Schoolboy’s diary reveals struggle of losing father in tsunami

On March 11, the day northeastern Japan was ravaged by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, 12-year-old Yuta Hakoishi saw his father driving back home in his truck, and prayed that he wouldn’t be swallowed by the tsunami. It was the last time that the 12-year-old, a student at Osawa Elementary School in the town of Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, saw him alive. The following account that Yuta wrote and submitted to the Mainichi Shogakusei newspaper sheds light on his feelings after the tragedy.

***

March 11: We were practicing a song for our school graduation ceremony, when a huge earthquake hit. At first I thought it was just another earthquake. And even after an alert was issued for a major tsunami, I didn’t think there would be one. I thought that if a tsunami did arrive it would only be about 10 centimeters high. But I was completely wrong. What I saw was water and rubble being washed along National Route 45. I saw my mom and dad arrive at Osawa Elementary School before the tsunami arrived. But then I saw my dad going back out in his truck. I was worried about him. “Please don’t let him get swallowed by the tsunami while he’s driving,” I prayed.

March 18: Mom lost hope, saying dad still hadn’t been found after all this time. Granddad cried and said, “We’ll do our best and build a new home, and make sure that you can all go to school. Even if your dad doesn’t make it, we’ll do our best.”

March 23: The day of our graduation. As we sang the song “Arigato” (Thank you), I was thinking: “Dad, it’s because of you that I’ve been able to graduate. Thank you.” Then for some reason, my voice went shaky and I started crying. That night I had a dream. It was a dream about my mom and dad coming back from a supermarket in Miyako.

March 25: One of my relatives got a call on their mobile phone. They said a firefighter had found somebody who looked like my father. We rushed there, and I saw my father lying down, with his mouth open. My older sister started crying. My mom didn’t say anything and my younger brother stayed close to our relatives. When I touched my father’s face it was colder than water. In my mind I kept thinking, “Why did you go back?” Then I kept telling myself, “What good is it for me to worry?” but the more I said it, the more tears welled up in my eyes. I saw the titanium accessory that my father had worn, a good-luck ankle charm that he bought in Tokyo, and his wedding ring and mobile phone. What surprised me was that his watch was still working. When my father died and even when he was swallowed by the tsunami, it kept ticking. My dad’s watch is now mine. I don’t think I’ll ever lose it my whole life.

March 26-27: Somewhere in my mind I wished I’d never seen the face of my father the way he was when they found him. But because they found him we can cremate his body and I could touch him. Perhaps because he had swallowed water his chest was swollen. It’s good that they found him.

March 28: The day of the cremation. My sister, my mom, Keijiro and I wrote letters, and we put them next to my father. While we were bending down to pray I said, “The Hakoishi family will do our best to carry on after you.” They let me hold onto the bones until we put them into the grave. I felt relieved when we buried them.

April 7: Today was the day that I could say thank you from the bottom of my heart. A person from the newspaper saw an article about my dad and us, and brought a photo of when my father ran in the Tokyo Marathon and some letters. There was a letter with a message to our family and a message for me. My dad was amazing. Today I’m really thankful.


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Kitasato U. moving Iwate Pref. campus

Kitasato University is relocating the functions of its Sanriku Campus in Ofunato, Iwate Prefecture, to its Sagamihara Campus in Kanagawa Prefecture because many of its students lost their housing accommodations in the Great East Japan Earthquake. The move will remain in effect at least until the 2015 academic year, but it is uncertain whether the Ofunato campus can be reopened in or after the 2016 academic year, the university said. Coming just before the start of the university’s new school year, the move is sure to add to the burdens of the about 570 students who studied at the university’s Marine Life Department at the Ofunato campus. (Yomiuri)

Tsunami spared few at elementary school in Ishinomaki (Asahi, Apr 24, 2011)

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Shinkansen connecting Tokyo with Sendai resumes

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TEPCO prepares to fill No.1 reactor with water

Remote-controlled robots are being used to look inside one of the disabled reactor buildings at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, before workers begin pumping more water into the reactor.

Tokyo Electric Power Company is planning to fill the No.1 reactor and then its container with water by mid July, to submerge the fuel rods and cool them down stably.

To prepare for the operation, TEPCO sent robots inside the reactor building on Tuesday morning to check for leakage and other damage.

If no problems are found, the utility plans to increase the amount of water being fed into the reactor on Wednesday, on an experimental basis.

The water feed is due to be increased from the current 6 tons per hour to a maximum of 14 tons.

Workers will monitor changes in temperature and pressure, to see whether the reactor container can safely hold the water.

Robots will then enter the building again, to check for signs of seepage.

The government’s nuclear safety agency says TEPCO also needs to determine whether a water-filled reactor container can withstand strong aftershocks.

TEPCO hopes to fill up the No.1 and No.3 reactor containers by mid-July, as part of its recently announced schedule for containing the nuclear accident.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 12:49 +0900 (JST)


The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says the level of radioactive water in a tunnel at the No.2 reactor is unchanged.

Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, has prioritized the operation to transport water from the No.2 reactor. The level of radiation there is especially high and the contaminated water is hampering other work to bring the crisis under control.

TEPCO says the water was 89 centimeters below the top of the tunnel at 7 AM on Tuesday. The level has been about the same for the past few days.


The operator of the disaster-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says the level of radioactive water has risen in the Number 3 and Number 4 reactors.

The levels of radioactive water in the power plant are hampering efforts to restore its functions. Tokyo Electric Power Company, or TEPCO, is moving highly radioactive water from the tunnel of the No. 2 reactor to a temporary storage facility.

The utility company says the water level in the tunnel of the No. 3 reactor rose to 99 centimeters below the surface as of 6 PM on Monday. That passes the level at which TEPCO plans to remove the water, but it has yet to secure storage space.

The water level in the basement of the No.3 reactor’s turbine building also rose by 10 centimeters over 3 days.

TEPCO says a survey last Thursday found an increase in the density of radioactive substances in the water in the basement of the No. 4 reactor’s turbine building.

The company says the levels of cesium-134 and 137 increased about 250-fold and iodine-131 increased about 12 times compared with one month ago.
TEPCO says contamination of this level requires them to prioritize the transfer or disposal of the water.

The water level in the No. 4 reactor’s turbine building rose by 20 centimeters in 10 days.

TEPCO says water used to cool the No. 3 reactor could be leaking into No. 4 as their turbine buildings are connected.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 07:54 +0900 (JST)


Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission estimates the amount of radioactive release from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant at around 1 terabecquerels per hour as of Sunday. A government advisor says he thinks the amount is gradually falling.

The commission announced its latest estimate on Monday, and compared the level to the 154 terabecquerels per day on April 5th.

Kenkichi Hirose, a Cabinet Office advisor in charge of the Nuclear Safety Commission, told reporters that he believes the amount of radioactive release has been declining judging from the current conditions of the plant.

Radioactivity is measured in becquerels, and a trillion becquerels is a terabecquerel.
A huge amount of becquerels does not automatically translate into a similar level of sieverts, which is a unit for measuring the likely medical impact of the radiation on an individual.

When Japan raised the severity rating of the Fukushima nuclear disaster on April 12th, the commission announced its estimate that 630,000 terabecquerels of radiation had been released into the atmosphere from March 11th till April 5th.

At that time, the Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency offered its own calculation of 370,000 terabecquerels.

The agency said its estimate is about one-tenth of what was released in the 10 days following the Chernobyl accident on April 26th, 1986, and the Nuclear Safety Commission’s estimate is even higher.

The figures for Fukushima involve radioactive iodine 131 and cesium 137.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 12:50 +0900 (JST)


Tokyo Electric Power Company has rewired the power grid at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to secure a supply of electricity in case of another strong quake.

The company completed work to connect the cables for the No.1 and No.2 reactors to the grid for the No.5 and No.6 reactors on Monday evening. The plant’s 6 reactors had been supplied with electricity in pairs from external power sources.

The work is aimed at ensuring that if any one of the 3 outside sources is cut off, the others can be used to cool the reactors.

During the work, external power to the No.1, No.2 and No.5 reactors was suspended for a few hours, but there were no problems.

TEPCO decided to rewire the power grids after all 13 of the plant’s emergency generators were disabled when a tsunami hit the plant on March 11th. The blackout led to 4 of the 6 reactors overheating.

In addition, a major aftershock on April 11th temporarily cut off the external power supply, causing the pumping of water into the 4 reactors to stop for about 50 minutes.

The company already finished connecting the cables for the No.1 and No.2 reactors to the grid for the No.3 and No.4 reactors on Tuesday of last week.

With the completion of Monday’s work, all the reactors are now able to get electricity from external power sources if their own supply lines break down.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 07:54 +0900 (JST)

the risk of a hydrogen explosion in the initial stages of the emergency at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The disclosure was made on Monday by Goshi Hosono, who is a governing party lawmaker and senior member of the government’s nuclear taskforce.

Hosono referred to a hydrogen blast that shattered the No.1 reactor building one day after the March 11th earthquake and tsunami. The blast occurred after workers began venting air from the reactor containment vessel to reduce pressure inside.

Hosono said he was not aware of a single nuclear expert who warned of the risk of a hydrogen blast following the venting operation. He said nitrogen inside the reactor container was supposed to prevent such explosions.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company also told reporters that hydrogen is supposed to be processed within the containment vessel, and that such an explosion is not assumed in a reactor building.

Large amounts of radioactive substances were released into the environment as a result of the hydrogen blast.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 10:45 +0900 (JST)

NISA OKs estimates of TEPCO sea leaks Kyodo Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A report by Tokyo Electric Power Co. that says water with a radioactivity 20,000 times over the permissible annual limit entered the Pacific Ocean from leaks at the crisis-hit Fukushima No. 1 power plant in early April was endorsed by the nuclear safety agency Monday

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency approved the report submitted by Tepco last Thursday and said the leak would not cause “immediate” health hazards because it will be diluted and because fishing had been banned in areas close to the atomic power station.

Although NISA did not mention anything about long-term health hazards, its chief spokesman, Hidehiko Nishiyama, said the government and Tepco plan to bolster radiation monitoring in the sea by starting new tests at nine points and by taking seabed samples. The utility will also test groundwater at the site, he added.

Nishiyama said the concentration of radioactive substances that likely contaminated the sea from a cracked pit between April 1 and 6 was about 30,000 times higher than the low-level radioactive water Tepco deliberately dumped into the ocean between April 4 and 10.

Tepco discharged around 10,000 tons of relatively low-level water to secure storage space for more dangerous water, triggering an outcry from fishermen and neighboring countries over contamination fears.

Nishiyama said the government “very much regrets” the leak, saying it was unavoidable.

The agency has informed embassies of 149 countries, the European Union and 35 international organizations in Japan as well as local municipalities and fishery associations on its evaluation of Tepco’s report, according to Nishiyama.

The leak at the cracked pit near the plant’s No. 2 reactor water intake was found April 2 and plugged April 6 by means of a chemical agent.

The agency, however, said Tepco’s assumption that the leak started on April 1 is “conservative enough,” because radioactive air monitored near the leak that day was much lower than on April 2, suggesting the tainted water was not yet flowing into the sea on April 1.

Japan quake data should be stored in the cloud (sfgate Apr 26) One of the chief complaints as the crisis at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant unfolds is the paltry amount of information that the Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the Japanese government have shared with the citizens of Japan and of the world. In an attempt to understand the severity of the crisis, the nuclear community is piecing together a forensic analysis from thousands of miles away. It does not need to be this way. Using cloud-computing technology to store data on faraway networks that are accessible to all stakeholders will help us all make decisions on the cleanup.

118 medical facilities wrecked in disaster zone  At least 118 medical facilities in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures were battered by the massive tsunami on March 11, rendering them unusable for clinical exams or treatment, local medical association officials said Sunday.

Most of the damage was done to clinics that offer basic medical services to residents, bringing the already stretched medical system in Tohoku to the brink of collapse. …

The disaster also killed 11 doctors in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures, the officials said.

In Miyagi, 77 facilities said their infrastructure was destroyed by the waves, while 25 in Fukushima and 16 in Iwate reported similar destruction. …

In areas where clinics have disappeared, patients are flocking to hospitals that provide advanced treatment. Those hospitals are coping with the influx with the help of doctors from other prefectures, they said.

Yoshimasa Yokoyama, who heads a medical association in the Shiogama area of Miyagi Prefecture, where 12 member medical facilities have been damaged, said clinics were responsible for serving 70 percent of the residents in the area prior to the calamity.

“It would cost tens of millions of yen to replace buildings and medical equipment,” he said. “I want the state to be responsible for the reconstruction.”

Family travels to Japan to spread ashes of beloved U.S. teacher The family of Montgomery Dickson, a popular teacher in coastal Japan who died in the March 11 tsunami, has said a tearful goodbye to him in the town he came to view as his second home. Shelley Fredrickson, Dickson’s older sister, said she and other relatives flew on April 13 to Rikuzentakata in the northeast – a city of 23,000 that was flattened by the quake and tsunami. The family knows little about the circumstances of Dickson’s death. The last one to speak to the 26-year-old known as “Monty-san” was his girlfriend Naoko, who he called after his students had evacuated from the school where he taught. (MSNBC)

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Evacuation shelters a mixed bag Japan Times Tuesday, April 26, 2011 |

Survivor’s tale caught on camera

Japan fears post-quake rise in suicides | Reports of sexual violence remain a rarity in disaster zones as both women and the media keep quiet | Rolling blackouts: The virtue of silence | Malnutrition rife in quake zone (Apr 26)

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Suits to halt atomic plants have all failed JT The vulnerability of nuclear facilities to earthquakes has been the subject of lawsuits across Japan over the years, but none has actually succeeded in halting an atomic power plant.

Japan’s terrifying day saw unprecedented exposed fuel rods (Bloomberg)

How did Japan’s nuclear industry become so arrogant? (Mainichi Apr 25, 2011)

Russian nuclear scientist says Fukushima disaster was predictable

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Japanese economy-related news:

The ripple effect of Japan’s earthquake  (SeekingAlpha) While the disruption emanating from Japan will hit other auto sectors on the margin, the disruption of the Japanese economy itself appears more severe. Moody’s today revised this year to 0.0%-1.0% from 1.5% and with downside risks. The anticipated weakness this year will be made up for next year and it sees the Japanese economy expanding 1.5%-2.5% in 2012. Recession in the first half of this calendar year to with a recovery beginning after June. The BOJ may provide new GDP forecasts later this week. The local prices warns that the BOJ could cut its 1.6% forecast for FY2011 in half.

More economic news:

Solar-panel producers stand to benefit from nuke fears JT Apr 26, 2011 | Industries left short-handed after foreign workers flee Japan following nuke accident | Tsunami Quickens ‘Terminal Decline’ of Northern Japan’s Fishing industry  | Japanese Stocks Decline as Post-Quake Car Production at Mazda, Honda Drops  | The ripple effect of Japan’s earthquake | Miyagi govt unveils regional redevelopment plan (Apr.26) | Miyagi govt unveils regional redevelopment plan

The Telegraph’s ridiculously inaccurate ‘flyjin’ article The Telegraph has jumped on the bandwagon of foreign media outlets reporting about the “flyjin,” foreigners who fled Japan in the wake of the March 11th earthquake. The article, by Julian Ryall and Malcolm Moore, appears under the headline “Rebuilding Japan: Special scorn for ‘flyjin’ foreigners who fled country”: The claim that “almost all” of the Chinese and Korean residents in Japan have fled is jaw-droppingly inaccurate. According to Japanese government statistics, in 2009 there were over 680,000 Chinese citizens and 578,000 Korean citizens residing in Japan. The number of foreigners who left Japan in the weeks immediately following the March 11th earthquake was 531,000. (Japan Probe)

Memories of Agent Orange: Fukushima folly

original referenced article:  Evidence for Agent Orange on Okinawa

On March 11, the day northeastern Japan was ravaged by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami, 12-year-old Yuta Hakoishi saw his father driving back home in his truck, and prayed that he wouldn't be swallowed by the tsunami. It was the last time that the 12-year-old, a student at Osawa Elementary School in the town of Yamada, Iwate Prefecture, saw him alive. The following account that Yuta wrote and submitted to the Mainichi Shogakusei newspaper sheds light on his feelings after the tragedy.

***

March 11: We were practicing a song for our school graduation ceremony, when a huge earthquake hit. At first I thought it was just another earthquake. And even after an alert was issued for a major tsunami, I didn't think there would be one. I thought that if a tsunami did arrive it would only be about 10 centimeters high. But I was completely wrong. What I saw was water and rubble being washed along National Route 45. I saw my mom and dad arrive at Osawa Elementary School before the tsunami arrived. But then I saw my dad going back out in his truck. I was worried about him. "Please don't let him get swallowed by the tsunami while he's driving," I prayed.

March 18: Mom lost hope, saying dad still hadn't been found after all this time. Granddad cried and said, "We'll do our best and build a new home, and make sure that you can all go to school. Even if your dad doesn't make it, we'll do our best."

March 23: The day of our graduation. As we sang the song "Arigato" (Thank you), I was thinking: "Dad, it's because of you that I've been able to graduate. Thank you." Then for some reason, my voice went shaky and I started crying. That night I had a dream. It was a dream about my mom and dad coming back from a supermarket in Miyako.

March 25: One of my relatives got a call on their mobile phone. They said a firefighter had found somebody who looked like my father. We rushed there, and I saw my father lying down, with his mouth open. My older sister started crying. My mom didn't say anything and my younger brother stayed close to our relatives. When I touched my father's face it was colder than water. In my mind I kept thinking, "Why did you go back?" Then I kept telling myself, "What good is it for me to worry?" but the more I said it, the more tears welled up in my eyes. I saw the titanium accessory that my father had worn, a good-luck ankle charm that he bought in Tokyo, and his wedding ring and mobile phone. What surprised me was that his watch was still working. When my father died and even when he was swallowed by the tsunami, it kept ticking. My dad's watch is now mine. I don't think I'll ever lose it my whole life.

March 26-27: Somewhere in my mind I wished I'd never seen the face of my father the way he was when they found him. But because they found him we can cremate his body and I could touch him. Perhaps because he had swallowed water his chest was swollen. It's good that they found him.

March 28: The day of the cremation. My sister, my mom, Keijiro and I wrote letters, and we put them next to my father. While we were bending down to pray I said, "The Hakoishi family will do our best to carry on after you." They let me hold onto the bones until we put them into the grave. I felt relieved when we buried them.

April 7: Today was the day that I could say thank you from the bottom of my heart. A person from the newspaper saw an article about my dad and us, and brought a photo of when my father ran in the Tokyo Marathon and some letters. There was a letter with a message to our family and a message for me. My dad was amazing. Today I'm really thankful.