The Story of “3.11 Surviving Japan” is a true story of the events that happened after the March 11th Earthquake, Tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan as witness by American Volunteer Christopher Robert Noland.
Christopher Noland, a Seattle native, moved to Tokyo, Japan March 2010 and had lived in Japan almost on year to the day prior to the disaster. On the day of the earthquake, Christopher had been out the entire night filming a concert in Shimokitazawa, a popular Tokyo neighborhood. At 2:46 p.m., he was awakened by a life changing event, the Earthquake struck, and life changed forever. The next day the Fukushima nuclear power plant exploded, making life uncertain for everyone. Being in an unfamiliar place and situation was not new to Christopher, but the magnitude definitely was. Christopher opted to stay in Japan and stick it out, not knowing what would await him.
Fears of radiation fall-out kept him inside for the first two weeks, to minimize the exposure to the Iodine that had been released from the Fukushima Triple meltdown. Much of the power was off or at minimal use in Tokyo and it was plagued with hourly aftershocks, it was like living on a boat that you were unsure if it was going to sink or not, Christopher said, it was truly a test of one’s patience.
As bad as the aftershocks were, the thought crossed his mind, he still had a place to live but other people had completely lost their homes in the Tsunami. Christopher immediately went online to search for volunteer opportunities in the disaster zone, but was rejected many times because he was not “fluent” in Japanese. Christopher started volunteering locally in Tokyo helping to package aid for the survivors and serving meals for refugees that had made it all the way down to Tokyo.
After two weeks, an e-mail finally came, inviting him to volunteer with a group in Ofunato City in the Iwate prefecture, that had been badly damaged by the Tsunami. Christopher cancelled all his freelance commitments and completed his last English lesson that day, went and bought supplies and made the plan to go to Ofunato.
The High-Speed train or Shinkansen was still not operating, so Christopher had to take a bus all the way up to Morioka and transfer to another bus to reach Ofunato. Christopher remembers how beautiful the Cherry blossoms and the mountains were as the bus made its descent. The thought started to occur, “where was this huge disaster?” and then.. the bus turned…
For miles you could see the damage. It looked like a war without weapons or people. Entire Buildings and house had been picked up and thrown against each other, it was unlike anything Christopher has ever seen in his entire life, especially with his own eyes.
The volunteer camp was inside a compromised building just outside the Tsunami zone. It was like camping indoors, there was no electricity, showers or bathrooms. The people of the town were so grateful to the volunteers they came every evening to make them dinner. Those who had working power and bathing rooms allowed the volunteers to come in groups to their homes to wash off. A bath came maybe once a week. Most of the emergency response work had been completed so it was a matter of sorting people’s homes out to be torn down and possibly rebuilt. The Town at the time was still deciding what to do with the area that had been damaged by the Tsunami.
The nuclear issue was an elephant in the room. It existed but no one wanted to talk about it. No one meaning no pubic official or news media. They just insisted everything was ok, but that just made the worry grow amongst Christopher and the People. Then one day, a video surfaced on Youtube of Mayor Sakurai of Minami-Soma, pleading for help in a town near the crippled Fukushima power plant. Upon seeing the video, Christopher decided to start asking more questions for the people who were not getting answers, and that is what led him on the journey that ended up becoming “3.11 Surviving Japan”.