as next week. One big reason for the delay is that the worst affected regions got priority, which is only natural.
Unfortunately, this is one area where average people and the government were kind of a letdown. For one thing, people seemed to start panic buying very quickly. I took a trip to Tochigi on Sunday and already the gas station lines were long. At the same time, the government only started telling people to stop panic buying today! The media seemed to be doing its job, noting the activity and noting how problematic it was, at least as far as I read.
People are overreacting to the nuclear crisis, big time – The risk of radiation is, by all credible accounts, very small for almost everyone in the country. I am as glued to updates as anyone, but I am not panicking. In fact, I think focusing too much on the nuclear crisis runs the risk of de-emphasizing the massive toll the tsunami took on the region. The French chartering flights to evacuate expats and warnings based on nuclear fears are overdoing it, I think. I mean, I would understand some people without a deep connection to the country leaving, or at least moving or sending loved ones to stay somewhere safer. I have my wife and in-laws in the area, so I don’t want to leave unless it is truly necessary. In addition to the nuclear concerns, there are the transit problems and hoarding/logistics problems with daily necessities, not to mention the risk of aftershocks. This is scary for everyone, but people who don’t know the language or don’t have people to rely on have that added layer of difficulty. And if you can’t follow the mainstream Japanese media (and sensible Internet sources like Mutant Frog!), you are liable to read sensationalized reports from the overseas media.
This last bit is a sore point for me. Thanks to all the scary US media reports, my mother has been absolutely terrified. My relatives and family friends have been calling her nonstop to know if I’m OK. I know the media are in the misery business, but more than that it seems like the reporters are far too detached from the story. They focus so much on broader implications and potential scenarios that it ends up providing no practical information to people who actually want to have an even-handed idea of what’s going on.
The aftershocks are really scary – since the big earthquake it almost feels like there are small rumblings going on constantly. I especially feel this way at the office, where the building’s design makes it kind of easy to feel small tremors. The bigger ones fill me with dread. As they happen, I wonder if this one will build up slowly into a big quake like the one on Friday. Even when there are no quakes, for some reason I feel like the ground is shaking when I am walking down long hallways.
Many outside observers have failed a very easy test of decency – When reacting to a tragic event, the rules of etiquette are simple. Express sympathy for the victims and note the tragedy of the affair. This is not the time to make dumb jokes, call a natural disaster retribution for something some people from Japan did that you don’t like, or condescendingly generalize about Japanese culture. Too many people have failed miserably in this regard. If you need to react this way, keep it off the Internet at least!
I am a terrible investor – Last and most definitely least, what do you think is the only individual stock I own? Some hints: In the two months since I bought in, it has seen much of its generating capacity wiped out forever and been threatened with government-enforced annihilation for mishandling the disaster response. Oh and it has been limit-down for three days straight.
I was forwarded an email from an American medical group that says they have experience working in the 2005 SE Asian tsunami zone, Haiti after their recent big quake, etc. and are now looking for some locals to help them with things like supplies for themselves, transportation, other logistics. Please contact them if you think you can help.
My boss Steve is a former paramedic from NYC, and he and some other paramedics do periodic missions to disaster zones:
As I understand it, it’s kind of a DIY-style operation, which allows them to move really fast. After the earthquake in Pakistan, they got into remote areas way ahead of anyone else and did a lot of good work.
So, he’s coordinating a trip to Japan and wanted to know if you have any contacts anywhere near Tokyo that could help them with logistics and such. For example, they might need a place to crash, rides, probably a translator, and I’m not sure what else. I’m sure any info or insight you can provide would help.
We’re not quite ‘DIY’ as we do coordinate and work within the overall establishment of the relief effort, but Jesse’s right about our particular mission description, which is to find the underserved communities within the affected area quickly. From experience, we’ve found that these scattered relief ‘deserts’ persist for as long as month after an event of this scale and so we try to get to them quickly and work there until the larger efforts catch up with them. So we send teams of 4-8 MD’s, RN’s, PA’s, and Medics in pretty quickly and they need to be able move pretty quickly(aka, without proper logistical planning) So local contacts that can be called on to help a team are incredibly valuable. If you have any ideas, let us know.
Here’s a link to a form that people can fill out if they can help. I will also add you as an editor to that form so you can make any changes to the language that you think would be helpful.
Our ‘specialty’ is to move quickly to find the underserved areas of the relief effort, which we are absolutely sure are many. In the South Asian earthquake in 2005 and in Haiti last year, there was a tremendous need that was ‘invisible’ to the press and large organizations for many weeks after the event. So we move quickly with a motto of ‘light & lighter’. This model requires help from local resources and our teams often sleep in the homes of strangers and work with anyone who will help them get the job done quickly. So a database of local contacts would be really helpful:)
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.
[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.
Anybody who has spent a TOTAL of 30+ days in the UK between the years 1980 and 1996.
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.)
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.
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
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.
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.
Boiling Water Reactor(BWR)
% made in Japan
Heat output(10,000s kW)
Fuel assemblies(length in m)
Total weight(metric tons)
Pressure control pool volume(metric tons)
Rotation speed (rpm)
Intake steam temp(℃)
Profile of Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Number Two: (福島第二原子力発電所)
Twitter is really a great tool for following the crisis. Unfortunately, the situation is changing so quickly that it’s impossible for a single blog to keep up, much less a blog run by people as lazy as us.
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.
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.
[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.
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:
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 Inquirer.net)
• Batanes Group of Islands
• Ilocos Norte
• Camarines Norte
• Camarines Sur
• Northern Samar
• Eastern Samar
• 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.