It has been over 2 weeks since a devastating 9.0 earthquake shook Japan’s Northeastern coast and sent a tsunami that, in some places, was as high as 12 m (39 ft) to the coast. Several coastal towns were virtually washed away. In a matter of minutes, towns went from bustling hamlets to disaster zones with a third of the population missing from some towns. According to the National Police Agency, the confirmed dead are 10,804 and 16,244 people are officially missing (meaning their family has informed police that they cannot be found) as of March 27th. According to the national broadcasting service, NHK, the official numbers of the missing do not take into account the thousands or possibly ten of thousands of people missing from several places that were especially hard hit, where so much of the population is missing that there simply aren’t people who can call the police to inform them of who is unaccounted for. Additionally, there are currently 242,881 people living in shelters and, thanks to the people fleeing Fukushima because of the nuclear crisis, that number has not been decreasing very much. The nuclear crisis has also made it difficult to assess the numbers of missing and dead due to the earthquake-tsunami in Fukushima.
About a week ago, I wrote a post about how life is going on pretty much as before here. But, I should mention that we are doing what we can here. People have been donating money and blood. Also, my town started collecting a few select supplies from people and in 4 days they collected 733 blankets, 2,083 bath towels, 10, 259 face towels, and 10,482 hand warmers. This is a town of 40,000 people, so that’s like every family coming in to drop off at least a face towel, if not more. But for about 2 weeks those supplies sat collecting dust. There was simply no place to send them because it was determined that the supplies were not needed at this time. Over the weekend that changed and now the supplies will be sent to a city in inland Fukushima. We are sending the 325 boxes of supplies not to a place devastated by the natural disaster, but rather to a place that has been inundated with refugees who are worried about nuclear fallout. We also planned on sending some city hall employees, but that has been postponed indefinitely because so many people have offered to volunteer from other places and we aren’t needed.
Additionally, with all the empty houses we have around town, we are offering to let people left homeless by the earthquake stay in some of those empty houses for one year for free. And it’s not just us. Almost every municipality in the prefecture is joining the free house party. The prefecture itself is even offering free housing in some buildings that it owns. Out of 635 homes available in the prefecture, 71 are being offered by my city. But my prefecture has been desperately trying to get people to live in all the empty homes since long before the earthquake. There are 3 people in my office who’s job it is to promote population growth in our town. UI turn fairs are held in Hiroshima, Osaka and Tokyo often. They want people who have left the area to come back (U-turn) and people who had never lived here to try out the relaxed rural lifestyle (I-turn).
The recovery is happening slowly but surely in hard-hit Iwate and Miyagi, but the nuclear situation in Fukushima is still tenuous. Many news organizations have talked about a phrase heard often in Japan, but especially now. That phrase is Sho ga nai (しょうがない), it can’t be helped. (I really heard them mangle the pronunciation of this phrase on the Sunday edition of the NBC Nightly News. It sounded like they said “Shoku ga nai,” meaning “There’s no food.”) In any situation that you have no control over, the most you can do is say “sho ga nai” and just keep going on with your life as much as possible.