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Friday, 11 March 2011


According to Ken Rockwell, there is a Nikon plant in Sendai. The town was leveled, it is unclear what happened to the plant.


Thanks for posting this. Here's hoping the people of Japan know we are with them.

I believe the Nikon plant is more than five miles inland and unaffected by flooding, though damaged to some extent by the quake and obviously affected by the loss of transport links and other basic facilities.

However I am sure many Nikon employees are directly affected in a human context by the immensity of the tragedy that is unfolding. Many must have had families on or near the coast.

To them, and indeed anyone who is affected by this awful event, I am sure I echo many sentiments here by expressing my deepest sympathies and concern.


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.

I don't know what to say, except that I am very sorry for the proud people of Japan and Nikon ...

Just horror,sheer horror.

While the coastal area near Sendai was indeed hit by the tsunami and it did overwhelm the airport, which is very near the coast, note that "Sendai" is a term applied to a fairly large area. The Nikon plant is more inland in an area called Natori. There is conflicting information coming in about that particular area, but I don't think that the water reached that far.

Thanks, Mike. The photo sequence is so sad.

The nuclear power plants situation in Japan
is troublesome to say the least. It gives
pause to us lowering the dependency on oil
by increasing nuclear power plant capacity.

I've watched you add Featured Comments since you first posted this story, and I want to say thank you. Thank you for offering a safe, moderated space for people to talk about what happened. It is a great relief to be able to hear each other's views without a froth of quickly-posted misinformation and ill-considered ranting.

Secondly, it is night in Japan again, and it is still cold in Northern Japan: 32F/0C right now. A great many people have had to scramble for shelter from the cold, hoping that it it safe, and presumably a great many more had to walk many miles from where they were stranded when their trains were stopped. Take a spin on Google Earth (if you have it) and check out Iwate Prefecture. Mountains, with a few flat river valley plains inland, with small suburbs, tiny towns, and farmland. Not the highly-populated urban Japan of our imagination. The same latitude as the Baltimore-Washington area, if you want a feel for the day-length and inland climate. Not a comfortable place to get stranded.

The forecast for the rest of the week is looks like this:
59°F | 32°F
48°F | 37°F
Chance of Snow
41°F | 32°F
Partly Sunny
39°F | 28°F

This is where donations to groups like the Red Cross can help - really basic needs, like staying warm, are easy to fund, and straightforward to supply, no matter where you are.

Mike, you might also like John Sypal's snapshots of the effects of the earthquake in Tokyo. (He says he's just fine, btw.)
I point them out because they aren't disaster-y things like you see on the news, but rather, a set of snapshots of the mundane things he happened to see.


Apropos Mike's comments regarding our need to put a human scale on disaster to understand the magnitude of it, this montage of video from Japanese TV that is now on CNN does a pretty good job of it.


Approximately one third of the way in, you will see the now famous scene of the debris-laden waters going over fields and destroying vinyl hot houses. According to other links with this footage, the scene is on the north side of the Natori River in Sendai. The Nikon plant is on the south side of the same river.

I am cannot provide any distances between the video footage adnd the plant at present, and I not inferring such waters hit the workesr, but this footage does give us brief glimpse into their world for the present, and the foreseeable future.

The Japanese meteorological agency has downgraded the tsunami threat to "warning" (chuiho; possibility, but not imminent) from "alarm" (keiho; strong possibility, or presently occurring--take cover). The number of aftershocks has also decreased, hence the event appears to be winding down for moment, but the possibility of strong aftershocks still remains.

According to another CNN source, significant parts of the Japanese landmass actually shifted nearly two meters laterally. In the early hours of the day after the main quake, there was another strong trembler to the west, in the mountains of Nagano. Then yesterday evening, there was an aftershock yet still further to the west in Niigata. I am not a geologist, so I cannot make informed arguments about the interconnections between these events; as a novice, I just take this sequence as a reflection of the enormous pressures exerted by the quake.

So very sadly, we humans and our creations cannot withstand such direct hits.

Google Japan has created this site to help people find those affected. I cannot confirm its efficacy as I do not have information on its sources. (In my one try to find a friend in Ibaragi, I was given a hit in Sendai, so it did not work as hoped in this particular case.) Nonetheless, I have included the link for those who wish to try it:


Tokyo and Yokohama were affected (many friends could not get home), but the major cities are returning to something of a normal state. Our area in Fujisawa was utterly unaffected. Even the lights did not go out.

Now, if such a quake hit to the SOUTH of Yokohama in the waters of Sagami Bay ........... we would be dealing with a lot more that what you see on TV. The durability of the buildings in Tokyo reflect the strong building codes here, and the generally settled response on the part of individual people is a testament to their resilience. But, there are tens of million people in the greater Tokyo region. This time the quake as in the early afternoon, so people could see. If it struck in the evening in the winter, for example, you would have millions in downtown Tokyo who are disoriented, injured, worried about families, and so on. NHK did a special on earthquakes not long ago, and planners expect up to a million such people to try an walk out of the centers to their homes. It would be a grim, grim set of conditions.


respectfully, I'd like to offer a different, and darker, opinion from Thom Hogan.

Firstly, this is an opinion. I certainly don't have any first hand knowledge of what is going on in Sendai. I know from Thom's own writings that he has many contacts, and probably friends in Sendai. But my comment is not about the closeness he has, or the distance I have. Rather, it is about the nature of internet comment, to which we are all exposed, and any one of us can choose to keep surfing into deeper pools.

Thom says: "...Thus, concern about Sendai is really concern about the people that work at Sendai. At least that's how I read it."

Maybe I am jaundiced, or maybe I am right. If you look at a range of internet fora, from "well respected" (TOP, Nikonians are just 2 examples) through to trash-talking sites, there are many - but not a majority - comments expressing what I hope we would all feel, that human life is more important than the next camera release. But equally, there are many many comments that utterly discount the human angle, and wonder about the impact on new model release schedules, or company viability. One comment I saw particularly disgusted me: coming at the tail end of a rather dull Canon vs Nikon thread, the Canon supporter gloated that the tsunami would screw Nikon.

I suppose what this boils down to in my mind is that Thom Hogan has got some particularly "good-minded" interlocutors. Actually, that doesn't surprise me. But I think it is also an inescapable conclusion that there are - contrary to Thom's post - those on the internet who are more worried about product availability than the human impact, and that their number is not insignificant. In fact, it may not be a minority, and certainly will not be a minority after the rolling news caravan has moved on, sometime early next week.

One of my first thoughts, after ascertaining that my daughter in Tokyo, my cousin and his wife in Nagoya, and their large circles of citizen and expat friends were okay and settled safely in their homes, was about the Nikon plant in Sendai. And no, I'm not worried about where my next camera and lenses will come from and how much they'll cost. I'm concerned because it's a place where talented and creative people perform the kind of craftsmanship we TOP readers appreciate. And if that craftsmanship is disrupted by loss of life, health or property, it's a legitimate thing to be concerned about. Mike and Thom said it well, it's the humans and their personal endeavors that we are feeling for.

OK, so let's bring this down to a personal level. Here's what I learned today:

When you consider that the Daiichi-1 reactor *survived* a 9.0 magnitude scale earthquake (The Reichter scale was abandoned 20 years ago!), and only encountered problems when the 6 backup generators were taken offline by a 30' tsunami, I'd say the engineers did a fine-*ss job building for a 7.9 magnitude temblor.

It's important to remember that Daiichi-1 reactor was due to be taken off line forever on Mar 26th of this year. Decommissioned.

I learned today that the Spanish word for earthquake is "temblor".

I learned that Daiichi-1 was built in 1967, and went online in 1970.

I learned what a BWR is, and the significant improvements that have been made since the GE3 designs were first put into production.

I learned that "meltdown" first entered popular vocabulary with "The China Syndrome", a movie that was technologically way inaccurate, and that "meltdown" is not a technical term with a quantifiable definition.

I learned that even if a meltdown (whatever that means) occurs at Daiichi or Daini, it won't be like Chernobyl.

I feel ashamed of the dingleberries who think this is karmic justice for Pearl Harbor, and ashamed that it took this series of disasters to make me go in search of information. But I am working on reducing my own ignorance.

Good night, and peace be with Japan and the world.

Alex Vesey

Thanks for the link. I've passed it on.


My wife is Japanese and I have lived in Japan for short periods, so, like many people around the world, I have family and friends in Japan. They all seem to be ok but though the vast scale of this disaster is too great to truly comprehend, having a direct personal connection does bring home the nature of the human tragedy.

I worry about the human ... "No man is an island" ultimately.

However, one has to argue that in a photographer site, talk about the Nikon aspect is appropriate. In particular, on top of being human as human, we also treasure its creation. You are allowed to be worry about the knowledge that might have been endangered. I do not care about the delivery schedule of D4. Nikon do not produce their top end in other shops in, say, Thailand. Sometimes the detail information especially new generation are very close to shop it is made, especially if quality circle is in place. I still recall the struggle when Nikon try to produce the Nikon SP 2000 and found that they did not have all those manufacture records. I guess and hope that they have backup these days. But as one wonder how come nuclear plant sitting next to the sea do not anticipant strong tsunami (which is a word comes from Japan), I hope both the human as well as the culture/knowledge survive. I think any honorable Nikon engineer would be both want to live but not just live.

Luckily, a recent look at local TV about the Sendai Town seems not that bad.

*** not sure below is appropriate for your site, but if you can read Chinese, you can see quite/huge amount of other comments you do not want to see ***

In fact, if you have to worry about nasty comments, you may have to worry more about how the Asian community react to this. I do not share their view and cannot even share their comments. But I do know where these comments come from. A lot of people still have an issue with WW2 and Japan deal with it currently. Parents/Grandparents are under Japanese military rules. As a analogy using Germany, to some Asians, it is like that many current German politicians all comes from Nazi party and the last few Prime Minister even install and insist to visit a Nazi shrine on official capacity. Of course Germany is not like that. But that is how quite some Asian feel about one aspect of Japan. You do not want to see these comments.

No doubt James is correct: there are certainly some inappropriate comments about the situation in Japan made by a few. That most of those inappropriate comments are made anonymously tells us something else, though. These people know their comments are disgusting. For whatever reason, that's their intent. They want attention, they want to stir things up. That people then respond to those in kind is what they want to happen. It's a sign of immaturity at best, and it's one of the reasons why I don't like an anonymous net.

I think about my friends in Japan almost constantly these past few days, and I wish every one of them well and will do what I can to help them in their time of need.

But I also believe that there is a need to talk about camera release schedules, and impacts on companies. Life goes on elsewhere. People have needs and in some cases deadlines for making decisions about products (one government agency asked me a specific question about availability because they have a impending deadline to spend certain funds, and they're worried they won't be able to get what they need to order before the funds must be used).

Some of you know that I went through the 1989 San Francisco earthquake (my house at the time was within a few hundred feet of the San Andreas fault) and lost co-workers in it (indeed, I was originally scheduled to be with them, but ended up with tickets to the World Series game and was there instead). It's a surreal experience to have the world around you physically crumble and people you know die or injured. On the one hand, there's the human aspects all around you that you just cannot ignore. On the other hand, there is also a desire to return things back to as close to normal as quickly as possible and use your job and routine to pull you through those heavy days.

It's still early in the aftermath, but at some point in the coming weeks it will become clearer how those of us outside Japan can best contribute to help them recover. Right now, we can only send positive thoughts and hope for the best in all respects. My suggestion is to ignore those that can't process the whole thing and are acting out in absurd ways.

I watched the first footage when I got to work on Friday morning in shock and silence (sitting my rather far away and rather too safe office in Paris). This brought back terrible memories of the boxing day tsunami of 2004, when I was knocking back a few beers -- and news broke. No one on the news mentioned casualties at the time, and our little party continued -- but I did think that we just witnessed an event that cost tens of thousands of lives (and validated over the next few days).

Even with all the photos and video, I'm not sure if I fully comprehend the scale of this disaster. My thoughts are with all of those affected by this. Awful news.

As a borderline insomniac, I happened to be awake watching television when the news of the quake and subsequent tsunami first broke. Since that moment, I have been glued to the news coverage. Though I’ve never visited Japan, I have a great interest in and affection for the people and the culture. I’m heartbroken by what I’ve witnessed in the various news reports.

I also happen to be a Nikon user, and something of a gear head. I follow the various rumor sites quite closely, and wait with great anticipation for the latest and greatest from Nikon and other manufacturers. Before reading Thom Hogan’s post, it had not occurred to me that this disaster might affect the availability of my beloved gear. I was simply too overcome by the human tragedy, too overwhelmed by the enormity and incomprehensible power of what nature had unleashed upon the people of Japan. I was not offended by Thom’s post, as he made it very clear that what mattered was the human tragedy that was unfolding. I saw the information he provided about Nikon’s Japan operations as an interesting footnote, and nothing more. After reading his post, my thoughts quickly returned to the people touched by this event, and what the world might do to help alleviate the suffering as much as possible.

Of course, there are souls out there who seem to lack even a shred of empathy for their fellow man. Some seem to revel in the suffering of others. I would not venture to guess at what percentage of the population they occupy. What I would say is that these types of people seem to be drawn to comment sections like the proverbial moth to a flame. They appear to take a perverse pleasure in displaying their callousness for all the world to see. Because of this it may sometimes appear that their numbers are larger than most of us would like to imagine.

Regardless of the size of their ranks, these types of heartless folks will always exist. All of our hand-wringing and tsk-tsking will never make them go away. I fear just the opposite is true - they draw inspiration from our disapproval, and wear it like a badge of honor. Therefore, I think the best course of action is to simply ignore them, and let them stew in their own crassness and heartlessness.

fyi.. If what I heard on CNN is true --they injected sea water into 2 reactors-- both reactors are in dire condition. TMI type full core melt is unlikely, but some fuel damage and moderate radiation release is near certain. Injecting sea water is an unimaginable last resort. They basically decided to write-off both reactors ($5B/each), they are now junk. Will never be restarted. The root cause of the problem was loss of off-site power and failure of emergency diesel generators. Therefore plant blackout and loss of the ability to run pumps to cool the reactor core. The plant needs some sort of emergency power ASAP. Something on the order of 5000 KW (min.) is needed. My 2¢ -- nuclear engineer 35yrs, NRC licensed reactor operator.


You may be interested in Tohru Nishimura's photostream. He's posting images from his daily life (as usual), but starting here he's captioning them in this format:

"That morning at the office: 8 hours 16 minutes before the Earthquake.

He has just today posted the first post-earthquake photo.

The effect of browsing through his photos is quite remarkable: a countdown from normalcy to unease. It reminds me of every personal disaster in my life: ordinary moments, oblivious to disaster coming a few minutes hence.


"You do not want to see these comments."

We're seeing them here too, unfortunately.


"Of course, there are souls out there who seem to lack even a shred of empathy for their fellow man. Some seem to revel in the suffering of others. I would not venture to guess at what percentage of the population they occupy."

A guy called "Jack Simmering" tweeted, "those damn krauts deserve to be hit by a earthquake tsunami for nuking pearl harbor." [Sic, sic, sic, and sick.] These certainly aren't our best and brightest.

There's a downside to social networking and instant communication.


" They basically decided to write-off both reactors ($5B/each)"

From what I hear, the whole plant was due to go offline forever this very month--March 26th according to ABC News.



Mike, here's an interesting article about the Internet, instant communication and social behaviour. It's called 7 Reasons the 21st Century is Making You Miserable. Yeah, it's on Cracked.com, but it's quite insightful and not at all humorous.

As to the worry about Nikon production, I'd say it's perfectly normal. It's not the matter of trying to reduce the catastrophe to a more personal level. All of us are selfish little barstuds deep down. The first question is "How does it affect me?" But it's the people who overcome that first impulse that make the world go round.

A posting I ran across with info on Sony and other plants:


No Sony camera plants seem impacted but… who knows.

Thank god we have been reassured that these nuclear catastrophes within catastrophes cannot possibly occur here in the US!

The following statements are from the book “Retribution”, by Max Hastings:

Germany has paid almost $6 billion to 1.5 million victims of Hitler; Austria has paid $400 million. Japan goes to extraordinary lengths to avoid admitting any responsibility, much less liability towards its victims.

In a recent lawsuit against Mitsubishi defense lawyers questioned whether Japan had invaded China.

Shinzo Abe, Japan’s recent prime minister publicly asserted that many Japanese and Korean comfort women volunteered for their role.

In 1999 Britian made payments to former Japanese captives because they believed the Japanese would never make them.

Based on Japan’s unwillingness to accept responsibility for WW II I am not going to criticize Asians who make sarcastic comments about them.

As someone who is ethnic Korean and is quite aware of the atrocities that were committed by the Japanese government. There is a time to address those concerns, however this is not one of those times. So I will criticize those Asians or whoever feels at a time of great tragedy mocks the death of simple people just going on with their daily lives.

Dear ROA,

It's one thing to hold countries accountable for the sins of their pasts.

It's another thing to declare that people deserve to suffer and die because of sins their parents and grandparents committed.

The former is civilized, the latter is barbaric. Honestly one could make a better ethical case for the Sept 11 attacks than that latter point of view. It's just beyond vile.

pax / Ctein

I agree with the comment that it is natural on a photography site to talk about Nikon when discussing the earthquake in Japan.

I also think that it is also a way of trying to relate to what has happened by putting a familiar name to it. I also suspect that when people refer to Nikon, they mean not (just) the physical company, but also the many people and their families who are involved.

My thoughts and prayers are with the people affected.

I'm guessing/hoping some early posters didn't get a chance to grasp how bad this is, but right now all I'm thinking is stuff photography, this is about people dying in catastrophic numbers an in horrific ways.

What Ctein said. In spades.

It's not logical either. It's the equivalent of saying that my 3 year old should be punished for what my country did at Abu Graib, by having her future daughter have a tree fall on her thirty years from now.


During the tremors and the tsunami, the first thing is survival. But that's important only in the first days.
I find it pretty idealistic NOT to worry about the availability of Nikon cameras or similar things. If you want the Japanese to get their lives back after the disaster, their ability to make and ship cameras (as well as other things) is of utmost importance to the survivors.

I always have to remind myself in serious disasters like this that early casualty numbers are low only because no confirmed information is flowing through official channels. When I first saw this post I think the official numbers were in the tens of deaths (at least that was the latest that had reached me). Today, the official numbers seem to be in the tens of thousands.

So yes, I very much suspect that some early reactions will have been based on reasonable but not realistic early casualty numbers.

And, on the net at large, there are always a few trolls, obsessives, and sociopaths posting away, causing hurt far in excess of their numbers.

the situation around Tokyo is becoming a nightmare. I am utterly shocked and worried for the people of Japan ... and as Mike puts it, the fact that I have large amounts of equipment from the fine companies of Nikon, Mamiya, Pentax, Olympus and Panasonic puts the situation much, much closer to me personally. I pray that it will not get even worse.

Dear folks,

Now that attention is focusing more on the nuclear plants, I think it might be useful to post a little physics information for people.

You're seeing the term “Sievert” (Sv) thrown about a lot regarding radiation. It's a measure of dosage. It's not a rate, like liters per second, it's a total amount like liters. MilliSv (mSv) and microSv (muSv) are, of course thousandths and millionths of Sieverts.

A 1 Sv dose received in a short time (short meaning, roughly, a few days) will make you quite ill from radiation sickness but is rarely fatal. A 5 Sv dose will kill half the population. A 10Sv dose will kill almost everyone. Doses below 0.3 Sv (300 mSv or 300,000 muSv) likely won't make you noticeably ill at all. Spreading the dose out over a longer period of time, of course, reduces the rate and severity of radiation sickness, because the body has time to repair itself. 10 Sv, spread out over your entire lifetime (about 50 times more radiation than you'd receive from “normal” sources) won't give you radiation sickness.

The other concern with radiation is long-term damage, especially genetic, that can manifest itself in secondary illnesses like cancer. There you're talking statistics–– How much the overall cancer rate for a certain kind of cancer increases in the population. You're also talking, to some extent, cumulative exposure. Medically, we ASSUME that so long as the body's molecular repair mechanisms haven't been overwhelmed (i.e., radiation sickness), what damage does get unrepaired accumulates as exposure accumulates.

Understand that this assumption is fraught with uncertainty and there is substantial historical and experimental data that contradicts it in both directions. We have good data that shows risk dropping off much, much faster than linearly as the dose drops. We have other good data that shows it dropping off much much slower than linearly. And you can find partisans on both sides who will forcefully argue that their data is much, much better than everyone else's. Ignore them. They can all spin a good yarn and almost none of you reading this are really competent to evaluate the scientific arguments, no matter how persuasive the rhetoric may appear.

Similarly, ignore the most extreme reports on what is happening in Japan. The worst-case scenario that some anti-nuclear activists are promulgating is simply not physically possible (unless a volcano suddenly erupts under one of the reactors and atomizes it). There is no way the West Coast of the United States is going to get exposed to even tenths of sieverts of radiation. Can't happen. The best case scenarios that some pro-nuclear activists are promulgating are not credible simply because we are entirely lacking in sufficient information at this point to be that confident. No one can say everything is under control and going according to disaster planning, because we don't know enough to be able to tell if that's true.The fog of disaster, as it were.

Remember that phrase. Everyone wants an answer immediately, but humans collect data imperfectly, especially in times of crisis and stress. Assume that any information you get will be updated, contradicted, and revised. Try to avoid jumping to conclusions. Play safe.

pax \ Ctein
[ Please excuse any word-salad. MacSpeech in training! ]
-- Ctein's Online Gallery http://ctein.com 
-- Digital Restorations http://photo-repair.com 

I am here living and working in Yokohama and Tokyo, Japan, respectively, reading TOP through my RSS reader every day (always enjoyable, thank you!), and a Nikon and Ricoh user.

I have friends who work at Nikon, and I personally think it is ok to wonder about and comment on whatever aspect of this disaster. The people here certainly are. (Saying it is some retribution for pearl harbor or act of god is indeed very crass though, as is sending boxes of bibles, sheesh).

Boy, not having electricity even to the relatively minor extent that that is happening here in Yokohama (we are having rolling blackouts daily), and having supply problems in general (not much on the shelves and we cannot get tissue or TP), makes one truly appreciate all the great, wonderful stuff we have in our lives.

May I never complain again.

On a positive note I think Japan is a country that can bounce back from this type of disaster better than any other.

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