Aftershocks 4

View Tohoku Earthquake Map in a larger map

The (fairly accurate) numbers:

  • Over 11,000 people have been confirmed dead, more than 2700 have been injured and more than 17,000 are still missing.
  • Over 243,000 people are in shelters
  • Over 177,000 people have been evacuated (so far) from the area in Fukushima around the nuclear power plants.
  • Over 192,000 homes still have no electricity and 530,000 have no water.
  • Over 19,000 buildings were completely destroyed.
  • Damage estimates so far are as high as 25 trillion yen ($309 billion). (This estimate includes only damage to buildings, roads, and other infrastructure)
  • Already, 133 countries and 39 international organizations have offered to help.
  • The earthquake moved Honshu (the main Japanese island)  2.4 meters (7.9 feet) east and shifted the Earth’s axis by almost 10 centimeters (3.9 inches).
  • There have been over 800 earthquakes since March 11th. Many of them have been over magnitude 5. (I’m mesmerized each time I visit this data visualization of the quakes.)

What the numbers don’t show

  • First responders (mostly law enforcement and Self Defense Force members) are hurting (mentally and physically) after recovering 11,000 bodies over the past two weeks. (Until someone finds a body, people remain on the missing list)
  • Soldiers who are providing portable baths and hot meals for evacuees have been working in miserable conditions without baths and hot food for themselves.
  • Electric company employees are still trying to keep the nuclear reactors in Fukushima from becoming a bigger disaster than Japan already faces, working in very harsh conditions with very little support–they sleep for 3 hours at a time, sitting in chairs, don’t have water for bathing or toilets, and have not had real food (Calorie Mate bars don’t count as real food) since they started working on the reactors (2 weeks ago).
  • People have disappeared who will never be listed as missing because no one in their family or neighborhood (or city hall) was left alive to report.
  • No one knows how many pets were killed in the earthquake, swept away by the tsunami, or left behind during evacuation to fend for themselves. While most rescue efforts focus on people, there are relief organizations whose focus is animals. Most of these are Japan-based, but you can donate through Humane Society International if you wish).

The saddest story I heard today: An elementary school in Ishinomaki had 108 students and 13 teachers and staff before March 11th. After the earthquake, everyone made it to their evacuation area–the playground. They were standing on the playground when the tsunami hit, sweeping away all but 34 students and 3 teachers.

Collections of photos on’s Big Picture tell a visual story of the past two weeks.

What people are doing and how you can help

It seems like everyone is trying to help: donating money, donating goods, donating time, offering places to escape grim reality for awhile, offering places to live and jobs,  holding charity events, donating proceeds from sales. Some of the contributions have been very large and very public, but there is even more happening that is unheralded.

I want to let you know about what four groups are doing to help. I’ve chosen these four because they cover a range of relief activities, they accept international donations, they utilize those donations very efficiently, and I have either worked with, supported, or know people involved (so I feel comfortable recommending the groups).

Hope International Development Agency Japan

Hope Japan is about as grassroots as it gets. They’re based in Nagoya, and (with Global Medic) have been collecting supplies (especially medical supplies) and trucking and flying them up to Tohoku daily. They announce what they need, folks bring it to the collection center, and when the truck is full it heads to the disaster area. You can read the organization and donate through their website. You can follow their daily reports, see photos, and get updated lists of needs on Hope Japan’s facebook page.

Things you should know about Hope’s efforts (via Chuck Sandy):

1) The donation drive at the Nagoya Hilton is ongoing and everything collected is getting to people in need via truck and helicopter daily. A whole community of new volunteers has come together to help.

2) This is a long term effort and soon we will be moving into the recovery and rebirth phase in which the help needed will be clean-up, rebuilding, and reinvention

3) The group has a continued commitment to spreading HOPE clubs throughout Japanese schools to in part aid in that recovery phase while at the same time continuing to help around the world where aid is needed most. We’ll also be moving ahead with Design For Change which seems especially relevant at this time. Anyone interested should contact Chuck Sandy (@chucksandy on Twitter).

4) There will be a Hafu Film / HOPE benefit for Tohoku on April 23rd at Shooters (in Nagoya)  with music by John Janzen, a presentation by the Hafu Film team, and pechakucha by area students. It will be 3000 yen at the door with 2000 yen going to featured causes.

Peace Boat

The folks with Peace Boat have been especially successful at getting supplies to smaller evacuation centers and hospitals whose patients have run out of food. Their volunteers have also been clearing mud and muck out of buildings. For people who want to physically go to Tohoku and help, Peace Boat is training teams of volunteers. You can get more details about donating, and volunteering on their website. You can follow their daily reports (and see videos) on their facebook page.

Second Harvest Japan

The day of the earthquake, Second Harvest set up an emergency soup kitchen to feed people who were either stuck in the city, or trying to walk home (without trains or electricity). On the 13th, they were one of the first aid organizations to get a truckload of supplies into the disaster area (by tagging along with a CNN crew). They’ve been taking food and supplies into Tohoku, and feeding people there, ever since. For every 1000 yen donated, Second Harvest is able to provide 10,000 yen worth of food. You can read more about the organization, and donate on their website. You can follow their relief efforts on their blog.

Save the Children

Save the Children estimates that over 100,000 children have been affected by the disasters (especially the tsunami), many profoundly. They are at risk in evacuation centers and homes with no heat, no electricity, no water, and little food. Save the Children is setting up Child-Safe Spaces in evacuation centers so that children can play with other children while parents take care of relief and recovery needs. Their people are trained to help identify children who are vulnerable, and are training others to help children cope with sometimes profound loss, constant fear of aftershocks, and an eventual return to “normalcy” and school. You can read about their efforts and donate on their website and read reports from the field on their blog.

If you are trying to help children or students deal with trauma, I recommend this article from Daily Yomiuri Online.

One of the reasons I admire these four groups is that they are expanding their efforts to help with relief and recovery in Tohoku, not taking aid away from other, equally needy and vulnerable groups around the world. Hope is still helping the poorest of the poor around the world. Peace Boat is still working to promote human rights, social change, and environmental awareness around the world. Second Harvest is still feeding the homeless in Tokyo. Save the Children is still protecting, feeding, and advocating for children in other danger spots around the world. They’re being very careful to avoid creating new victims while they help victims in Japan.

I think that’s very good way to be. The disaster in Japan is huge, and very well documented. With so many pictures, videos, and live updates, it’s easy to feel connected to what is happening in Japan. It’s a good chance to direct some of that compassion to areas that still need help, but don’t get the same amount of news coverage. Consider allowing your donation to be used “where the need is greatest” or (even better) donating twice–once for Tohoku, and once for the general aid fund.

How you can help, even if you can’t donate money, or goods, and don’t live in Japan

For the most part, it’s not worth mailing goods to Japan for relief efforts. Postage will probably cost more than the value of anything in the box. Some people can’t afford to donate money, and some people live in countries where it is very difficult (or impossible) to send money abroad.

You can still help. Here are three simple ideas.

1. Donate your time, donate food or clothing, or donate money to an organization in your own community. If we can do a better job of taking care of those who need help in our own backyards, it allows the big organizations to focus more effectively on emergency situations around the world.

2. Donate blood. There’s always a need.

3. Have your students identify something that they would like to change in their own community, and figure out a way to change it. If this idea appeals to you, I encourage you (and your students) to become part of Design For Change.

4. Leave a message on the We Love Japan message board. $1 is still being donated to the Japan Relief Fund for each message (until March 31st).

Caring and compassion can create ripples around the world more powerful than any aftershock or tsunami.


Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

About Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto

Barbara Hoskins Sakamoto has taught English and ESL in the US, and EFL in Japan. An EFL teacher and teacher trainer since 1985, she has conducted workshops throughout Asia, the USA and Latin America. Barbara’s motto is ‘Always try new things’, so these days, when she’s not teaching, writing, or giving workshops, she’s exploring the potential of new technologies for collaboration and professional development. You can often find Barbara online working with teachers around the world as Program Director for International Teacher Development Institute ( or on her new blog for English teaches who work with young learners, Teaching Children English.

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18 Responses

  1. Marc Helgesen says:

    Thanks for posting this. It means a lot to those of us in Sendai.

    The only one that I would add is that Pearson Foundation is matching donations so if, for example, someone gives 25,000 yen, that automatically becomes 50,000 yen (Sendai JALT just did that).

    YOu can donate at:
    Pearson Foundation is matching donations for the Tohoku Earthquake. The account is open until March 31. Go to any bank and transfer you donation to:
    三井住友銀行 新宿西口支店 当座 0268909
    口座名義 カ)ピアソンキリハラ

    MitsuiSumitomo Ginko Shinjuku Nishiguchi shiten Toza 0268909
    Kozamegi: (Kabushikigaisha) Pearson Kirihara.

    Has to be done by midnight Thursday.

    Thanks again for your good work.



  2. Mathew says:

    Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support ( is doing great work providing food, shelter, and medicine for animals (and their human families) affected by the disaster.

    JEARS is the coordinated effort of 3 no-kill shelters in Japan that quickly mobilized to bring supplies into the region, offer shelter for pets in need of a home, and reunite lost pets with their owners.

    Please check them out. They update about their activities regularly on facebook as well.

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Thanks, Mathew.

      I didn’t realize that Jears could accept overseas donations–they are doing great work! Here’s the link to their facebook page, for anyone who wants to see updates about their ongoing efforts to help animals and their human families:

  3. Lacy says:


    Thank you so much for writing this post and sharing such great information. It’s so helpful to hear from someone on the ground in Japan. We will be sure to pass on this post through our social media outlets.


  4. Chiew Chiew says:

    So well-written, Barb, and so to the point. I’m sure it will generate more help. It is only too easy to forget as the papers move on to more current headlines, Libya, for example. Ironically, the nuclear catastrophe has helped maintained Japan more-or-less in the news, but, obviously, not as much as the first week. Burma hardly got any news. I tweeted on it, but not having many followers, it never got retweeted. And I read one tweet saying she looked all over NY Times that day and no mention of Burma at all! Anyway, that was me digressing as usual.
    I will do my bit to keep the news going – it’s so easy not to remember that the hard work comes after the disasters.

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Thanks, Chiew. I’m so sorry I missed your tweet on Burma–I would have retweeted! With my time zone, I’m afraid I miss a great number of things as I don’t have as much time to scroll back through my twitter timeline as I would like.

      As great as the need is here (and it’s only going to get bigger in the immediate future) I do worry about other problems that are happening in countries where folks don’t have so many cell phone cameras and videos and easy access to YouTube to share. It’s easy to care about things you can see, and people you feel like you know.

      Thanks for caring about them, too!

  5. Harrowing reading Barbara, but good to know that help is actually getting through even though it seems to be so little compared with what is needed. At the moment it is hard to see that they will ever get to a time of recovery. Thanks for posting. My very best wishes are with everyone out there.

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Thank you, Carol. There are still areas where evacuation centers are quite isolated and difficult for relief workers to access. The scariest cases are when residents have stayed in their homes (living on the 2nd floor of a flooded house with no water or electricity). Workers might not even know they’re there, and there’s no way for the residents to know that food has arrived at the nearest center. I know that volunteers are going door to door in the worst hit areas, trying to find victims who might have slipped through the cracks.

  6. Stephen Balon says:

    I really appreciated the work and heart you put into today’s blog. It should go a long way in keeping the hope alive throughout the world and everyone who is touched by this. Domo arigato gozaimasu.

  7. louise young says:

    ” volunteers live in Japan speak Japanese and English, one british one canadian….9 days unpaid off work to volunteer…..we have japanese driving licenses and a network which includes JEARS and beds in Osaka which spread to Okinawa……where can we go to help someone needs us…heading up from Osaka to niigata area tomorrow??? English teachers Japan 5 years great with kids animals or oldies….?????

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      I’m sorry I missed your message earlier, Louise. I hope you were able to find a group able to utilize your offer.

  8. Barbara, trusting that you won’t object, I am copying and posting the second half of this about organizations to support, on my blog His Scribbler, to give this information even wider circulation. People have been asking about the children so I especially appreciated the links related to their needs.

    I grew up in post-World War 2 Hiroshima where my dad, Dr. Earle Reynolds, was sent by the US government to study the effects of radiation on Japanese children. His findings motivated our whole family to protest nuclear weapons–sailing into the American nuclear testing zone in 1958 and to the USSR in 1960. I was also a college student at ICU in Tokyo for two years and still have friends there.

    Needless to say this triple disaster touches me deeply and I have been devoting 5-6 posts a day to relevant topics: radiation, iodine-rich foods, prayer requests, positive action, good resources and organizations, heroes, happy endings, personal observations–and even poetry!

    God bless all of you, writers and readers alike!

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Of course I don’t object! Thank you for sharing your story, too. What an interesting world you grew up in!

  9. ana says:

    hi barbara.. thanks for reaching out on twitter so that i could learn more about you here. this is a wonderful post. heartbreaking too. thank you for taking the time to share this with others. i’m a big believer in the ripple effect… thanks for throwing the pebble into the pond.

    • Barbara Barbara says:

      Thank you, Ana. Social media tools like Twitter are amazing in the way they allow us to connect with others. I’m glad to have met you, too!