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Blog - The Amazing Japanese Culture
Blog - The Amazing Japanese Culture

By Matt McGrath Environment correspondent, BBC News

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A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated.

Mycle Schneider is an independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments.

He says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels.

Meanwhile the chairman of Japan’s nuclear authority said that he feared there would be further leaks.

The ongoing problems at the Fukushima plant increased in recent days when the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) admitted that around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank on the site.
Moment of crisis

The Japanese nuclear energy watchdog raised the incident level from one to three on the international scale that measures the severity of atomic accidents.

This was an acknowledgement that the power station was in its greatest crisis since the reactors melted down after the tsunami in 2011.

But some nuclear experts are concerned that the problem is a good deal worse than either Tepco or the Japanese government are willing to admit.

They are worried about the enormous quantities of water, used to cool the reactor cores, which are now being stored on site.

Some 1,000 tanks have been built to hold the water. But these are believed to be at around 85% of their capacity and every day an extra 400 tonnes of water are being added.

“The quantities of water they are dealing with are absolutely gigantic,” said Mycle Schneider, who has consulted widely for a variety of organisations and countries on nuclear issues.

“What is the worse is the water leakage everywhere else – not just from the tanks. It is leaking out from the basements, it is leaking out from the cracks all over the place. Nobody can measure that.

“It is much worse than we have been led to believe, much worse,” said Mr Schneider, who is lead author for the World Nuclear Industry status reports.

At news conference, the head of Japan’s nuclear regulation authority Shunichi Tanaka appeared to give credence to Mr Schneider’s concerns, saying that he feared there would be further leaks.

“We should assume that what has happened once could happen again, and prepare for more. We are in a situation where there is no time to waste,” he told reporters.

The lack of clarity about the water situation and the continued attempts by Tepco to deny that water was leaking into the sea has irritated many researchers.

Dr Ken Buesseler is a senior scientist at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution who has examined the waters around Fukushima.

“It is not over yet by a long shot, Chernobyl was in many ways a one week fire-explosive event, nothing with the potential of this right on the ocean.”

“We’ve been saying since 2011 that the reactor site is still leaking whether that’s the buildings and the ground water or these new tank releases. There’s no way to really contain all of this radioactive water on site.”

“Once it gets into the ground water, like a river flowing to the sea, you can’t really stop a ground water flow. You can pump out water, but how many tanks can you keep putting on site?”

Several scientists also raised concerns about the vulnerability of the huge amount of stored water on site to another earthquake.

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Shortly after the Japan earthquake, the nonprofit Bezos Family Foundation invited children from around the world to mail origami cranes to its Seattle headquarters, promising to donate $2 per crane to the relief efforts, up to to $200,000.

The cranes came in by the truckload and soon, the foundation had some 2,000,000 paper cranes on their hands. They ended up donating a cool $500,000 to relief efforts.

Now, Brooklyn-based Brazilian artist Vik Muniz has been tasked with taking the cranes and making something incredible with them. Muniz has opted to make a meta work of art, by using the cranes to make one giant paper crane. It’s incredible to behold.

LOOKcranes-slide-OISU-jumbo

NBC – Rock Center – Richard Engel Journeys to Fukushima Evacuation zone
Nearly a year after a massive earthquake and tsunami in Japan swallowed whole towns and left more than 15,000 people dead and hundreds of thousands of people displaced, the nuclear town of Okuma is eerily empty.

The 9.0 magnitude earthquake led to a triple meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Plant and led to mandatory evacuations 12 miles around the power plant. NBC News Chief Foreign Correspondent Richard Engel journeyed to the exclusion zone and discovered a ghost town. Restaurants, grocery stores, factories remained as they were left on Mar. 11, 2011.

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

A virtual tour via Street View profoundly illustrates how much these natural disasters have transformed these communities. If you start inland and venture out toward the coast, you’ll see the idyllic countryside change dramatically, becoming cluttered with mountains of rubble and debris as you get closer to the ocean. In the cities, buildings that once stood proud are now empty spaces.

Click to see Japan using Street View

In the bottom left corner of each image you’ll also see a month and year that tells you when a particular photograph was taken. When looking at images of the magnificent cities side-by-side with images of the ruins left in their place, this additional context demonstrates how truly life-changing this tragedy has been for those who live there and witnessed the destruction of their homes, neighborhoods and even entire districts. This timestamp feature has been the most requested Street View feature for the last few years, and it is now available on Street View imagery worldwide. Professionals such as historians, architects, city planners and tourism boards—as well as regular users including travelers and home-buyers—can now get a sense of how fresh the online photos are for a locations that interests them.

In the case of the post-tsunami imagery of Japan, we hope this particular digital archiving project will be useful to researchers and scientists who study the effects of natural disasters. We also believe that the imagery is a useful tool for anyone around the world who wants to better understand the extent of the damage. Seeing the street-level imagery of the affected areas puts the plight of these communities into perspective and ensures that the memories of the disaster remain relevant and tangible for future generations.

Google is using its Street View technology in Kesennuma and elsewhere to make a record of the disaster while tracking reconstruction efforts.
By HIROKO TABUCHI
Published: July 10, 2011

See Image – Google Vehicle Recording Images

KESENNUMA, Japan — An oddly equipped car made its way last week through the rubble in this tsunami-stricken port city. On the roof: an assembly of nine cameras creating 360-degree panoramic digital images of the disaster zone to archive damage.
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Google, GeoEye, DigitalGlobe, Cnes/Spot Image, TerraMetrics

Aerial images taken of Yuriage and Yagawahama before and after the earthquake and tsunami. Both are in Miyagi Prefecture.

It is one of the newest ways that Google, a Web giant worldwide but long a mere runner-up in Japan’s online market, has harnessed its technology to raise its brand and social networking identity in this country.

Google was also quick in the early hours of the disaster to assemble a Person Finder site that helped people learn of the status of friends and relatives affected by the earthquake and tsunami.

Analysts say it is too soon to tell whether Google’s efforts have translated into a larger share of search or online advertising since the quake. But in a country with the world’s second-largest online advertising market, after the United States, and where in the past the company has made serious blunders and raised privacy concerns in trying to unseat the local leader, Yahoo Japan, Google is finally winning new friends.

“I know we’d have nothing to worry about with these people,” said Shigeru Sugawara, the mayor of this northeastern city, which was ravaged by the tsunami.

“I’d like them to record Kesennuma’s streets now,” Mr. Sugawara said. “Then I’d like them to come back, when the city is like new again, and show the world the new Kesennuma.”

Another convert is Sachiko Kobayashi. She lives in Sendai, a city at the heart of the tsunami zone, and was in Kesennuma looking for a friend, a fellow student in the koto, a traditional Japanese instrument. After Ms. Kobayashi posted a query on a separate Web site, a stranger directed her to Person Finder. There, she learned that her friend was alive.

“Thank you!” Ms. Kobayashi posted. “Now I can look forward to practicing together again.”

The magnitude 9.0 earthquake that struck off Japan’s northeast coast on March 11 was immediately evident to Japanese Google employees, who were jolted in their 26th floor Tokyo office. Engineers suspended their usual projects, and within minutes, a small group started work on what would become the first of various disaster-related services that Google has initiated in Japan.

Person Finder was originally developed after the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti. In Japan, Google went live with its online Person Finder service less than two hours after the quake.

“Everyone started coming by with their laptops and ideas of what we could do,” said Brad Ellis, an American member of the Tokyo team that worked on the initial response.

One engineer raised the idea of making Person Finder compatible with conventional Japanese cellphones. Another suggested visual representations of train suspensions and delays, as well as data on traffic and damage to roads, on Google Maps. All these ideas were put into practice.

On Person Finder, users with information about a missing person can create an entry that other users can search. Conversely, people looking for a missing person can also create an entry in the hope that someone who has information will see it and post an update.

It is difficult to gauge just how many people found information about loved ones on Person Finder. One obvious drawback: without access to the Internet from the hundreds of evacuation centers, victims had no way to input their whereabouts on the Web site.

Much of the information on missing people was instead taking the form of handwritten posters at evacuation centers. So Google began asking users to take photos of the posters and upload them on Google’s Picasa online photo sharing service. The company put its sales team of about 100 to work transcribing names from the photos onto Person Finder.

Soon, almost 1,000 photos of names had been uploaded onto Picasa, and Google employees could not keep up. Then, in a development Google had not expected, anonymous users voluntarily started to transcribe the names on the photos, using Picasa’s interactive feature. In the weeks after the tsunami, more than 10,000 photos were transcribed by some 5,000 anonymous volunteers, adding more than 140,000 entries to Person Finder.

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BEAVERTON — Behind the taiko drummers and a troop of girls in big-bowed kimonos, in the corner booth of the Uwajimaya parking lot, Kenji Yokoy sat in the shade Saturday.

Yokoy, a 33-year-old pastor at Japanese International Baptist Church in Tigard, watched visitors revel under the summer sun.

He knew that the same sun blazed over students in Japan who sweated in classrooms without air conditioning or electricity because of the earthquake that struck in March. His church had donated supplies that would help prevent kids from getting heat stroke.

Yokoy and leaders of eight other local Japanese community groups celebrated their culture Saturday at the second annual Natsu Matsuri, or summer festival, and raised money to benefit disaster relief efforts in Japan.

By Dominique Fong, The Oregonian The Oregonian

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Japan Relief Charity Sale – Do your part to help the citizens of Japan recover from the 2011 Tsunami and Earthquake by purchasing a tour book or key chain from the Daryl Hall & John Oates Japan Relief Sale. 100% of the proceeds will go to the Red Cross Japanese Relief Fund.

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