In case you haven't heard yet, this is what's happening on the ground here:
The earthquakes, tsunamis, and supply shortages have not directly affected the Kansai region, where we live.
All of our friends and their families have been accounted for and are okay. One of our closest friends, Tomo, was staying at an evacuation center for several days, but has since returned to her home in Sendai.
Yamagata prefecture was hit by the earthquakes, but is in the mountains, so was not affected by the tsunamis. Most of the prefecture lost power for a couple of days following the initial earthquake. Many places also lost water and sewer services temporarily.
Sendai was hit very hard by the disaster, and is still in poor shape. Sendai is a major port, and a primary supply route to Yamagata. Trains to Yamagata from Tokyo have been canceled for the time being, and access is limited via most major roads into the prefecture. Sendai airport is still out of commission.
Yamagata is currently experiencing rolling blackouts, as well as food, gas, and kerosene shortages. Most homes, including the one we're moving into, are heated by kerosene. There is also an influx of refugees from Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, and it is cold with scattered rain and snow.
While the media has been focusing on the nuclear power plants, the likelihood of a major nuclear disaster is minimal. The explosions shown on TV every 3 minutes were hydrogen gas - not nuclear explosions. There is no threat of an actual nuclear detonation, and radiation levels are not likely to reach life-threatening levels, even close to the reactors. As you know, radiation diminishes by the inverse square of the relative distance from the source, and winds are blowing out to sea in that area. Our friend's husband is an engineer with Mitsubishi Electric Corporation, and has been in contact with colleagues at the Dai Ichi facility in Fukushima. He is also confident that the situation will be resolved without catastrophic consequences.
We were scheduled to move to Yamagata on Saturday, March 19, but have delayed our trip for at least one week. We have to vacate our apartment here on Wednesday, March 23, and are currently making arrangements for a place to stay until we can move to Yamagata safely. Unfortunately, almost everything we own is already packed, and we will lose internet access and cable service for a while, but we will be in a safe place.
Average radiation in Yamagata on March 15 from 9:00am to 5:00pm:
Average radiation for a round trip flight from Tokyo - New York: