While I sit and wait for people in Fukushima to wake up and follow the news like a hawk, I figured I’d start this blog because I’m going to have to write it at some point as this is something that I just won’t be able to NOT write about.
I’m just going to throw down what I’ve been doing and well, I dunno, random thoughts about all of this as it’s difficult to figure out just what to say about this.
So, just to put in some background. I lived in Fukushima city for 4 years. During my time there I was the Fukushima JET Vice President as well as the Kenpoku (northern region) Area Support Leader. My girlfriend and I left Japan in August of 2010. But I still have a lot of friends over there, clearly.
First of all I’m amazed at the use of social networking sites like twitter and facebook at a time like this, as well as the use and clarity of skype calls. While cell phones have been down, because of one assumes, damage to cell towers, all of my friends in Fukushima city, the Aizu area and Koriyama have had internet access. I’ve had skype calls with people all over the region, even in Iwaki which is about 45 km south of where the nuclear reactors are. Oh, I also want to add in that this not me saying I’m making a difference or anything along those lines. This is just what I have done and honestly, which isn’t much, but there was no way I’d just sit around and do nothing.
I guess I should start at the beginning and just go on from there. I came home Thursday evening and randomly checked the news to see that a major earthquake had hit Japan. Watching the videos, I immediately got on skype and tried to contact whoever I could. I was up until around 5am Friday morning talking to people throughout Fukushima prefecture. Most of the people outside of the coastal regions were complacent because they had survived through the earthquake and major aftershocks and the tsunami. The people in Fukushima city and other parts of central Fukushima seemed to still have running water, internet, cell service, etc etc. Now I can’t say for certain that that was the case everywhere and I do know people in the Nihonmatsu area that were without internet for about 24 hours.
I talked to the people in Fukushima and in the Aizu area and urged them to go and get a ton of food as well as to fill all containers with water and to also come up with an exit strategy, some people just hadn’t thought about it. One guy I talked to in Aizu had just come back from a run, because it was a nice day. LOL. Then I started to put all information I could up on facebook as a status update. A lot of people were/are using smartphones and while they couldn’t send messages or make calls, they could use their data connection. I had a skype chat with some friends on that first night while they were in their car, which is where most people slept for fear of aftershocks.
One friend had put his pictures up on facebook of the parking lot around his school and I grabbed them and threw them on twitter. Within minutes the associated free press had emailed me asking to buy them. I forwarded the email to the friend and now they’re on CNN. That was the start of the craziness.
The next thing you know, people who are friends of mine and others I just know, but in all honesty dislike, started appearing on BBC, CNN, CBC, CTV and even CHCH (Hamilton) news. I even had a friend give my email to a guy from NBC who then wanted me to try and get him in touch with people there. Obviously, my initial reaction was, fuck off vulture, but then I thought about the fact that the more news and more coverage there was, the more relief funds they could accrue. The result was this.
So, from Friday night to now (Sunday afternoon) I’ve spent pretty much every waking hour in front of my computer. Text messaging in Japan works totally different than SMS messages in North America and because of that, I could email my friend’s phones directly. I talked to people in Nihonmatsu on their Sunday morning, my Saturday afternoon and they were planning to evacuate to Aizu-Wakamatsu, in the west of Fukushima prefecture. I had heard which roads I had heard were open and told them everything I knew about the reactors. Then I talked to a group in Fukushima who were also planning to get out. The problem with heading west from central Fukushima is that most roads run through mountains with long tunnels and long bridges and after so many earthquakes, the fear was that they might come to something they couldn’t get around.
As the people in Fukushima readied for departure, I got in touch with people in Aizu-Wakamatsu and had them ready for the wave of people coming at them. Every status update from anyone that was evacuating I reposted to facebook so that others would know what roads were open and which ones were closed.
While aizu seemed normal, I assume now that with the growing numbers of people in the area, gas lines are getting crazy and food is becoming an issue. So, here I am again, ready to help any way that I possibly can for the foreseeable future.
Sorry that this whole thing is very disjointed and it is seriously lacking in description but I just wanted to put something down now about all of this. It’s the craziest feeling to look at a disaster like this and know the people and the places. And you can’t help but feel a little guilty that you’re not there helping people and going through it with them. I have immersed myself as much as possible and will continue to until I know that all of my friends are safe.