An automobile shipping yard at Hitachinaka city in Ibaraki prefecture shows hundreds of cars thrown together like pebbles on a beach by the massive force of the tidal wave. Note the rows of cars halfway up stacked almost neatly, each one jammed on the hood of the one behind. Photographer unknown. Photo: AFP/Getty Images, from The Big Picture at boston.com
Dominating the day, concern for our friends in Japan. See the extensive feature "Massive earthquake hits Japan" at The Big Picture at boston.com for a selection of the terrible and amazing images that are already coming out of the affected area.
Picture number 40 at the link shows schoolchildren in the western Indian city of Ahmedabad holding signs that echo the world's reaction, and ours: "Japan we are with you"; "Japan we share your grief."
(Thanks to IG and others)
ADDENDUM: Thom Hogan of bythom.com is reporting (there's no direct link; go to his site and scroll down to the news item titled "Japan Quakes") that Nikon's Sendai plant is potentially endangered by the tsunami. Thom notes, "Initial reports said that the Nikon plant was not significantly affected, but almost certainly there are power, people, transportation, and perhaps even more issues that will directly impact the plant, even if it wasn't hit with the water." Nikon Sendai is Nikon's flagship DSLR plant, where the D700, D3x, and D3s are built. The anticipated D700 replacement and the upcoming D4 would also be manufactured there.
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Original contents copyright 2011 by Michael C. Johnston and/or the bylined author. All Rights Reserved.
Featured Comment by Steven Ralser: "If you look at cobbles in a river, you will see they also line up like this. This is called imbrication, and it can be used to tell which way the current flowed. (Bringing out the geologist in me.)"
Featured Comment by Dean Johnston*: "I'm out of Japan at the moment, staying in New Zealand, and arrived not long before the Christchurch earthquake here.
"Yesterday I just by chance Skyped my friend in Tokyo at the exact moment he came inside from being out in the earthquake. He was visibly upset, and described cars bouncing around on the road and hunks of the ceiling at his local train station falling in. I could still see his apartment shaking, so I had a live feed for the aftershocks.
"Right this moment I'm skyping him with instructions on how to turn his gas back on, as he can't read the instructions off the internet (neither can I, my wife's doing the translating). Isn’t the internet great!
"I know people who were in the Christchurch earthquake, and they greatly appreciated the concern and support from afar, and I know the folks who read TOP in Japan will too, so thank you for that."
*No relation to Mike, but a longtime reader of TOP who lives in Japan.
Featured Comment by David H.: "Although the quake was quite strong in Tokyo (I believe it was about 5 here) and was the strongest I have experienced in my 11 years in Tokyo, the damage in this part of Japan is relatively light. The last information I have is that 5 died in Tokyo, 9 in Chiba just north of Tokyo, and 3 in Kanagawa prefecture (Yokohama/Kawasaki etc).
"The worst damage was in the tsunami hit areas including Miyagi and Iwate prefectures. Sendai looks badly affected from reports on TV, but I am not sure I'd say it was 'leveled.'
"I had just gotten home at 2:30 pm and a few minutes later a tremor began. That's nothing unusual for Tokyo, but it lasted a bit too long and then increased in intensity and continued to increase. Not sure how long it lasted, but it seemed 2–3 minutes. Still, my neighborhood near Denenchofu/Okusawa/Jiyugaoka seems mostly undamaged. The biggest effect was the stoppage of trains which had people walking hours or buying bicycles to get home.
"I have seen several photos on Flickr which purport to show the skies over Tokyo filled with smoke from fires after the quake. However, most of that was clouds as it began to rain as far away from central Tokyo as Yokohama within 30 minutes or so of the quake. Although there were a number of fires, including a large gas tank fire in Chiba, they weren't large enough fill the skies of such a large with smoke over such a short period.
"The Tokyo area is still being hit with aftershocks—the strongest in hours hit as I typed this—but life in my neighborhood seems to have mostly returned to normal. Surreal considering the loss of life and tremendous damage in the northern parts of the country and the reports of a possibility of a meltdown at a Fukushima nuclear plant."
Featured Comment by Jim Kofron: "Sigma's factory in Aizu has been damaged as well, but no one was hurt in the quake. This comes from tweets from Kazuto Yamaki, Sigma's COO. Prayers for everyone dealing with this disaster."
Featured Comment by Joe Cameron: "With all due respect, this is not an appropriate time to worry about the availability of Nikon DSLR cameras...."
Response by Thom Hogan: "Everyone who's emailed me isn't exactly worried about product availability. It's a form of displacement, really. If you don't personally know any of the people in Japan, you know them through the products they've created or the plant that created them. Thus, concern about Sendai is really concern about the people that work at Sendai. At least that's how I read it."
Featured Comment by Ken Tanaka: "I have to loudly agree with Joe Cameron. Concerns of camera supply interruptions are utterly inappropriate and tasteless in the immediate wake of such a horrific natural disaster."
Mike replies: I think Joe and Ken are absolutely right, but I also think Thom's right. People need to bring big disasters back down to human scale. "Six million Jews murdered in Germany" is not a human disaster—it's an abstraction. Too big a number, and simultaneously not enough to wrap one's mind around. But The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank—that is all too human, intensely heartfelt, extremely relatable. It's the details that we can relate to.
It's just the sort of specificity at which photography excels, by the way—maybe "Bosnian atrocities" is not a relatable concept, but a photograph of a nicely-dressed matron of Sarajevo in high heels running across an area where she is exposed to snipers, her face a mask of fear and anxiety—that can give me a physical reaction, it's so immediate and so visceral. I find it difficult not to sympathize with her—difficult not to imagine myself in the same situation.
I'll tell you where my thoughts went when I read Thom's post. First, to the local park where I tried out John C.'s loaned Nikon D3; then, to my memories of photographs I've seen of workers in lab coats and hair nets at Nikon Sendai, men and women who might well have worked on the very camera I held in my hand—and from there to my own imaginings of those peoples' immediate and short-term crises—is my family okay? Is my home damaged? Who do I know who lives near the water? How can I help? Will I have a job to go to next week? Do I have electricity? Am I insured? Do we have food?
How that person might be experiencing the earthquake and the tsunami gives me a window into the event. I'm not saying Joe and Ken aren't correct. And I'm certainly not trying to lecture them or anybody else, don't get me wrong. But both tragedy and sympathy lie in specific cases, I suspect, not just big statistics. Talking about Nikon Sendai is a way of saying, hey, you and I know these people—they're part of our lives.
Featured Comment by Marcelo Guarini: "Last year, February 27th to be precise, we had a massive 8.8 quake here in Chile. Its characteristics were quite similar to the one that now hitted Japan. It was the last day of our summer vacations and we were at 160 miles from the epicenter. The shake was so intense that we were not be able to stand in our feet. It lasted for more than three minutes. Most of the breakable things in our summer vacation cottage were broken (dishes, glasses, bottles, etc.). Fortunately Chile is quite an unpopulated country, twice the size of Japan with only 17 million people, so there were only around 550 killed people, most of them also due to the tide waves. An advantage of Chilean geography, which also contributed to the small number of victims, is that the land elevates very quickly from sea level. Two days after the quake, we draw from our vacation place to Santiago, a 6 to 7 hours trip took us almost 24 hours. We saw a lot of destruction in our way. It was very sad. What I see now in the pictures from Japan is much worst, and makes me feel very sad and very sorry for the people in Japan. I really hope those nuclear reactors don't melt down, it will be horrible if that happens."