Tsunami Debris Includes Ghost Tuna Boat

Massive amounts of debris from last year’s March 11th earthquake in Japan is making its way to the West coast of North America. While most of the objects are not expected to wash ashore until October, some of the larger objects, including entire ships are arriving months earlier.

The Vancouver Sun reports:

After being flushed out to sea by last year’s massive tsunami and earthquake, a Japanese squid-fishing boat has drifted across the Pacific Ocean and was about 120 nautical miles off British Columbia’s north coast Friday evening.

The 150-foot ship was found drifting right-side-up about 140 nautical miles (260 km) from Cape Saint James, on the southern tip of Haida Gwaii.

Amazing Video of Narrow Escape from Tsunami

On February 11th, 30 minutes after the Tohoku Earthquake, the town of Kamaishi was wiped out by the tsunami. Over 600 people are still missing from this tiny fishing village in Northern Japan. The footage below shows amazing footage of Machiko Kikuchi who narrowly escaped from the approaching tsunami and her determination to rebuild in the aftermath.

3:30 – villagers up on a hillside overlooking the town shout a warning of the coming wave. Machiko came home from work to check in on her 18-year old son who was at home but didn’t have time to go inside.

3:30 – Machiko rushes to get into her car but is swept away while trying to drive away.

4:20 – as houses and buildings are swept off their foundation, her car is picked up and carried off, nose down.

5:00 – Machiko describes looking up at the fading sky through the back window of her car as it starts to sink under the swirling waters. She describes it like, “being at the bottom of a pool.”

5:30 – debris breaks the back window of the car which allows her to escape and swim to the surface and make it to a building’s 2nd floor window, now level with the water.

5:40 – Grabbing onto some curtains, she pulls herself towards the opening and swims through it and across to a staircase which leads to the roof.

6:00 – only then, when she reaches safety, did the impact of what happened hit Machiko. She realizes at that moment that she may never see her son again.

6:20 – view of Machiko on the rooftop, calling for her son. She is trapped, water and wreckage all around her. There is no way to go down and join the rest of the village up on the hillside.

6:30 – before and after view of her house. Last known location of her son. The house is completely under water.

6:39 – Machiko’s son is spotted on the roof of a nearby building!

7:05 – the next morning, 16 hours later. Machiko is still stuck on the rooftop. Luckily she found a blanket to keep her warm for the night. The safety official (with megaphone) tells her the waters have receeded enough for her to try and come down and join everyone else on the hilltop.

7:20 – she crawls out of the wreckage and joins the rest of the village on the hill. Both she and her son are safe and unharmed.

8:35 – surveying the twisted wreckage of her family business of over 150 years, she looks to the reporter and says matter of factly, “There will come a time when we can look back on this. This is my town. I just need to start over again.”

The world is not going to change. Each one of us will change.

It has been two weeks since the disaster in Japan. We can choose to look at this as a setback or an opportunity. Mother Nature has taught us all a valuable lesson. A lesson we seemed doomed to learn again and again.

We are not masters of our domain, we are but passengers on this lonely rock hurtling through space. We can choose to either get along and celebrate our life together or continue to fight each other to rule over our patch of dirt and make it our own. The choice is ours.

Retired martial artist Genki Sudo is a performance artist in Japan with the group World Order and has this message for Japan but also for all of us looking at Japan.

“We are one.”

The sooner we realize that, the better. This is the lesson.

Sudo’s message in the YouTube video description:

The unprecedented disasters unfolding in Japan; earthquakes, tsunami, and nuclear explosions, will somehow change things to come. And to send my message about this, I have expressed it here with WORLD ORDER.

These disasters can be interpreted as a turning point for civilization. I think that we have arrived at a time of revolution, shared with all the people of the world, in today’s society, economy, and political systems.

Incidents themselves are neutral. I believe that every single one of us, wandering through this deep darkness, can overcome anything, if only we let go of our fear, and face the it all in a positive light.

The world is not going to change. Each one of us will change. And if we do, then yes, the world will be changed. It is darkest right before the dawn. Let’s all rise up to welcome the morning that will be so very bright for mankind.

– via Pink Tenticle

Update from Tokyo

Following up on last week’s letter, here’s an update from my father who lives in Tokyo.

–The New York Times says just short of half a million people are now in “shelters,” which in most cases means living on a blanket spread out on the floor of a high-school gymnasium. Most of these rural people have lost everything, even their money, which they did not keep in the local bank but in the top drawer of their bureau, which has been swept away.

–Most recent addition to the shelters are a young boy and an 80-year-old woman rescued after eight days under rubble.

–Shibuya crossing in front of Shibuya Station is known for its people jams, in which 600 people can step off the curb when the light changes. These days, however, it’s more like fifty people.

–One fashionably dressed lady in the train this morning was wearing a highly polished helmet.

–In the stations, escalators going up are operating, but people are expected to descend to the platform on their own. Elevators are kept operating, though, for people who genuinely have difficulty climbing stairs.

–Although many stores in Tokyo are closed or at least partially shut down, the cosmetics counters on the first floor of department stores, where some of Tokyo’s most attractive ladies man the stands, are open for business. A morale booster, clearly.

–Gasoline is being rationed, which everyone understands. By lining up early in the morning at the stand at the bottom of the hill, we were able to get 12 liters–maybe four gallons. But in Tokyo the trains take us wherever we want. In the rural disaster area, people can’t get anywhere without a car. They may have to drive 30 kilometers for gasoline.

–We have heard of a family living uncomfortably close to the endangered power plants evacuating to Yokohama. A family of eight in a car driving 150 miles.

–We learned a few days ago that radiation has been detected in shipments of spinach. In its determination to provide everyone with as much information as possible, NHK shows a map of the ten prefectures in question, with the precise level of radiation one could expect in the spinach from each prefecture.

–“Foreigners” seeing videos of residents of Tokyo wearing white face masks might think they are protection against radiation. No, it’s protection against hay-fever pollen.

–There are far fewer ads in the trains and stations than usual, although beer ads celebrating the coming of spring (tra la) are plentiful.

My mother adds that she had to give up on getting milk at the local grocery store because the line was too long. Milk supplies are down because radiation contamination has impacted the supply. The local department store was only open from 4pm until 7pm as they were trying to save on electricity and she recently had to line up at 6am to get gasoline for the family car which is being rationed out to just 10 liters/car.

—– 0 —–

Meanwhile, I read in local press that the Finns have moved the seven staff in their Tokyo office down south with the Danes in their Hiroshima offices. This move was prompted, in a historic twist of irony, to avoid potential nuclear fallout from the reactors in Fukushima.

Letter from Tokyo

My father just sent an email yesterday to my sister and I describing the situation in Tokyo. Knowing how everything runs like clockwork in that city, it’s even more striking how the country adapts when they have to improvise.

Tokyo Tower, bent following earthquake

Four days after the quake we are still feeling aftershocks. We’ve received over sixy aftershocks so far and clearly there are more to come. We have learned another is on the way when the hanging drawer-pulls of the bureau begin to tinkle. But you know, after a while it all begins to lapse into a routine, especially as no one here ever gets excited and the Japanese instinct to rally round is inbred.

Mikie and I are a couple hundred kilometers south of the scenes of devastation you’ve seen on TV and we’re on a hill, so we’re pretty safe, I guess. We are told, though, that we should expect another follow-up quake and the ensuing tsunami.

There has been little damage in Tokyo, although the radio aerial at the tip of Tokyo Tower was bent. A number of multi-story stores in downtown Tokyo have closed to make sure their structure has not been damaged, although their (disposable?) clerks behind the information counter on the first floor remain on duty to apologize to customers for the inconvenience.

Because the nuclear power complex in the stricken area has been closed down, electricity is being rationed and this has brought home to everyone just how dependent a city like Tokyo is on electric power. No electricity means no trains, no traffic lights, no doors opening automatically on your approach, no pumping of gas, no automatic bottom-washing in toilets.

The trains, usually punctual to the minute, are no longer posting any schedule at all. To conserve electricity, lights in stations have been dimmed and escalators and elevators have been shut down. There is a palpable commeraderie among people now forced to ascend a long stairway to the street or to descend to the platform. We used to be able to go through station turnstiles by swiping our wallet across a reader, but now we have to endure the inconvenience of actually showing our pass to the station attendant, who shrugs his shoulders and rolls his eyes.

The evening the quake hit, all trains were immediately stopped because it wasn’t certain that the tracks had not been bent, so thousands of office workers couldn’t get home. A sense of commeraderie flowered then, too, as people found refuge in the back room of their favorite little drinking spot, or in one of the temples that opened for the occasion, or on a park bench, or just on the street.

With the trains running now, although to an irregular schedule, we seem to be inching back to a regular routine, but coming home on the train last night, the train stopped because Train Control had warned the driver that an aftershock was expected (better notice that the drawer-pulls of our bureau) and in fact after a minute the train rolled gently from side to side. The conductor apologized.

It may be worth noting that the Financial Times reported that when the quake struck, ten minutes before the Tokyo Stock Exchange closed, the trading floor was shaken, which brought about a feverish selling of the yen and of Japanese stock generally–a testament to the brutal efficiency of Capitalism.

Order out of Chaos

From tweet aggregator site, prayforjapan.jp

As people begin to pick up the pieces following the terrible earthquake and tsunami in Japan we’re hearing stories of how people are helping each other. Stories that warm the heart and give you hope that Japan will actually grow stronger from this disaster.

CNN has a story about the calm social order that has remained despite the surrounding chaos.

The communitarian spirit at the foundation of Japanese culture seems to function even more efficiently under the stress of disaster.

And this from the Los Angeles Times,

She was elderly and alone, injured and in pain. When the massive earthquake struck, a heavy bookshelf toppled onto Hiroko Yamashita, pinning her down and shattering her ankle.

When paramedics finally reached her, agonizing hours later, Yamashita did what she said any “normal” person would do, her son-in-law recounted later: She apologized to them for the inconvenience, and asked if there weren’t others they should be attending to first.

This is a time of incredible stress but also a time for Japanese society to re-evaluate who they are and what makes them special. I have great hope and optimism for the people of Japan.

Japan, how to help


Japan Earthquake – Useful Links

At 2:46 pm today, an 8.9 earthquake hit off the coast of Japan in the afternoon local time. It was the largest earthquake in Japan in 300 years and the 6th largest recorded earthquake in history. A quick call to my parents and inlaws and thankfully everyone is OK.

I’ve collected a few links where you can get more information and will update as I learn more.


Photo Galleries


  • New York Times The Lede is live-blogging the latest developments.
  • Wikipedia has a developing reference page.
  • TWIMPACT is a realtime twitter analysis site translating Japanese tweets into multiple languages.


  • Google Crisis Response page – links to telecom bulletin boards, transportation info, and utility info.
  • Google Map showing location of emergency shelters.
  • Google Person Finder – if you’re looking for someone or want to let someone know you’re ok.
  • TimeOut Japan resource page has sections listing public shelters and emergency messaging services.
  • Bic Camera and Apple Stores are offering a free re-charge on your cell phone.
  • If you need water, Suntory vending machines have emergency levers beneath a sticker on the upper-right corners. Pull the sticker off, pull the lever firmly and you’ll get free drinks.
  • Free Wifi from Softbank, Livedoor, and FON
  • OLIVE, Survive Japan wiki – survival tips and making do with what you have

How you can help

I am collecting a list over on another post.


Haiti Decends into Terror and Chaos


The terror and chaos that is Haiti following the devastating earthquake is hard to imagine. 50,000 dead, millions are homeless.  It’s now 10 days later and the threat of disease is descending upon the survivors who are literally fighting for their lives. The shocking photo above comes from a series of dramatic photos posted by Anderson Cooper who is covering the story for CNN.

There are a number of ways to contribute and thankfully the donations are pouring in including over $10 million raised in just a few days by text messages (UPDATE: now more than $25 million) . I just contributed my bit over at Shelterbox thanks to a pointer by a classmate from college.


Every little bit helps people. We’re making a difference.