One year after 3/11

Today marks the one year anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which led to the tsunami that took the lives of over 19.000 people and caused the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl in 1986. I arrived in Japan about a month after the earthquake and stayed in this fascinating country for this whole year and even in these times I always felt welcome. In the face of all the hospitality that I received this is not much, but I give my deepest condolences to everyone, who lost loved ones due to this disaster, who lost their homes and who lost everything they possessed. Do not give up in living your life and rebuilding what you love. 頑張れ日本!

And to everyone else I can only try to raise some awareness that the problems are far from over and there is much to be done. Despite the Fukushima-centered media coverage around the world, the damage from the tsunami has probably more direct influence on the people from East Japan. If you have the time I can recommend the following two videos. One is a documentary of a Japanese, who’s coming back to his tsunami-struck hometown, while the second one is a trailer for a documentary that also deals with the life after the tsunami and has already received some international reputation.

After the Wave:

The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom:

Thank you, Japan!

31st of March + x

On Monday, I had a talk with my coordinator for my year abroad to discuss the current situation and what to do about it. As it stands, the University of Hamburg is still in the mindset, that we aren’t allowed to go into Tokyo and the regions around it and that it is highly advised not to go to Japan at all (read: don’t go there or we don’t guarantee for anything!), which is all fair and that, but it leads to different problems for me. Because honestly: I would fly on the 31st if the university wouldn’t block me. Right now, I have to wait for 1-2 weeks to see how the situation in Fukushima develops and wait for my coordinator to give me the official ‘ok’ on flying.

At least he was also a little bit shocked by the mail from a professor of the University of Hiroshima, whi advised us to come at the beginning of April or skip one semester, because there would be too much problems otherwise and we Germans would be overreacting anyway. Those are not his exact words, but I took the liberty to paraphase it, because that’s what it reads like. If anything we’re rightfully more sensible to the dangers and risks of nuclear power and radiation. That aside, I would fly on my planned date if the reactors won’t blow up further and the situation was further stabilised, as I feel pretty save in Hiroshima. But that’s not my decision alone, it seems.

Therefor from today on, my flight date is officially classified by me as 31st of March + x. A fellow student of mine (you can read her blog on the right side) might have more informations on Friday, as her latest permitted entry date to Japan is the 6th of April and her matters are more urgent. I can still wait for the 1st of May to enter Japan, as my university was a bit slower with all the documents. What looked like a drawback at first seems to be an advantage now. So hopefully, I can give new input on Friday.

To postpone or not to postpone

Today I’m just two weeks away from my booked flight to Japan. Considering the situation right now it seems unlikely, that I can take that flight without taking the risk of not knowing how the situation in the nuclear plant Fukushima 1 will develop further. The University of Hamburg has issued the warning for all students to cancel or to postpone their flights until the beginning of May, so I will probably give up one month in trade for a possibly stable situation and no risks, which I cannot calculate.

I’ll still have a talk with my language teacher and coordinator next week on Monday, to talk about how to deal with the situation and what should be done. He’s a japanese guy and most surprisingly they seem to take this disaster in a much less panicky fashion than we do in Germany.  Possibly all cases of しかたがない, I suppose.

I’ll keep you updated!

Devastated Japan and I

I’m sure everyone has heard or read about the terrible disaster, which is holding Japan in its grip since last week’s Friday. A massive earthquake of magnitude 9.0 has hit the north-eastern coast of the country that day, followed by a devastating tsunami wave of 10 meters height, which ruined the coastal regions of three prefectures and also damaged more regions in Japan and around the whole Pacific. Since Friday, aftershocks and smaller tsunami waves are still hitting the country, although the intensity slowly seems to lower itself – letting us see images of the destruction, caused by these catastrophes. I won’t show images here, nor repeat the rising numbers of dead, missing and homeless people, as you will find more exact numbers at your sources of choice and also better described and explained pictures. All I will say is that these are terrible days for the people of Japan and for me personally, as I fear for the safety of many friends there. I really hope everyone will stay allright, but the worst might be yet to come.

Due to the impact of the earthquake and the tsunami, several nuclear power plants of the country are having troubles with their systems. Most known already is Fukushima 1, where three reactors have difficulties in cooling their reactors and have already suffered partial meltdowns with radioactive material beeing emitted into the surrounding regions (where there is an evacuation circle of 40 kilometers in diameter). The incident has so far been classified as level 4 on the INES-Scale, on which Chernobyl was classified as a level 7 major accident. With the changing winds today, radiation may be carried into Tokyo and maybe further. Again, I advise you to search your sources of choice for more precise informations.

So I have to face the risk of having to cancel my year abroad, if the situations worsens further. Of course, Hiroshima is far away from these regions and I don’t have that much fear of beeing troubled by earthquakes and tsunamis, but radiation is another matter. Right now, there is no direct danger for Hiroshima, but if more radiation is beeing emitted from the nuclear power plants and carried further to the south-west this situation could change and I’d have to reevaluate my plans. So I have to wait and keep hoping. Not only for me, but also for all the people in Japan right now and especially my friends there! 皆さん、気をつけてください!