An Unfortunate Event

I was putting together the final touches on an article about ocean trash gyres, http://bigblueorb.wordpress.com when loud booming, and moaning began to approach from the distance. Immediately like a freight train, the sound grew louder, and advanced at a rapid pace. Simultaneously, alarms began to go off in every direction, as the entire building I was in began to shake violently. The noise was deafening. At that very moment I had my Facebook account open, and I immediately wrote the following text message:

Jack Stone March 11 at 2:46 p.m.

I AM IN THE MIDST OF THE WORST EARTHQUAKE I HAVE EVER BEEN IN. THE ENTIRE TECHTONIC PLATE HAS BEEN SHIFTING IN A HUGE FIT. I COULDN’T EVEN STAND ON MY FEET… YOU ARE RECEIVING THIS BEFORE IT GETS ON THE NEWS. MORE LATER. I HAVE TO GET OUTSIDE WHERE IT’S SAFER.

I didn’t have time to throw on pants, or grab a pair of shoes. In my heat thermal long johns and shirt, I raced toward the door. It was immediately apparent, or somehow instinctive that I must get out of that building, and fast. I began to run down a flight of open stairs, and then froze as I looked out over the horizon. I had been in the 1994 Northridge earthquake in Los Angeles, but that was like falling out of bed compared to what I was experiencing at that very moment. Everything, as far as I could see in the distance, to the nearest objects was in a violent fit. Buildings unnaturally swayed too and fro, as pieces of building facades, and full window frames, and glass crashed exploded outward and down to the ground. The telephone lines looked like someone was playing with a kitten and string. The poles they were attached to wobbled, and shuttered back and forth at a rapid pace. Trees looked as if a hurricane was blowing them toward the West one moment, and then violently toward the East the next. I realized I was in a dangerous location with wires over my head, and began to run again. I slipped on a step as I leaped down the stairs, but wasn’t fazed by it, I was only concerned about the building crashing down on top of me as it creaked, and violently swayed about. The one thing that stood out the most in all this chaos was the moaning of every structure, both far and near, and from every direction. Every building was being put to the ultimate stress test as the entire ground shook violently beneath them.

I headed toward a large parking area that was near empty, as I leaped over a high concrete wall that was crumbling on itself. Under normal conditions, I probably couldn’t make it over that wall with such ease. But, at this particular time, I had to. Again, I was thrown to the ground. I couldn’t get up past my knees as I crawled toward the center of the parking lot. It seemed the tectonic plate that was directly underneath me was wafer thin. It felt like at any moment I could be absorbed into it. Liquefaction is a phenomenon where the strength and rigidness of the soil is greatly reduced by an earthquake’s vibration. Liquefaction has been responsible for a tremendous amount of damage in earthquake vulnerable regions. Today would be no different. Today was to be one of the worst quakes in recorded history.

I hadn’t noticed yet noticed that there were three other men in the parking lot as well. Each had been thrown to the ground as well. Neither attempted to stand, and neither did I. They probably couldn’t understand a word of English, but I blurted out, “This is bad. I know people are dying right now.” I thought, “Many people are dying right now.” In truth, I had no idea how bad the next several weeks were going to be.

The temperature was about 50°F, and the humidity even higher. That’s when I realized I had no jacket, pants, or shoes. I was cold, the air was thick, and the damp moisture was moving right through me. How could a country that is so hot and humid in the summer be so damn cold in the winter? The ground continued to move fiercely. How long was this going to continue until it finally abated? The buildings, and structures that surrounded us continued to shake, and fall apart. Any living thing was insignificant. As cold as I was, all I could do was wait, and wait. For more than five full minutes the ground below us rumbled, and warped. Suddenly, it stopped as quickly as it started. So, it seemed. At the time I had no idea the quake was located only eighty miles off the shores of Miyagi prefecture and triggered a powerful tsunami moving rapidly toward the entire northeastern coastline at 550 m.p.h. The inhabitants of the coastal communities of Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima, Iwaki, Ibaraki, and Chiba had less than ten minutes to evacuate before their lives were about to be changed forever.

I had passed my brokers exam, and received my California brokers license, and was studying to get my general contractors license. The real estate market was making everyone I knew rich, and I wanted in. I was only a few months away from graduating law school, and by the time I did in January 2007, the entire market had begun spiraling downward. There were no jobs to be found, and many of the people I knew that had graduated law school couldn’t find employment either, so I decided to hunt for work overseas. I found a job teaching part-time in the northeastern part of Japan. The pay wasn’t bad, and I had plenty of time to compose, and record music, study language, explore, surf and shoot photography. Jim Morrison said, “The west is the best. Get here, and we’ll do the rest.” Ian Astbury, the singer from The Cult sang, “Go west young man, and break bread in the new land.” I’ve lived on both coasts, but as far as I’m concerned there is much to learn from the Japanese and their way of life.

Northern Japan is an amazing place. No wonder they call it wonderland. For a guy that hailed from Miami, Florida, and the humid, sunny weather, this was about as opposite as it could get. While Miami is a melting pot of Latin, and Hispanic cultures, Japan is simply Japan. There is no place in the world quite like it. In fact, everything in comparison to Miami is about as opposite as it could possibly get. There are huge mountains, long winters, hot springs, waterfalls, and ancient temples. There are shrines everywhere, and some really super exciting festival, or event to enjoy all year long. You haven’t seen firework shows until you see one in Sendai. There are red-faced, furry white monkeys that love to bath in the hot springs. They also don’t like people to look at them, and they let you know it if you do. There are strange birds, black bears, and deer that dot the snowy mountains. Every house, in every community is filled with vegetable gardens, and surrounded by small apple, pear or cherry (sakura) orchards. Big, fat grapes grow from thick aged vines, and I’m guilty on more than one occasion of nabbing a few to sample. The fruit that grows on every tree is hand covered in white paper. I’m not sure, but I think this is done to keep the sun from burning the crops. Moreover, the scenery changes drastically as each new season is ushered in. I spent most of my time in the mountains, or on the shore submerged in Japanese culture, eating new foods, and exploring the eastern coastline. You haven’t experienced a picnic (hanami) in spring until you sit with a group of friends, surrounded by other groups of friends, eating traditional spring foods, while the cherry blossoms rain down on you like a pink snow storm.

Back home, hurricanes were the worst natural disaster a Floridian could face, and I’ve had more than my share of them. But there were always plenty of warnings, as satellite images could track their every move. In Japan, there are typhoons that aren’t nearly as treacherous, but Japan has something far worse to contend with. They’re natural phenomena that are a part of living in an ever-changing world. I’m talking about the earthquakes, and tsunami’s that often follow them. Japan is located in one of the world’s most volatile earthquake zones, and when submerged converging plates began to shift, and damage imminent, there are no warnings at all.

I spent a great amount of time on the ocean in Sendai City, Miyagi prefecture. On one of my treks, I had been trying to locate a famous surfing beach called Shinko, and accidentally found myself in the opposite end of Miyagi prefecture in a town called Yuriage. As usual, I was lost, and the signs written in Kanji were of no help to a foreigner (gaijin). I found a small surf shop in Yuriage, stopped in, and asked the shop owner for directions to Shinko. In our struggle to communicate in his poor English, and my worse Japanese, and us both laughing at the awkwardness of it all, I managed to get the general directions. I thanked the man for his time, and headed for my next big adventure. It turned out to be much more difficult that I had imagined. Lost once again, I ended up at a beach called Gamo, which was absolutely gorgeous. Another great accidental find. Gamo was a stretch of beach that was separated by a large river that flowed toward the sea. Several ocean communities reverted the fresh water for many uses, such as fisheries, and growing crops like, tamanegi (onion), ningin (carrot), cabatsu (cabbage), nasu (egg plant), pima (green pepper), and various other vine, and root plants that taste great, but I have no idea what they’re called. Even the vegetables that were customary fare back home were somehow completely different here. The carrots are short and fat, the onions are small, tight and very pungent, the cabbage is huge, and the green peppers are tiny. Meanwhile, all of this is grown in small gardens that are tended to by grandmothers (oobachan) and grandfathers (oojichan) that have long ago retired. Often people misdiagnose elderly Asians, with their bent over posture as a result of the lack of calcium. This is an incorrect assumption, as Asians actually have a calcium rich diet from eating asparagus, bamboo shoots, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, corn, cucumbers, garlic, leeks, mushrooms, onions, potatoes, and spinach. The elderly are bent over because they spend long hours tending to their meticulous gardens, and planting rice (gohan).

One of the most beautiful things I discovered at Gamo was the large, and calm river that abruptly flowed eastward toward the Pacific Ocean. At low tide, the large sandy shoals that helped to confine the path of the rapidly moving, but silent water helped the river to extend itself as it met the sea. One of the unique features of Gamo was crossing through ancient looking Koi (carp) fisheries, over a thin, submerged, stone path. The path was designed for two purposes. One was to cross the river, to gain access to the ocean, and the other was to suck fresh water into the river, which fed the fisheries. It was so simple, but ingenious. The water sucked rapidly into the river, especially at low tide. One slip, attempting to cross over the slimy, smooth bottom, and you end up in the river soaked, with a bruised ego.

It began to get late, and I promised to continue my hunt for Shinko on my next trip to the ocean. I headed back to my car, which I had parked at the end of a tiny street. On my way back there was a large stone seawall that was covered with hundreds, and hundreds of small black, oddly shaped crabs. As I approached my car, a couple of women that could have easily passed for eight-five-years-old were on their way back home. From their manner of dress, it was obvious they were returning from an entire day of producing nourishment from the gardens they toiled in. Now, they were probably on their way to cook dinner (yuushoku) for their families.

I did finally locate Shinko, and the surf conditions were excellent. It was about 4-6’ with an occasional larger set rolling in, and the wind was slightly offshore. I raced toward the shore, paddled out, and surfed with about a hundred other guys. All Japanese guys that had deep tans with jet black hair, and dark eyes. I was pale, blond and blue. Of course everybody had a good look at me, and some guys were brave enough to practice their English on me. All I could say was, “Iyo tenki desu ne?” This means, “It’s a great day isn’t it? I spent three days doing nothing but surfing, eating local foods, surfing Shinko, and making many new friends.

When the Japanese get the fever for a fad they get it all the way. Surfers are no exception, taking it to a whole different level. They drive vans that have intricate sleeping facilities, hangers for their wetsuits, and even showers to wash off the salt water. Surfer girls are fanatical, and live the lifestyle unlike any other place you’d find in the world. They simply love the beach, and cherish their ocean way of life. In the warm summer evenings everybody would line the shoreline in their cars, and stare out over the ocean. The amazing thing is how orderly they are. Nobody ever makes a sound above a quiet conversation. I often wished some of my old buddies were around to share in the experiences that I had. But, then I’d turn my attention to finding a cold beer from a vending machine, or convenient store, grab some good grub, and sleep in my vehicle, right on the shoreline of Shinko. I surfed at Shinko every chance I could get. Shinko was my home away from home. Shinko had been annihilated in a matter of minutes.

Shinko was an unusual place even before the huge earthquake struck. The road leading to it was filled with deep grooves from heavily burdened semi-trucks that pulled containers to and from the Sendai Port. There you would find a massive amount of cargo containers in every stage of on, and offloading from cargo ships. The stream of trucks that left the port, loaded with goods, were just as endless as the stream of trucks entering the port with containers bound for some far off and unknown destination. Shinko also has a very long crescent moon shaped pier that’s blocked by an aging rusty fence, barbed wire, and warning signs not to enter. It’s very difficult, and dangerous to get around the barricade, as one has to swing themselves around the edge of the pier, suspended high above the concrete ground, holding onto that unstable, and wobbly fence to gain access. One mistake and… Oddly, this nation of extreme order, and absolute, and unyielding respect for authority, one would expect the Japanese to heed such warnings. However, on any day, you’d find dotting the entire length of the pier fishermen pulling in Saba, Perch, Japanese Sea Bass, and many other types of edible fish. Perhaps, some things are left to common sense, and are just not meant to be under lock and key. The big blue ocean, and all it offers would fit into this category.

I discovered many other seaside settlements in my quest for uncrowded, and concealed surf spots. This task was often more difficult than it seemed, as almost every coastal community is hidden between tiny bridges, and narrow roads that seemed like they’d lead straight to the ocean, even where the ocean was clearly visible. However, many roads twisted, winded, and melded into even tinier streets that led to a weathered home, or long abandoned structure that bordered a river, or stream on either side. Often, I’d have to drive in reverse back to where I had come, and for several kilometers. It was in this manner that I discovered hidden and mysterious places, such as Matsushima, Shijigahama, and the desolate, and pristine coastal communities that cascaded their way through the prefecture known as Iwate.

There was always a wonderful encounter awaiting me as I took long walks through communities with camera in hand. I’d chance meet workers that toiled in rice fields. An awkward conversation would almost always be struck up by kids as they walked home from school. If there were a group of three or four, assuredly I’d hear, “Hello,” spoken with a deep accent. I’d always respond, “Hello, how are you?” Often, it would go no further than that, as the kids fell all over themselves, shocked that the stock response they learn in school, was in reality the beginning of a conversation. They’d usually reply with, 
Ehhh”… Look at each other in amazement and then run away. I knew that on many occasions I was the first foreigner those kids had ever had a chance to engage in a conversation with.

On one occasion I was walking to Yamadera Temple with my girlfriend Miyuki, who unknown to me happened to have a cell phone (kai tai) with a camera in it. We began to cross a red painted bridge. Over on the other side of the river there was a two-story restaurant, and many children about eight to ten years old were gathered on the second floor. We later learned it was a birthday party. One of the children stuck his head out the window, and began waving his arms frantically, to say hello. I began waving my arms frantically back. The boy shouted something that I didn’t understand, and quickly ever child on that floor had their head stuck out the window, and was frantically waving their arms, and shouting excited utterances in both broken, (school) English, and Japanese. By the time we got to the other side of the bridge every child piled out of the restaurant, and ran straight toward me in a race who would reach me first. There were structures sticking out of the ground about two feet high, and each child took orderly turns jumping up on them, waiting their turn to converse with the foreigner, who they were sure spoke English. “Hello!” “Hello, how are you?” “I’m fine thank you, and you?” “I’m fine too. ”What’s your name?” “My name is Kenji.” “My name is Kariri.” “How old are you?” “I’m eight!” “I’m nine.” “What’s your favorite color?” “My favorite color is light blue.” “I like gold.” “I like yellow, and green.” “What’s your favorite animal?” “I like hamster!” “I like cat.” Soon their mothers realized they kids were no longer inside the restaurant, and came out looking for them. When they saw I was held captive by a mob of “genki” kids, they approached, bowing, again, and again, apologizing for their children’s “poor” behavior. “Sumimasen!” “Summimasen!” (I’m sorry)

Luckily, my girlfriend had been taking pictures during this entire exchange. The mothers did their best to usher those kids back in the restaurant, but they weren’t going to be successful, as the children didn’t want any part of that, not until they each had a chance to practice their second language skill. Japanese parents don’t demand their children to do anything. Instead, they skillfully use logic and reasoning. For example, if a six-year-old child is throwing a tantrum, the mother will say; “OK, I can see you are behaving unreasonable, and you look ridiculous. I’m quite surprised at this behavior, and disappointed. Clearly, we cannot have a meaningful discussion as to what the issue is, so I’ll have to leave you to it, and hopefully when you come to your senses, we can have a further discussion on this matter.” As it turns out, more often than not, the kids want to stop, and stare in amazement at the strange looking gaijin (someone not from within). Sugoi! (amazing). Amazing me! I’m absolutely positive that many of these places that I discovered through mere happenstance allowed me the privilege of being the first foreigner to pass through those rustic, hidden communities saturated with culture, and allure.

On Friday, March 11th 2011, on a calm, sunny, and beautifully clear day, these places, those people, and their culture, were struck down by a brutal blow that came from deep below the ocean’s floor. The resulting damage took less than ten minutes, yet, it may take generations for those moments to begin to diminish from memory. It has been reported that sense the tsunami subsided, and the raging waters returned to the sea, children awake from their sleep screaming, “Mother! Mother, the water.”

Although there have been several tsunamis that have touched the shores of Japan in the past. There has never been one as terrible as the one that followed the initial earthquake off the northeastern coast on Friday, March 11th 2011. The wall of water that rushed into the seaboard towns, and forced its way inland as far as 5km left one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history. The tsunami didn’t just sweep up buildings, and take thousands of people’s along with it; it also devastated the regions agricultural lands, soaking meticulously maintained rice fields, pear, apple and cherry orchards with saltwater. In a nation that imports 62% of its food, the tsunami left the area crippled in its ability to support the region. The acres, and acres of endless bright green agricultural land that had lain dormant since autumn, will no longer be able to harvest anything. All of this, before there was any notice that the Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant was already showing signs of distress.

Japanese officials estimate that the death toll from Japan’s massive March 11th earthquake, and tsunami is likely to exceed 18,000. Hitoshi Sugawara, a police spokesman said that Miyagi, which was one of the hardest hit prefectures might account for 15,000 deaths alone. “It is very distressing as we recover more bodies day by day,” Sugawara said. The National Police Agency reported that the number of bodies collected so far stood at 8,649 with some 13,262 people still listed as missing. This however, was only the beginning of a triple disaster that rocked the nation of Japan.

At 14:46 Japan Standard Time (JST) Units 4, 5 and 6, of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant had been shut down for planned maintenance. The remaining reactors remained operative until they were automatically shut down after the 9,0 earthquake. However, the subsequent tsunami disabled emergency generators that were required to cool the reactors. Over the following weeks there had been evidence of a partial nuclear meltdown in Units 1, 2 and 3. Visible explosions, suspected to be caused by hydrogen gas were recorded at Units 1 and 3. Another suspected explosion may have taken place at Unit 2, that and may have damaged the primary containment vessel; and a possible uncovering of Units 1, 3 and 4 spent fuel pools. Radiation releases into the immediate area caused large evacuations, and concern over food, and water supplies that have been contaminated by Iodine, Xenon and Krypton, as well as exposure of radiation to several nuclear employees. The IAEA rated the events at Units 1, 2 and 3 as a level 5 (Major Accident) on the International Nuclear Event Scale. The events at unit 4 have been placed at level 3 (Serious incident).

With little warning, a wall of water traveling across the pacific ocean, at a speed of 540-550 m.p.h., at a height of thirty meters completely leveled Gamo, Shinko, Yuriage, and many other coastal communities in Sendai. The relentless set of waves destroyed the Sendai airport and communities that covered the entire northeastern coastline. The water destroyed property as far North as Chiba, taking out full communities in Iwaki before it struck the forty-year-old Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Complex. The walls that had been built along the coast to prevent such a catastrophic event had little effect, if at all. Unheard of prior to this event, the water travelled as far as five kilometers inland, destroying everything in its path, and leaving most of the regions agricultural land saturated in seawater. Anyone that became engaged by that powerful force would have also had to deal with the freezing ocean conditions, as northeastern Japan was still in the midst of its winter season, which lasts approximately five full months. Even if one could have survived the fury of that water, the freezing ocean temperatures would make it unlikely that they would be able to survive for more than a few minutes before hyperthermia, and utter panic set in. My Yuriage friend, who I could rely on to supply me with hard to find goods that are necessities to the surfing sport, and who will remain unnamed as he has not been located, his family, home, business, and town all but disappeared. This is just one story of the many stories of the friends I made in Japan, and lost. They like their families, communities, and homes are now gone forever. Below are satellite views of before and after photos of Yuriage and reveal this harsh fact.

I had travelled to Tokyo only the night before the earthquake, and tsunami struck the northeastern coast of Japan. I came for the purpose of signing a new lease, and to relocate closer to the big city as I had recently signed a new contract to represent keynote speakers. Although I had avoided being near the city as long as I could, I was also working on several music, and writing projects, and I was spending a lot of time, and money traveling by Shinkansen between Sendai and Tokyo. It was time to relocate.

Little would I know that by being in Tokyo on that day, at that particular time, I may have been spared the fate of many of the people along the eastern seaboard of Japan. But, now I found myself stranded, and earthquakes, aftershocks, tsunami, and relentless tsunami warnings weren’t the only thing the nation and I had to contend with. There were the chemical plants that exploded in Chiba ushering huge plumes of toxic chemicals into the sky. The officials immediately warned that nobody should come in contact with those chemicals, which were sure to rain down on the surrounding cities, as they were extremely toxic. That was the least of the problems. There were also official reports that several nuclear power plants throughout Japan were having difficulties due to failures and overheating. One particular plant, the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Complex had been hit with huge tsunami waves, and crippled five of the six reactors cooling systems. The back-up systems failed as well. One, then two of the reactor buildings exploded. First, 10km, then 20km, and shortly thereafter, a 30km radius are was evacuated as 140,000 residents were forced to flee. People living within 50km of the plant were told to stay indoors, and not to leave their homes. The officials reported that anyone remaining within the 30km area for more than two hours would begin to receive severe burns to their skin. At least one of the forty-year-old reactors was on the verge of a nuclear meltdown.

The Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear complex was built nearly 40 years earlier by General Electric, and operated by Tokyo Electric Power Company. The plant had a history of problems. It was built directly on a fault line, and on the shoreline of one of the world’s most volatile earthquake zones, and was vulnerable to tsunami waves. On March 11th 2011, the unthinkable happened huge tsunami waves hit the nuclear complex, and the saltwater flooded the facility knocking out the ability to cool the reactors. Inevitably five of the six reactors began to overheat. Another little known fact was that several engineers, who worked on the facility when it was being constructed including, Dale G. Bridenbaugh resigned in protest of what the engineers considered a seriously flawed design. Bridenbaugh, and two of his colleagues at General Electric resigned after becoming increasingly convinced that the nuclear reactor design they were reviewing, the Mark 1, was so flawed it could lead to a devastating incident with catastrophic results. The project continued.

Questions persisted for decades about the ability of the Mark 1 reactors ability to handle the immense pressures that would result if they lost cooling power. Unfortunately, for millions of people that design is currently being put to the ultimate test. Five of the six reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant that have been wracked with explosions and radiation leaks, are Mark 1s. “The problems we identified in 1975 were that, in doing the design of the containment, they did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant,” Bridenbaugh told ABC News. “The impact loads the containment would receive by this very rapid release of energy could tear the containment apart and create an uncontrolled release [of highly radioactive material].”

On Monday, March 14th 2011, when the market opened, Tokyo Electric Power Company stocks got hammered with huge sale orders. Soon dairy products, spinach and other agricultural products revealed iodine, krypton and xenon levels that had been caused by hydrogen explosions within the failing reactors. Farmers began dumping huge amounts of milk into city drains. One farmer stated that famers had done no wrong, yet as a result of the failure of the officials to adequately maintain the nuclear facility in Fukushima, they were forced to destroy their product. He openly asked, “Who would compensate them for their losses?” Many farmers in the area conceded that if they were not adequately compensated for their losses they would be forced to go under.

Tokyo, some 200km away from Fukushima, and its failing reactors soon began to show iodine, krypton and xenon in its water supply. In more than 70 years of testing water samples Tokyo has never had any traces of these compounds in their water. Experts blame the failing Fukushima nuclear plant and said the compounds could only have been the result of a hydrogen explosion that took place at the plant. At the time of writing this, the officials at Fukushima Dai-Ichi plant have evacuate their workers and are considering opening valves to release the pressure within the failing reactor. This would release high levels of radiation into the atmosphere, and would cause even further contamination and damage to the country and its inhabitants.

I knew I would be leaving the northeastern region of Japan. I had already packed my possessions in boxes, and they were ready to ship when I secured my new apartment. I had been given a really good deal as somebody had committed suicide in the new building and the building owner was having a difficult time renting any of the units. Japanese are very superstitious and believe ghosts remain in the area. Japan also has one of the world’s highest suicide rates with approximately 32,000 people each year taking their own life.

My property consisted of thousands of dollars in audio, video, and photography equipment. I also owned a car, but driving to Tokyo was not practical as parking fees are extremely high. I left my car at my residence and got on a Shinkansen and travelled North to Tokyo. As a result of this new contract, I was to be relocating to Ibaraki prefecture, which was about 30 minutes by train to Tokyo, but only a short distance from the now infamous Fukushima nuclear plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company continues to report the health risks were minimal. No doubt Tokyo Electric Power Company is more concerned with shareholder profits than with public safety. When a privately held company, that clearly has a conflict of interest, between safety and profits, and had always maintained it had several layers of back-up units in place to prevent such a failure, and those back-up plans have been proven to be non-existent; how can a nation believe any of the “safe level of radiation” reports that same companies “experts” are reporting? When a company has to revert to evacuating its employees because they are being exposed to high levels of radiation, and the company begins using techniques that look like oddities from a bad 1950s sci-fi, such as using hoses from helicopters, the world needs to take a good look at how these plants are really being operated, how safe they really area, and what oversight is in really in place. If even one of the Fukushma Dai-Ichi reactors explodes, or has a meltdown, no doubt this would result in a chain reaction of failures regarding the other five reactors. Can Japan afford the price of evacuating its entire country?

When the initial quake subsided, I could already sense that nothing was ever going to ever be the same. I immediately went back inside and turned on the TV to the NHK channel, and switched to the English dubbed version. There was a tsunami warning issued for the entire East coast. The translator said the quake had a magnitude of 7.8. I knew it was bigger than the 7.2 earthquake that hit Sendai only two days earlier, and was much more powerful than the Northridge quake I experienced when I lived in Los Angeles. Quickly, the earthquake was upgraded to 8.9 and then 9.0. Shortly, thereafter NHK reported tsunami waves hitting Miyagi, and Iwate prefecture coastal communities. It wasn’t long before the horrific videos began appearing on screen. To my astonishment, I could see the towns that I knew being overcome by huge sets of relentless waves that destroyed everything in their path.

In the U.S. we dial 911 for emergency phone calls. In Japan it’s 119. This country seems to do every thing exactly the opposite of the states, including driving on the opposite side of the road. As I watched the TV, I began to think about my friends in Sendai, and starting placing phone calls to everyone I knew. I couldn’t reach anyone. The phone lines were dead. They remained that way for the next several days. One theme that kept running through my mind during this “wait and see” period was how technology played a major role in our daily lives, so long as there wasn’t an emergency. The clear fact was, once an emergency kicks in, when people need technological assistance, is almost always useless.

The phone was dead. I was trying to remain calm. All phone communications failed. I couldn’t reach anyone. Luckily, I had a wireless satellite email connection, and went back to my Facebook account, and began posting messages to everyone I knew in Sendai. It would be several days before I heard back from anyone, and waiting for a response keep me anxious. When I finally did receive information, most of it was not good. Most everyone I knew had perished.

I hadn’t given much thought of the fact that I had left all my property up North, and had only an overnight bag with me. I did have one of my cameras.

Almost immediately the media began to contact me. I found myself giving Skype video interviews for NBC Dateline with Brian Williams, ABC Action News, and PBS. NBC producer Robert Buchanan understood my predicament, and tried to assist me in getting a helicopter ride up to Sendai. That option failed. It seemed an odd request that I was trying to get into Sendai while everyone else was trying to get out. Soon satellite views of before and after photos were posted on ABCnews.com. I could see one of my friends entire community covered in water, and all structures gone.

Then the news broke; there were several nuclear plants failing, and in danger of imminent meltdown. The news reported many failing reactors, but focused on the Fukushima Dai-Chi Nuclear Complex. The fact is several nuclear plants in Japan were reporting similar occurrences. However, the Fukushima plant was hit hard by coastal waves that flooded the facility. This caused the cooling pumps to fail, and four of the six reactors where overheating. Soon there were two explosions reported. The Japanese media was actually saying there was a nuclear explosion in describing what was happening in Fukushima. Quickly the Japanese government began to evacuate a 10km radius, which grew to 20 and then to 30km from the plant. The nation was facing a nuclear disaster.

With all highways damaged, roads impassible, and the entire countries rail system at a halt, all anybody could do was wait, wait and see what would happen. That’s when I realized I was stranded, and I had no idea if I had any property left; property I had spent my entire life procuring toward building my own audio, video and photography studio. If I lost my property, it would set me back several years. Did I have a car? Did I even have a job?

I realized that my girlfriend, (which is who I was staying with at the time), and myself would need food if we were going to survive the next couple of weeks. I went out in search of food, normally a menial task that we take for granted. I had no idea how difficult it was going to be. What I found was row after row of empty shelves. In the largest city in the world, there was no food to be found anywhere. I found myself going from grocery store, to bakery, to meat market, to convenient store. This continued for hours. The entire city ceased to function, and the entire country was in a state of panic. I spoke with the manager of Don Quixote one of the largest chains in Japan, and asked when they were expecting a new shipment of food. He said they weren’t expecting anything soon as the warehouses were already empty. There was suddenly no food to feed the Tohoku region, with some 38 million people.

There were millions of people stranded without transportation, no fuel, and no sign that the earthquakes and tsunami warnings were coming to an end. Several thousands were missing, and thousands more had quickly perished. There were reports that four full trains had completely disappeared. For those that were lucky enough to be home, their electricity, water and gas were turned off for fear of explosions and fires. As evening fell the temperature began to drop to -2 below freezing. The snow had begun to fall on the areas that were hardest hit by the tsunami, Sendai, Iwate, and Ibaraki.

For three days I tried to contact my new employer with no success. On the fourth morning I received an email that the translator that was to help me sign my new lease hadn’t been heard from. On the fifth day I learned that the women, Ms. Sato’s entire home had been destroyed. The place where I was to begin working was badly damaged and had been closed down until the city had a chance to access its safety. Here I was, an American in Tokyo, stranded. It was extremely cold. I had no job, no possessions, no clothing other than a few things I had in a bag, and I still had no notice if I had any property had survived.

I contacted FEMA to see if there was anything they could do. I was told to contact the U.S. Embassy, as they did not deal with disasters outside of the U.S. borders. I contacted the U.S. Embassy and learned the embassy had no plan. The U.S. government hadn’t been prepared in the face of the world’s fourth largest disaster in recorded history. I realized that I had to get proactive if there was going to be any help for U.S. citizens. I sent an email to the White House. I received no response. I decided to post on Facebook, and see if anyone back in the states would get involved. Below is the following text:

HELLO,

I’M AN AMERICAN LIVING IN JAPAN FOR THE PAST FOUR YEARS.

I’VE LIVED IN THE SENDAI REGION FOR THREE YEARS.

THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF AMERICANS LIVING IN JAPAN.

I’VE CONTACTED THE U.S. EMBASSY, WASHINGTON AND FEMA. FEMA STATES THAT THEY DON’T ASSIST CITIZENS IN EMERGENCIES OUTSIDE THE U.S. THE EMBASSY STATED THAT THEY HAVE NO PLAN IMPLEMENTED, BEYOND ATTEMPTING TO LOCATE MISSING U.S. CITIZENS. I ASKED ABOUT FOOD, SHELTER, CLOTHING – THEY HAVE NO PLAN IN PLACE. I ASKED WHAT STRANDED CITIZENS ARE SUPPOSED TO DO? THEY HAVE NO INFORMATION. THIS IS INCOMPETENCE AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL AND ABSOLUTELY UNACCEPTABLE.

THERE IS NO FOOD OR WATER AVAILABLE. THERE IS NO FUEL. NO ROADS, OR HIGHWAY ACCESS, AND NO TRAIN SERVICES AVAILABLE TO MOST REGIONS.

ON FRIDAY THE 11TH, I CAME TO TOKYO TO SIGN A NEW EMPLOYMENT CONTRACT, WHICH WAS TO START ON SATURDAY MARCH 12TH.

WE HAD ALREADY EXPERIENCED A 7.2 QUAKE IN SENDAI AREA ON WEDNESDAY THE 9TH.

ALL MY PROPERTY IS IN SENDAI REGION, IF IN FACT – ANY OF IT IS LEFT.

WE EXPERIENCED A 9.0, 7.2, 7.2, 7.0, 6.4, 6.0, 5.4, AND THEN THERE WERE THREE OTHER EARTHQUAKES ONE HITTING SENDAI AGAIN, ONE HITTING SHIZUOKA SOUTH OF TOKYO, AND ONE HITTING FUKUI, ON THE JAPAN SEA.

THE QUAKES AND AFTERSHOCKS HAVE BEEN RELENTLESS. NON-STOP! WE HAD THREE TODAY.

I NO LONGER KNOW IF I HAVE EMPLOYMENT AS EVERYTHING IS ON STANDBY STATUS. PLACES WHERE I WAS TO BE EMPLOYED ARE DESTROYED. THE PEOPLE I WAS TO WORK WITH HAD THEIR HOMES COMPLETELY DESTROYED.

MANY OF MY FRIENDS ENTIRE COMMUNITIES ARE GONE. I DON’T EVEN KNOW IF THEY ARE ALIVE.

HERE ARE PHOTO EXAMPLES OF ONE OF MY FRIENDS SURFSHOP/HOME IN YURIAGE.

I HAVE ONE BAG WITH ME, AND NO PLACE TO RETURN TO. THE U.S. EMBASSY HAS NO ANSWERS.

IN TOKYO — RADIATION LEVELS ARE RISING RAPIDLY. CURRENTLY, (WHAT WE ARE BEING TOLD) RADIATION LEVELS HAVE REACHED 470 TIMES NORMAL NEAR THE FAILED NUCLEAR PLANT IN FUKUSHIMA, WHICH IS ONLY 150 (MILES) FROM TOKYO. 30KM HAVE ALREADY BEEN EVACUATED FROM THE EPICENTER, MORE EXPECTED BY TOMORROW MORNING. HIGH LEVELS OF IODINE AND OTHER POISON GASES HAVE BEEN CONFIRMED TO HAVE BEEN CAUSED BY A NUCLEAR EXPLOSION. (“NUCLEAR EXPLOSION” ARE THE WORDS USED BY OFFICIALS.)

THE CHIBA FACTORIES EAST OF TOKYO, WHICH USED DANGEROUS CHEMICAL AGENTS, WERE RELEASED INTO THE ATMOSPHERE, AFTER THE INITIAL 9.0 EARTHQUAKE, FROM EXPLOSIONS AT THE PLANTS. TOWERING BLACK CLOUDS CARRIED THE FIREBALLS INTO THE SKY. NOW WE’RE BEING TOLD THEY ARE EXTREMELY TOXIC, AND WHEN IT RAINS, NOT TO HAVE ANY PHYSICAL CONTACT WITH THE DEBRIS.

WE ARE TOLD TO STAY INDOORS, 140,000 PEOPLE IN FUKUSHIMA HAVE BEEN ORDERED TO SEAL THEMSELVES INDOORS. WE’RE BEING TOLD THAT IF WE HAVE TO VENTURE OUTSIDE NOT TO WEAR ANYTHING INSIDE THAT WAS EXPOSED TO THE EXTERIOR ELEMENTS.

EVERYBODY HERE, JAPANESE AND FOREIGNERS ARE STRANDED, WITH SUPPLIES REACHING NO ONE, AND THE QUAKES AND AFTERSHOCKS KEEP ROLLING ALONG.

IT FEELS LIKE THIS ENTIRE COUNTRY IS BEING RIPPED INTO PIECES.

THERE ARE ALSO SAFETY CONCERNS FOR FOREIGNERS.

IT IS WELL KNOWN THE TOKYO MAYOR IS A RADICAL RACIST.

Ishihara Shintaro, in a racist rhetorical rant spoke about foreigners in Japan in this manner, “I tell you if there is a major earthquake they will run wild in the streets of Japan like the Mongols, raping and looting like animals.” He met with Japanese military personnel and told them that if there were ever such an incident that they had a shoot and kill order on foreigners. So far the only person arrested in Japan has been a Japanese male for stealing gasoline.

WE KEEP HEARING HOW WELL PREPARED THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT HAS BEEN IN PREPARING FOR SUCH DISASTERS, HOWEVER THAT IS FALSE AND MISLEADING INFORMATION. IN FACT, LITTLE HAD ACTUALLY BEEN DONE TO PREPARE FOR THIS EVENT AND FOR THE LONG RUN THAT WE’RE ALL STILL FACING.

THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT HAS FAILED MISERABLY — THE “OFFICIALS” STATE THAT THEY WERE NOT EXPECTING A QUAKE OF SUCH MAGNITUDE. IN ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST VOLATILE QUAKE ZONES! CAN THEY MAKE SUCH A STATEMENT AND EXPECT TO HAVE ANY LEVEL OF CREDIBILITY? ESPECIALLY AS THIS CRISIS CONTINUES TO GROW MORE VOLATILE, LITERALLY BY THE HOUR?

EXAMPLE: HOW DID THE “OFFICIALS” WHO WERE ALREADY IN THE HOT SEAT FOR ALLOWING THIS THE FAILURE IN FUKUSHIMA, PERMIT ONE OF THE NUCLEAR REACTORS TO ACCIDENTALLY RUN DRY OF COOLING WATER – YET AGAIN?

THERE ARE 14 MILLION PEOPLE IN TOKYO ALONE. THESE PEOPLE HAVE NO FOOD, WATER, AND MANY ARE WITHOUT CLOTHING, BLANKETS AND SHELTER. THERE ARE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF PEOPLE STRANDED EVERYWHERE YOU TURN. FURTHER, THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT IS NOT GETTING SUPPLIES TO THE PEOPLE IN THE ZONES HIT THE HARDEST.

IF THE GOVERNMENT CAN’T GET SUPPLIES TO TOKYO, WHICH IS WHERE THEIR SURPLUS IS STORED, HOW CAN THEY GET SUPPLIES TO THE REGIONS THAT ARE MOST DAMAGED WITH TRANSPORTATION ROUTES CUT OFF?

THE QUAKES KEEP CONTINUING AND NOW TWO FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR REACTORS HAVE FAILED. ADD THOSE TO THE FOUR THAT WERE ALREADY REPORTED WITH FAILURE ISSUES. EVERY HOUR, OF EACH DAY THE REPORTS ARE MORE ALARMING THAN THE PREVIOUS ONE, WHILE THE FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR FACILITY CONTINUES TO GET PUMMELED BY QUAKES, AND AFTERSHOCKS.

WE ARE BEING TOLD NOT TO DRINK, OR USE TAP WATER. YET, WE ARE TOLD TO WASH OUR HANDS IN THAT SAME WATER IF WE VENTURE OUTDOORS. THE INCONSISTENCIES ARE ALARMING. WE ARE TOLD NOT TO VENTILATE, AND NOT TO USE AC OR HEATERS. WE ARE TOLD NOT TO GO OUTDOORS WHILE THE RADIATION LEVELS KEEP RISING. THERE ARE MANDATORY ROLLING BLACKOUTS AS WELL.

WHY ARE THERE NO SUPPLIES? WHY IS THERE NO FOOD OR WATER?

WHERE IS THE U.S. MILITARY INTERVENTION AND SUPPORT, SINCE THEY LITERALLY BLANKET THIS ENTIRE ISLAND?

I SENT THE MAINSTREAM MEDIA SEVERAL PHOTOS OF CHAIN AND CONVENIENT STORE LOCATIONS THAT CLEARLY PROVE THE STORE SHELVES ARE EMPTY.

I’VE BEEN INTERVIEWING ON SEVERAL AMERICAN NATIONAL SHOWS, YET THEY ONLY USE THE PARTS THAT ADD TO THE CHAOS. THERE ARE REAL STORIES HERE. STORIES THAT NEED TO BE TOLD.

[Redacted]

———-

I contacted the U.S. Embassy a second time about what the U.S. citizens were supposed to do. The U.S. Embassy still had no answer on the local level. The representative did state that any stranded U.S. citizen could take out a loan from the government toward the purchase of a one-way ticket to leave Japan, and to return to the states. The loan however, had a condition attached to it. The U.S. citizen had to promise to repay it, with interest, and would have their passport confiscated. They also would not be allowed to travel outside of the U.S. again until the loan was repaid. I asked, “What if the loan could not be paid.” I was told they person who took out that loan would never be able to travel outside the U.S. again. Ever! I thought the imposition of such conditions were repugnant, especially where one found themselves in such a dangerous situation, that was out of their control, and not their own doing. Further, facing a nuclear meltdown with the government leveraging a loan for their safety was unacceptable. I decided to publicize this information on Facebook and to any and all media sources that were hungry for such information. I was set to do an interview on ABC Action News in Tampa, Florida but instead of preparing for an interview I wrote a statement about the predicament U.S. citizens found themselves in. Many friends, and their friends were reading my posts, and soon thousands of people were reading them. I asked anyone and everyone to contact their government representatives and get something done. Several did. One of them sent my post to a political representative in San Francisco that forwarded it to Nancy Pelosi.

D. Sunshine March 17 at 10:05pm

I passed a post of yours on the other day to a cousin of mine who is very well connected in San Francisco Politics, … this was his response last night… “Hi David. Sorry to hear about your friend in Japan. I will forward this along to Nancy Pelosi’s office and see if they know any path forward for people stranded like Jack.

To my surprise Nancy Pelosi received a copy of my Facebook post and from that information took steps to help stranded U.S. citizens. The official statement issued regarding U.S. citizens, and evacuation plans included text from my post, which had been literally craned from the text and included into their report. The government backed off of the ridiculous pay for a flight to safety, and the next morning there were several free flights out of Tokyo back to the states for any U.S. citizen.

While Japan’s government admittedly was overwhelmed by the state of emergency the country was in, I noticed that the emergency efforts had not included the 100,000+ U.S. soldiers that literally blanketed the island. Why was the U.S. involvement in rescue literally non-existent? I asked this question on one of my posts. A friend of mine that I hadn’t heard from in years sent me a private message. The private message read, “My daughter and son-in-law are both Marines. They have a friend that is stationed in Yosuka, which is South of Yokohama. All U.S. military are on lock down. They are not allowed to leave their homes. The reason given is that the military does not have any radioactive suits available for the soldiers.” So, while the U.S. military hid in their rooms, eating popcorn and playing Nintendo, the Japanese woman went to work, and the Japanese children continued to go to school, as they always had.

Japan is in one of the most volatile earthquake regions in the world, with several antiquated nuclear plants dotting the eastern seaboard. Many are built right on fault lines. After Hurricane Andrew in Miami, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, the BP Gulf incident, and military actions in Afghanistan, and Iraq where the military hadn’t had vehicles properly armored to protect the soldiers, once again the U.S. finds itself in a position ill-prepared. This is unacceptable. Why can’t private contractors, who are paid to outfit soldiers, and who are raking in billions from taxpayer dollars not adequately have them prepared? Why can’t the U.S. government get its act together?

Money manipulation and greed managed to find its way into this disaster. While the Japanese stock markets collapsed, which would normally cause any nations monetary valuation to decline, that wasn’t the case the week of March 14th, 2011. The dollar dropped to an all time low against the yen to .74. The larger Japanese corporations, those that exported goods and were paid with U.S. currency needed to exchange their dollars into yen, so they could help rebuild their nation. These Japanese corporations got hammered in the exchange rate, raking in easy millions for the bankers. The financial cost of the disaster had already been estimated to be around 235 billion USD, according to a World Bank report. It has also been estimated that it may take Japan as long as five years to rebuild.

With radiation pressure growing at the failed plant in Fukushima, and all efforts to relieve it failing, countries began to order and evacuation of its citizens. Many embassies were leaving Tokyo for fear of radiation, and moving to Kyoto, and Kobe. The U.S. issued no flying orders into Japan, and requested U.S. residents to evacuate voluntarily. Many nations followed suit. I have no family or job to return to in the states, so leaving Japan wasn’t an option for me. But, I now had my own dilemma. My visa had to be stamped for renewal, or I couldn’t work legally in the country, which meant I couldn’t get housing. This meant I had to go to the immigration office, and get closure on that matter. This while hundreds of thousands of people were fleeing Japan, and seeking to get last minute reentry stamps.

On Friday the 18th, only one week after the triple disaster began, I went to the Tokyo Immigration Bureau to deal with getting my visa stamped for another year of legal permission to be employed/work in Japan. Of course the warnings of radiation in the atmosphere, produce and water supply were well publicized. But, Chiba had suffered chemical plants explosions in the heavily industrial areas that neighbored Tokyo. Those chemical explosions sent huge clouds of black smoke into the atmosphere. The government had issued warnings that if it rained, that nobody should come in contact with that rain. Now, under cloudy skies, I was heading to the immigration office, which borders Chiba and where the chemical explosions occurred.

Long before I arrived at the immigration office, I was shocked to find 2-3 hundred thousand people standing in long lines. The lines were estimated to be between 3-3.5km long. There were fistfights. People were angry, and unruly. The police and immigration officers had many city blocks roped off, with lines stretching several blocks one way and snaking back down the same blocks, circling back several blocks until it reached the front of the immigration bureau. If I didn’t act quickly, I wasn’t going to get anything done. I asked one of the immigration officers to assist me, as I was not seeking a reentry permit. Since I was from the northeastern region that was hit the hardest, and had an employer, guarantor and apartment, my needs were more pressing. They bought it!

In Japan a foreigner cannot get housing unless they have a guarantor. That guarantor most often is the employer. Without an employer, one cannot get housing. Without a stamp that permitted you to work, there was no employer, and therefore no housing. Circular!

To my amazement the officer escorted me into the building, and led me to the fourth floor, general office. Even though these immigration officers could barely communicate with me, they understood that I was from the northeastern region, and needed emergency assistance. They took me past hundreds of people standing in line, and right to the front counter. They got the papers I needed to make my visa application renewal. I was handed the number 654, and told to fill out the forms, and wait for my number to be called. It was 10:37 a.m., and the number they had just called was 147. I thanked them, realizing that 654 was a lot better than whatever number the thousands of people outside were going to get handed, if they got in at all.

I watched as the numbers went from 550 to 650, and then quickly to 654. I felt like I hit the lottery. I brought my papers to the available immigration officer, and handed them to him. He went over them, and handed me a card to fill out and to write my address on. He said it would be mailed to me within the next few weeks. I explained my situation, that I had no address. He asked he could mail it to the hotel I was staying at. I told him that I didn’t have a hotel, couldn’t afford a hotel, and that there would be no place to send the document, as I had lived in the Sendai region and that the entire region was off limits for travel. He said there was nothing he could do. I refused to leave without my visa stamped. I couldn’t believe in a time like this, a nation in a total state of emergency they were making such a fuss over a tiny piece of paper with a bit of glue on the back. Again, I refused to leave. Japanese are never swayed by argument, but here, I was told to go to the S counter, which was for business and employment. This was going to be another long wait.

By the time I got to the S counter, I had my story well prepared. I watched to see who could speak the best English, and had the best demeanor. I waited until I could speak to that person. I briefly explained my situation and the officer gave me a form to fill out. Then said they would call my name after I filled it out, and placed it in “that” box. They pointed to a box that had hundreds of other papers in it. All this for a stamp!

Another few hours passed and it was getting late. What made the entire situation even more stressful was the government had ordered most trains shut down by 6:00, and I was far to the East and had to return back far to the West. It was freezing cold, and the wind was blowing about 35-50km. The only good thing about all of that was the wind was blowing toward the ocean, the sky was crystal clear, there was no sign of rain, and the cool weather may help to cool down the failing reactor.

Stonesan! My name was finally called. I pushed my way to the counter. The officer looked at my document in a perplexed manner. I gambled. Instead of filling out the form I made three boxes. One for Sendai. One for Tokyo and one for Moriya, where my new employment, and apartment were supposed to be. I drew lines from box A (Sendai) to box B (Tokyo), and box C (Moriya). In box A, I wrote, my car, my home, my property. Maybe! In box B, I wrote, No home. In box C, I wrote, NEW HOME, NEW GUARANTOR, NEW APARTMENT. They looked at me perplexed. I said, “How is your family? How is your home?” The officer answered that their home had been shaking very badly, but their families were all OK.” I said, I had been living in northeastern Japan for the past 2.5 years, all my property was still up there, and I had no home. I said you can help me get a home tonight, if you just get my book stamped. They said it usually took 3-4 weeks to complete a visa transfer request. I said, I can’t wait that long. To my surprise they said, “We’ve never done this before, but we will do this for you. This one time only. I said, “The next time I need my visa stamped, I hope there isn’t another earthquake, tsunami and nuclear reactor failure. I was told it would take about thirty minutes to complete. Could I wait?

Stonesan! The immigration officer returned, and had my passport in her hands. I forced my way back to the counter and could see my shiny new white stamp with black letters. The entire day there was a monotonous recording that stated there would be no multiple reentry permits issued due to the emergency situation. Oddly this officer asked me if I needed a multiple reentry permit too. I said, “Are you kidding me? I thanked her and took my passport. I bowed, again and again. She watched concerned as I began to walk away. At about 30 feet, I looked back at her standing behind the counter beyond that sea of human flesh that vied for position in front of her. I stopped and took another longer and deeper bow.

As of this writing, I don’t have a home. I have not been able to start my new job, and the entire nation is still watching as the Fukushima Dai-Ichi Nuclear Plant continues to fail. The store shelves are beginning to receive supplies, but the shelves are still mostly barren. The service stations that provide fuel are still closed, as are most roads, and nearly all forms of public transportation. The latest official report is that the Dai-Ichi reactor continues to overheat, and the officials in charge are talking about releasing radiation directly into the atmosphere in an attempt to alleviate pressure. This would obviously cause even great harm to Japan, as iodine, and other radioactive compounds would contaminate the surrounding agriculture land, the communities people live in, and the ocean and rivers that surround it. I can only hope the officials can finally get the situation under their control, shut that plant down once and for all, and let this nation begin to heal. I don’t know when I will have the chance to return north and retrieve my property. I don’t even know if I have any property to return to. But, when I do return, I will search for my friends, and go to their destroyed communities, and pay my respects no matter what the outcome is.

The memories I have of Miyagi are beautiful, and pure poetry in emotion. Those memories have now been singed with sadness and great pain for anyone that has been touched by her. I can only hope that time blurs the current events, and it pales in comparison to the joys I’ve discovered in that region. Miyagi is not a place of destroyed towns and great weeping. It is a place where cherry blossoms rain down on picnics in spring. It is a place of huge pears, bigger apples, and large dark purple grapes that hang on long vines. There are festivals, and temples, and shrines, and firework displays like nowhere on earth. There are so many things that leave an impression on your mind that they can’t be described unless you experience them yourself. Miyagi is a place of clear water, and endless fresh rivers that flow from the mountain into the sea. It’s a place of odd animals and odder insects by the score. It’s a place of extreme conditions – super humid summers, and frigid freezing winters. It’s a place that people ski in the winter, and surf in the summer. It’s a place of bright yellow, red and orange in autumn, and white, white mountaintops in winter. Best of all, it’s a place that has not been influenced too much by western culture. Simply. Miyagi is Japan!

Be sure to read the author’s book, An Unfortunate Event: Japan’s Triple Disaster.

For more information visit http://stackjones.com.

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  • Comments (4)
    • Pearl
    • March 29th, 2011

    Just learned more in this post alone than a week’s worth of CNN, MSNBC, and FOX combined.

    In light of the outrageous taxes Americans pay, I’m so thoroughly disgusted the US government suggested that stranded and desperate Americans ought to take out a loan to get back home, and threaten to keep their passports until paid in full, with interest?! If a business were caught doing that, serious charges would surely follow. I wouldn’t let this go so easily. Just despicable.

    As for the beautiful seaside villages, and the lovely people therein, i grieve with you. I know the videos we’ve seen can’t begin to capture the devastation and heartache millions are still experiencing.

    Your life was spared. I don’t believe in luck, but I do believe in Providence.

    • Jean Huang Photography
    • March 29th, 2011

    As sad as the occurrence, it is good to hear it from someone that’s survived it. And thank you so much for sharing your experience from those unique areas that many, including the ones that are initially from Asia, have not and unfortunately will not be able to do.

    Excellent photographs that you share on this site as well!

    • Rei
    • March 28th, 2011

    Thank you for your blog. With family and friends in Japan, and being thousands of miles away in the US, I’ve been poring over various media, trying to gather as much information. Appreciate your straight-forward style, and also, understanding and bridging the gap between the two very different cultures of your own, and of Japan. Sending hope, positive energy and strength for all those affected, to you, to your friends.

    • Olapiiii
    • March 28th, 2011

    I am new to blogs, and newer to Word Press. I thought I could write however my excitment to do so dwindles fast as I read yours. Better than news coverage and moving to my soul. I will have to rethink my literary skills and will follow your blog.

    Great writing. Thanks.

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