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Living in the Earthquake Aftermath in Koriyama, Japan

AAA member, Yoko Ikeda lives in Koriyama-city in Fukushima prefecture with her family. She is a recent graduate from the Graduate Center, City University of New York with a Ph.D. in anthropology. Here she gives an account of her experience living in Japan in the earthquake aftermath. Thank you, Yoko!

Koriyama is in the middle part of Fukushima prefecture, not near the ocean at all.  My city was not affected by the devastating tsunami. Some buildings were damaged when the March 11 earthquake hit, but houses around my house had only minor structural damage, if any. Most people reported that much of the damage occurred from things falling inside the house and made quite a mess – the same was true for mine.  Although parts of this city are without water and electricity, my area got them back within the same day of the earthquake.  I believe nobody was killed or seriously injured in my city, although it is possible that such news has not been widely reported because of the massive disasters going on in many other places.  

We are still getting many aftershocks. It is unbelievable how often we are having earthquakes each day. Even though we are used to earthquakes in general, what we’ve been experiencing now is unprecedented.  

Many evacuees from the nuclear power plant area are here. There is no evacuation order or restriction to be outside in Koriyama right now and many stores are open.  Because of the massive scale of the problem Japan now faces, there is some scarcity of gasoline and heating oil here, too. It seems that we are getting enough food supplies in stores that are open, but people often have to get in line to get in some grocery stores right now and the lines at the checkout are pretty long – 30 minutes to an hour at the store my mother went to. 

Photo courtesy Emotinal Black

Many businesses are open and people are going to work, but the limited gasoline supply makes commutes stressful. Transportation services are limited due to the damage to roads and railways. Long-distance busses just began running again or are about to resume on a limited basis. I don’t think there is train service in my city at this time.  And given the shortage of gasoline, people do not feel comfortable going too far, unless they absolutely have to. I’ve heard many people complain that they feel stuck at their location due to the gasoline shortage.

I think that the biggest concern for people in Koriyama is what is happening with the broken nuclear power plant.  Some people are worried about the nuclear power plant situations and have left the city; but for now, the overwhelming majority is here, living as normally as possible. Some people are taking radiation precautions by trying to minimize their time outside, and if they have to go out they wear a mask and hat. I hardly have been outside myself, but I don’t really have to since I am currently job hunting. Continue reading

Inside Looking Out, Part Three

Pamela Runestad, a PhD candidate in medical anthropology at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, continues her account from Japan. Here is an excerpt:

…[O]ne of my interviewees in Osaka told me on Friday: “Ms. Pamela, I really want to talk to you. But please understand that I’m not quite myself today. I’m from Sendai…”

Despite his initial note of caution, however, this man talked with me for four hours and then we talked over dinner for another two. Sometimes acting “normal” helps get you back to feeling normal.

To read the full “Inside Looking Out, Part Three,”  go to the Triangle Center for Japanese Studies. Also be sure to check out Part One and Part Two.

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