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Aeneas Wilder: Writings Iwate EarthQuake 2011: Diary of basic events in our area.Times are Japanese standard time.

A report from our trip to the affected areas from Kamaishi to Ofunato can be read here. Video documentary of our search for our friends can be seen here. Text and photos from a trip to Otsuchi can be viewed here.


5th April 2011 Another day spent cataloguing the contents of various boxes of releif goods sent from all over Japan. Today was another day when a tour bus arrived at Towa Onsen with refugees from the coast - in this case Kamaishi. The refugees are able to take an onsen bath and relax a little before heading back to their refugee shelter. Naoko has organised a display area and along with her support workers, is able to offer the refugees the opportunity to take whatever they might need and we might have, back with them to their shelter. This system works very well, although it is important to have people there - seen oin the yellow jackets - to assure people that they can really take whatever, and how much ever, they need.  
The tour bus and people trying on some shoes
People selecting items they may need or want
Various items were made available through donations from many people: Towels, heat patches (Hokairo), waterproof clothing, underwear and knitted socks from Finland amongst many other things
4th April 2011

Mr Sawada's body was found yesterday during the huge national three day search for the remaining dead. His body will be cremated on the 7th April. As of the 5th April, central kamaishi will be off limits to the general public as they begin demolishing the entire harbour area. There are many buildings still standing, although they will all be structurally unsound.

  Today I travelled back to Otsuchi with two Towa cho residents, friends of ours who have been helping co-ordinate the relief aid that we have accumulated from far afield. It was not possible to hire a van from a rental company and so we hired a 2 ton truck from our local DIY suoperstore and loaded it up with everything that we had been told was needed or welcomed on the coast. Our main point of contact here is the Tsutsumi kindergarden, which is located next door to the Elementary school on Kirikiri town, just north of Otsuchi city. The kindergarden are acting as a support annex for the refugee centre at the elementary school. Thgis allowed us all to co-ordinate our efforts well and we brought about 80 boxes of goods, soap and other washing things, towels - which are always needed, other cleaning things such as brooms and pans, various food stuffs, shoes, warm clothing and undearwear, heat patches (hokairo) and a large quantity of sports wear, donated by a local cloths shop in Towa cho. Because all clothing is handwashed, people are grateful for any synthetic fabrics as these have a quicker drying time.  
Boxes of things to be taken to Kirikiri
The same items now sitting in the kindergarden in Kirikiri waiting to be dirstributed
  Once we had passed through the mountains and reached the coast it snowed for all the time we were there - about 4 hours. There was a hail storm also when we passed through Kamaishi. It is still very cold although the spring is coming. Everywhere I saw that clean up workers are sprinkling lime. Perhaps in preparation for the warmer weather.  
1st April 2011

The Shinkansen has not resumed since the 11th between Morioka and Koriyama in Fukushima prefecture. They are doing foundation repair work close to Shin Hanamaki - as a well as other places I am sure.There are some local trains, but basically we have been stranded in Iwate. The pertol queues are shorter, but still exist. The earthquakes and tremours contunue. naoko was uder the kitchen table with the children of the house yesterday. naoko's mother and I were outside talking with a neighbour. Basically bouncing up and down on the ground we stood on. The helocopters have never stopped from hanamaki airport to the coast.

  We have been extremely busy over the past 2 weeks, making two rtips to the coast and as well as co-ordinating a grass roots relief effort from our house. Basically, Naoko has drawn on all her contacts - who are all asking how they can help - from across Japan. Now that the delivery systems are functioning we have asked people to send any items needed to our address. From here the contents of each box are itemised and prioritised. Some items have been sent to Sendai today, some items will be taken by us to the coast ( Ando in Otsuchi) on the 4th after they have given us their list of needs and some items are being deposited at Towa Onsen. Towa cho has a well known onsen which is being used as a bath house for refugees. They are bused in from varois locations on the coast. They get a hot meal and bath at the onsen. At the Onsen, Naoko has arranged for a display area to be set up to allow refugees to take whatever items they personally require with them back to their repsective shelter centres. This system works particulary well. You could say, in this case, the mountain is coming to Mohammed.  
  We have several hunders of boxes, from baby wipes to incontinence pants and everything inbetween. I appreciate that many people outside of Japan would like to help in some way. Basically sending money to the red cross would be the best way. We have three accounts currently taking money also. These are being administered by a friend (Yuko Sarudate - the local Sake shop owner) However if you do have cash in Yen that is gathering dust somewhere you can send it to Naoko. Please email me as I don not want to put our home address here. Below are some basic newspaper images from the past few days.  

Information maps.

Right: radiation levels( in black) recorded on the 28-29th March as opposed to the previous recorded average from earlier weeks. It would appear from this map that we are about 200kms from the Fukushima plant and not 300kms as i stated earlier.


Left: costal map showing principal affected areas in Iwate. The pink areas show major affected areas, although in reality the whole coast and evefy small town and village has been affected.

1 Ostuchi 2.Ofunato

3. Rikuzentakada


Newspaper photograph from the 28th March showing Rikuzentakada.

All sandy coloured areas have been affected. The dark area in the centre is cloud cover. In the foreground is aflattened small forest area by the river.

Left: death, missing and injured figures updates on the 29th March. Town/village name order is the same as listed below.

Yamada town, Iwate, 24th March 2011  
24th March

Photographs taken from todays front page Iwate(regional)newspaper. The image (left) shows an aerial view of Yamada town, located north of Otsuchi town. The table lists all known numbers of affected people in Iwate Prefecture by costal town. These list the dead( blue column) the still missing ( pink column) and those reported as injured (green).From top to Bottom the towns are: Rikuzentakada; Ofunato; Sumida Cho; Kamaishi; Otsuchi Cho; Yamada Cho; Miyako; Iwaizumi Cho; Tanohata Village; Fudai Village; Noda Village; Kujishi; Hirono Cho; Other towns and villages. The total counts are the bottom row. The combined totals, of dead or missing, acounts for 43% of the current estimated total number of deaths in Japan from the tsunami/quake, believed to be 18,000 at present.

Spent another morning queuing for petrol in anticipation of a trip to Otsuchi town on Saturday. It was -4C last night. Again, probably a bit warmer on the coast.

23rd March

Parked the car in a queue last night 20:00, about 100 cars back from the petrol station, 10kms from our house. Went there this morning to sit in the car andwait for the 07:00 pump opening. The first 400 cars would get fuel. Relatively hassle free to fill up with 2000 yens worth ( 13.7 litlres). As we have enough fuel again we may make another trip to the coast - to connect with the officials in Otsuchi town - north of Kamaishi - in a few days. Video still being edited!

It was -4c last night and snowed a lot. Many earthquakes/tremours( some big ones)throughout the night and all today.

22nd March

I have been caught up editing video and arranging the subtitles. It wont be finished for a few days yet. We have forgone waiting in another petrol queue yesterday. On a first come first serve basis, 1000 cars were given 2000 yens worth of fuel each today The queuing began at 18:00 the evening before. This was the only petrol ration for the entire hanamaki area, (pop. over 100,000). There will be an additional 400 cars allocated petrol tomorrow morning. We will join that queue tonight. Thyere are sone foods in the shops - no milk however. I hope this is because the Gov are holding it for screening. We dropped dairy from our diet. I see the half life of this disater is about 10 days in the outside press. The Bio-deisil group made a run to Ofunato yesterday. Kazue Sato was brought some more Eggs!

There are many things that people need, once food and warmth have been secured - for example, there are an enormous number of people who have not cleaned their dentures( if they still have them) since the 11th March.

20th March Spent the day editing video, At least three big tremours today. Naoko and I met with some friends and the Bio Diesel people to co-ordinate relief supplies that will be arriving and need to be sorted before being taken to the coast. I hope to get the translation and subtitles finishedtomorrow for the video. It should be good.  
19th March Internet is back in our house. The tremours continue to shake the house periodically and it is lashing ,like a Scottish summer, outside. Currently editing a video of our journey to Kamaishi and Ofunato, which will be posted soon  
Early Morning 18th March 2011 At this stage we have managed to verify that Kazue sato is alive and in Ofunato somewhere. Our friends in Kamaishi - The Sawada family are all in a shelter in the down town area of Kamaishi. The /grandfatheris still unaccounted for at the moment. I saw Sagawa delivery service taking trucks to Kamaishi.  

Thursday 17th March 2011

06:40 queuing for petrol to be given out at 10:00

  It is now the morning of the 17th and I am a bit frustrated about the lack of information. However I try and give an accurate picture of our situation. We are by no means in a disaster situation, like you will have seen on T.V. However, we are all being affected. We had no electricity for at least 48 hours after the quake struck, so no television, only a transistor radio for info. We had no telephone; land or mobile, until Monday and we still have no Internet feed to the house. Currently piggybacking using Naoko’s JICA company computer and airport /mobile card.  
View of the Sarugaishi river, near our house. 07:00 17th March  

Tokyo/Osaka this is not.

We live in a community of approximately 10,000 people, mostly farmers, scattered over a wide area. We are under the jurisdiction of Hanamaki city, a town of about 80,000 people, which is located approximately 10kms away. Hanamaki is about 300kms north of the Fukushima nuclear facility that is in trouble. We (Naoko, Moira, Naoko’s Mother and I) are currently housing Naoko’s sister’s family (Keiko & Ko-chan Ito, and there two children), who have come to stay with us for the time being. Their house, located in our main town of tsuchizawa/Towa-cho, has suffered foundation damage in the initial quake. The house may not be about to fall down, but the quakes and tremours are still occurring – another big one last night around 23:00. Another one just now as I type. At the moment we are eight in the house.

Supermarket Shopping on the morning of the 16th

I went into Hanamaki with my brother-in-law (Ko-chan) to do some shopping, as we needed the basics. Until then I had not ventured beyond the downtown Tsuchizawa area of Towa-cho since Friday.  On the outskirts of Hanamaki we had to queue for about half an hour to get into Big House (a kind of discount supermarket) and were allowed only 2 litres of milk and two packets of Tofu per shopping group! We split up, and so, got 4 of each item we were allowed. There was some fish (frozen Salmon from Chile) and vegetables (carrots potatoes, various mushrooms, cabbage, pumpkins etc), although the tomatoes were definitely on the turn. We went to a further two supermarkets to get some more milk and tofu, but everything was sold out. Dried foods, canned foods and all those lovely chocolate biscuits are still in abundance, as is cheese, always rubbery and outrageously overpriced at the best of times.There were long queues for petrol in Hanamaki, all along Route 4.

  Putting fuel in the car on the 17th May
This morning at 06:00 there was an announcement on community radio saying that petrol would be delivered to the local petrol station at 10:00. Ko-chan and I rushed out of the house immediately and managed to get into line in our cars within 5 minutes. There was already a queue of over 100 cars by this time. Most of who had been sitting there over night. The composite photo here was taken at 06:30. By 07:30 the queue was about 7kms long. By 08:00 a petrol pump attendant was sent to tell everyone beyond a certain point that no fuel would be available this far back - approximately 800 vehicles. I would estimate about the same number again, at least, would have turned back home. All vehicles were rationed with 2000 yen worth of fuel (about 15 GBP), which equates to 13.7 litres per vehicle. I was able to get fuel by 10:30. Ko-chan said that there would be no second delivery of fuel for at least 3 days. After that we still do not know. The cost has jumped by 10%
07:02 on the 17th March.The cars facing away have been queuing since midnight( hence the snow on the roofs), the cars driving towards the camera are all heading to the back of the queue. The last image shows the tail end of the queue. The sign says. No Gasoline left.  
Images of Sun Life supermarket. 17th March 09:00 Between 06:30 and 10:00, I walked into town and back again, asking a few questions here and there. Our local Agricultural Co-op supermarket (about the size of Scotmid half way down Leith walk if that means anything to you) has a sign announcing it has closed from the 16th until further notice. It does have the dried/tinned foods as I saw through the window, but no fresh produce is available. I then walked to the other supermarket – Sun Life – and about the same size. The photos I took show the interior and the exterior. The fruit/veg photo shows all fruit/veg for sale at 09:00( mostly you can see oranges, grapefruit, avocado and Kiwi fruit). The tills are all closed and an impromptu stall has been set up outside where produce is on display – This is the only shop currently selling food within our entire 10,000-population community. Our one convenience store is closed.  
Notice on the door of the Agricultural Co-op supermarket


12:30:A friend of Naoko’s has just phoned asking if I know if the shops are open and selling food in Hanamaki today? Anyone here in Towa now needing food essentials will have to drive 20kms round trip.
13:00:Ko-chan has said that there will be a delivery of basic produce at Sun Life today from 14:00. All fresh produce will have gone by this evening, I expect – except those avocados.

18:00: As I passed this evening, Sun life is closed for business.

As you can see its not as bad as it might sound, also most people will have stocked up. However, there is little fuel in everyone’s cars, and in a rural community almost everyone drives to work. The Kamaishi-Hanamaki train line has been out since Friday and will not be resuming any time soon. I guess everyone within Hanamaki is walking to work. Naoko’s mother was told that the main petroleum supplier for the whole of Tohoku, north of Sendai, was damaged in some way and so they are not able to deliver petrol to this whole region. Iwate, Aomori and Akita are the three most northern prefectures, all predominantly rural. The combined population total is around 15 million people. I guess we are all being rationed petrol and fresh produce at the moment, although I can only verify what we are experiencing here in Towa Cho.

During this morning I spotted a large truck arriving at the Japan Agriculture warehouses around 08.30 and went to speak to the driver. He told me the truck contained fertilizer for rice growing, not any food or other practical supplies. I asked some people how long they had been queuing for petrol and they said the have been waiting for fuel since 21:00 the night before.

  Towa Cho is on the main road to Kamaishi and there are Japan defence force trucks and Red Cross trucks to be seen heading to Kamaishi. Here is a link to our colleagues who visited Kamaishi yesterday. It is all in Japanese but has some photos taken in the last few days.The road is therefore now open again. The helicopters are still to be heard and seen all day. However, most people have little or no fuel in their vehicles and so cannot travel any great distance – not the 200 + kms round trip to Kamaishi unless they want to use up their ration of petrol. However, Naoko and I hope to go tomorrow or the day after, with a small group of people utilising vegetable oil and diesel vehicles. We will know more about this tonight and hope to bring essential supplies. I want to go with our car – and have been wanting to since Sunday – but we are not absolutely sure where our friends are located in Kamaishi. Their house was definitely ruined. They lived about 100m from the harbour front but the family are all definitely alive. We have heard nothing yet about Kazue Sato and her (elderly) parents.  

Fukushima Dai-Ichi power reactors.

Basically, all I know is what I see on NHK News, read on Kyodo news, BBC and The Guardian. In reality there is little we can do – except carry on or flee the country.We are keeping Moira and the Ito children indoors since Monday. It has been snowing each night for the past three nights and I can only assume that there is (low level?) radiation around and about. I would prefer to stay a bit longer to help people in Kamaishi if possible. We have a big enough house with all facilities working as normal – Internet aside. In Kamaishi they have the clothes they fled in and what the self-defence force brings in. There is a basic lack of everything there down to a change of underwear.

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