Sunday 12 March 2017

The Triple Disaster and Tokyo X Day

A picture of a giant poster draped on the Sony Building in Ginza, Tokyo, showing the highest point of the March 11 tsunami
Sony Building, Ginza, showing tsunami height
Yesterday (March 11th) was the sixth anniversary of the Great East Japan Earthquake (Higashi Nihon Daishinsai or 東日本大震災). This was actually a triple disaster: the initial earthquake, the subsequent tsunami, and the unfolding Fukushima nuclear meltdown (work to decommission the plant is ongoing). Much like Remembrance Day in other parts of the world, many Japanese stopped for a moment of silence and contemplation at 2:46pm. The picture shows a huge ad on the side of the Sony Building in Ginza graphically depicting the height of the crest of the tsunami that hit Ofunato in Iwate Prefecture on that day: 16.7 metres. The line in red reads chōdo kono takasa or “exactly this height.” Even today, searches continue for many of the bodies that were never found and some 35,000, mostly elderly people, still live as evacuees in temporary housing, while more than 120,000 people remain displaced. Earthquake drills are routinely carried out in schools and most homes have an emergency pack near the genkan (porch) ready to pick up and flee in the worst case scenario. In Japanese it is called a bōsai (防災) or hi’nan (避難) ryukku – a disaster or evacuation rucksack: see here for an example of a ready-made one you can buy. You will typically have a minute’s notice: a warning is automatically sent to all mobile phones. Tokyo itself is way overdue: the Great Kanto Earthquake was in 1923 and the chances of a big one hitting the capital in the next few years is said to be in the region of 70-75%.