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Kizuna: Nikkei Stories from the 2011 Japan Earthquake & Tsunami

The Great Tohoku Disaster - Part 3

Read Part 2 >>

This is a recreation of my personal experiences from the e-mails that I sent to friends in Canada and Japan, TV news reports in Canada, the U.S., and Japan, and from what my wife Akiko told me.

Tuesday, March 15

hi guys we R ok no hydro/denki some toyu and some food no gas bad connection here no internet, borrowing a computer at a school. Want to know more about the nuke. Senji…Astuko and Hikari OK ???

see you Tomo


Hey Tomo, Judith told us that you are OK. Senji and family are in an evacuation center and OK. Will pass on your message to Paul too. Damn…the news of the nuke on CBC is that the radiation levels are increasing and that people within the 100km catchment area are being told to stay home. The Kan government is not looking very good. Canada is not doing much. The government is not sending money or matching donations and only offering the assistance of the DART who are on standby. Looks like food hoarding is a big problem according to the media. Stay in touch, Norm


Hi Norman…

Later you will get another letter that I am sending to a lot of family and folks around the planet, but this one is just for you. The next one will include some images. The power just came on a few hours ago and I have just begun to answer mail from concerned people. Wow, I never knew so many people liked me enough to give a sh**.

BIG aftershock just now. There has been hundreds of them. The foreign news underestimates the stress this causes everyone. It is a natural reaction. No matter how many there are, you do not get used to it. Perhaps you are less frightened, but each one sends a huge squirt of adrenalin into your guts. A lot of us simply can’t eat very much. I’ve lost weight. Anyway, cooking means fuel and food. Both are not in plentiful supply. So far, we have had enough.

Each community has a siren or audible warning system. Some communities have an emergency drill for practicing evacuation. In this disaster, there was very little time between the earthquake and the arrival of the tsunami. (Photo courtesy of Lorne Spry)

I could write a lot, but I will make it short. (Famous first words.)

If I had known about Senji, he could have come here!
I’ll talk to the head Martian and maybe we can rescue them.
I guess the man is very proud…but…I dunno.
My only guess is this: they are there because there is no water in their tiny place. Private house have water. Apartments don’t. And then there is ba-chan.

On second thought:

The problem is…I cannot predict O-san. Not that she is unkind or is ungenerous. She has helped out a family already…gave them a stove and some kerosene. But I do not know if she can stand the stress of three adults and a tiny child living here. And we do not really have the food or fuel to feed them.

Please give me your advice. I will hold off contacting him until you fill me in with your opinion. Sorry, I don’t mean to load you up, but I think that I need some guidance here. I want to be a good friend, but…sigh! Will we be nursing a geriatric…and the whirlwind called Hikari-chan.

I have a friend coming in from LA on Friday who wants to rescue his wife from Kashi Mai Dai. He is thinking of coping on the roads with a motorcycle. He may be thinking of mine. I do not think he has much riding experience. And my bike is a sports road bike. If anyone has to go, it should be me. But first he has to get here. He is going to get a car in Tokyo, load it up with fuel and some supplies and fight his way north. For some reason he does not have a key to their apartment in Itsutsubashi. He has been working in Malaysia. So there would be 5 people here.

More after shock—more gut wrenching! I really do understand the terrible stress of the survivors. Unless you have been through this s*** for night after night, it is difficult to understand. And many thousands are in the same stress and far worse, PLUS they are under-fed, cold and often grieving the death and destruction. No proper words really

Back to Senji—I’ll post him. I am so relieved to hear that they are OK. I did not know if Atsuko was at work or not. And I have no idea of how severe the tsunami was at Sendai airport…which incidentally and according to the news is being used for helicopters.

The local Kasumi airport (military and civilian gliding/flight training is full of choppers. I saw 2 HUGE, twin rotor, USA Chinooks in formation today.

For a moment I felt very different about America. The very sound of those powerful old dragons gave a tremendous feeling.

Kasumi aerodrome and Japanese Self-Defense Force helicopters. 100,000 force members are attending to this crisis along with foreign civilian contingents and help from the U.S. armed forces. Tomo saw two huge U.S. CH-135 Chinook twin rotor helicopters flying in formation on their way north. The Japanese use these draft horses too. (Photo courtesy of Lorne Spry)

The lights are on here. Came on about 6:00 pm. Now we can stop being like primitive cave dwellers. It adds to the stress. Always worrying about how much battery power is left in a flash light. Going to bed at 8:00 pm and waiting for dawn. Last night I just thought of the horror of a major nuclear f***-up down south and by dawn I was literally sick with fear and worry and watching my son [with] trepidation. But, things are not as bleak as I thought. The reactors did shut down as soon as the quake hit. The control rods went in and the reaction stopped.

The remaining concern is the residual heat. It has boiled off water coolant in the reactor so that they have resorted to using sea water pumped in from beach. Why build a reactor on a tsunami prone coast is beyond me—but hell who am I to say!? Anyway, the containment building of two reactors have blown up due to hydrogen gas coming off boiled sea water. Personally I think that this is gross f***ing blunder. They should know more or less exactly what volume they have going in, how much H2 coming off and how much PSI on the roof DUH—any physics major could handle this with some advice from a chemist and a structural engineer and set of plans and specs!

Maybe I am the idiot!

It is all very scary, but nearly as scary as O-san reading the paper and in her laconic and cryptic manner that makes me wanna strangle her…she says “It’s no control!” Then I freak out. Then I think that we have Chernobyl Two and China Syndrome all in one plant. The three of us will glow in the dark by bedtime and there is no f***ing way to escape—no planes, no trains, no roads, no gasoline.

There is going to be some radioactive steam coming off for awhile, but the reactors are cooling down—slowly. And if they do so before the reactor vessels melt, the health hazards should be minimal…all things considered. The wind is blowing away from us and a lot of it is going out to sea.

You said 100 km—but in fact the actual area is 20 km. For those in a 30 km radius…they are being advised to lock themselves inside and keep air conditioning and or ventilation off. They should not go in the rain, and wet umbrellas and clothing should remain outside. They should avoid ingesting contamination—washing and so on.

Even the 20 mile radius is affecting a huge number of people. And some people simply don’t have the gasoline to get very far. Those left behind are being asked to stay indoors and blah blah blah. The local city government says that the feds have failed to be clear enough in their instructions. Also they asked for heavy help from the feds because as he put it—the area has supplied Tokyo with its electric power for decades. Time to pay up. O-san said the same thing this morning. Tokyo’s attitude has ALWAYS been, “As long as it is not HERE, it is good for us!” Like the situation of massive American bases in Okinawa for example. A pain in the a**, and Okinawa gets it straight up the dirt chute decade after decade. Tokyo does not want boom-boom choppers, thundering fighter jets, hoards of horny airmen and soldiers on the streets, among whom there is always a few lunatics.

Part 4 >>

© 2011 Norm Ibuki

Canada disaster earthquake Japan JPquake2011 nuclear reactor sendai Toronto

About this series

In Japanese, kizuna means strong emotional bonds.

This series shares stories about Nikkei individual and/or community reaction and perspectives on the Great Tohoku Kanto earthquake on March 11, 2011 and the resulting tsunami and other impacts—either about supporting relief efforts or how what has happened has affected them and their feeling of connection to Japan.

If you would like to share your reactions, please see the “Submit an Article” page for general submission guidelines. We welcome submissions in English, Japanese, Spanish, and/or Portuguese, and are seeking diverse stories from around the world.

We hope that these stories bring some comfort to those affected in Japan and around the world, and that this will become like a time capsule of responses and perspectives from our global Nima-kai community for the future.

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There are many organizations and relief funds established around the world providing support for Japan. Follow us on Twitter @discovernikkei for info on Nikkei relief efforts, or check the Events section. If you’re posting a Japan relief fundraising event, please add the tag “JPquake2011” to make it appear on the list of earthquake relief events.