Discovery Guides Areas


Aftershock: The Continuing Effects of Japan's March 11, 2011 Earthquake

(Released February 2012)

podcast link 
  by Kathryn Mori & Carolyn Scearce  


Key Citations







In the days immediately following the earthquake, the impact of the earthquake, tsunami, and the nuclear disaster were initially assumed to be unforeseeable. The early response from the scientific community indicated that geological activity and resulting tsunami were beyond the scope of anything that could have been expected for the region based on previous data (Newman). Generally speaking, Japan's level of earthquake preparedness is very high. They had built extensive seawalls to shield the coast from tsunamis. They were assumed to be sufficient for the range of earthquakes anticipated for the area, so little work had been focused on building structures that could withstand tsunami waters. The tsunami was read as a wake-up call, not only for Japan, but for all coastal communities in areas prone to seismic activity that might lead to similar tsunamis (Dengler). Consequently, it was assumed that Fukushima's nuclear meltdowns were the result of the unanticipated tsunami. However, as the story continued to unfold, more and more evidence accumulated indicating that regulation of the Fukushima facility had been far too lax. Prior to the earthquake, Fukushima had a history of accidents and mismanagement that had been largely concealed from the public, and experts were already aware of the vulnerability of the plant to a major earthquake years before the March 11, 2011 disaster (Nakamura and Kikuchi). 

In the wake of Fukushima's nuclear disaster, Japan faces the question of what role nuclear power will continue to play in Japan's future. In June, 2011 Prime Minister Naoto Kan announced a plan to phase out the use of nuclear power plants in Japan altogether. Fourteen of Japan's nuclear reactors were shut down due to damage during the earthquake, and by May, 2011 a total of 33 of Japan's 54 nuclear reactors had been shut down (Takubo). By the end of August, over three quarters of the nuclear reactors had been shut down, but the new Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda has already delayed the time-line for phasing out reliance on nuclear energy to 40 years (Diggs). There is still significant political inertia regarding the reliance on nuclear facilities, and as administrations change and time distances the memory of disaster, it is uncertain if commitment to a nuclear free future will persist.

Anti-nuclear rally in Japan
Anti-Nuclear Power Plant Rally on 19 September 2011 at Meiji Shrine Outer Garden

It is puzzling how Japan, as the only country to have faced the consequences of nuclear war, could have developed such lax policies toward nuclear regulation (Nakamura and Kikuchi). Alex Kerr, a long time foreign resident of Japan, suggested that Japan's lax nuclear policies have been indicative of a larger environmental policy that persistently pushes toward technological progress at any price. He further points out a tendency for the Japanese government and media to promote tatemae, an official stated position that is intent on promoting social harmony. In order to maintain harmony, the government frequently downplays bad news (Kerr). In the face of the Fukushima, it seems that the Japanese government may have pushed the policy too far to maintain a sense of public trust. Many Japanese citizens no longer feel that they can believe what they are told, at least regarding nuclear issues.

The future is always an unknown. But the sense of uncertainty is further compounded when people are left with the feeling that they cannot even decipher the present. For many, life has resumed a sense of normality, however, the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns have shaken an elemental sense of security in Japan. Whether the Japanese public responds to this uncertainty constructively or not is yet to be seen.

© 2012, ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.

List of Visuals

  1. “215,000 in shelters after Japan quake, tsunami.” The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings. Ltd.Co., 12 Mar. 2011. Web. 31 Jul. 2011.
  2. Adicodrean1967. “Death Invisible in Japan: Conditions of Survivors Kill Shelters.” Scienceray. Triond, 21 Apr. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  3. Battles, Matthew. “In Fukushima, Sunflowers Sow Hope for a Radioactive-Free Future.” Co.Exist. Mansueto Ventures LLC, 1 Jun. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.

  4. Bishop, Stephen. “Fukushima’s Water Cleanup Halted – More Radioactive Than Thought.” Stephen Bishop – Mad About the News. Amplify, 18 Jun. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  5. Bond, Michael. “What can you do? [building design].” Engineering & Technology 6.4 (2011):44-46. Print.
  6. Brook, Barry. “Fukushima Nuclear Accident – a simple and accurate explanation.” Word, 13 Mar. 2011. Web. 27 Jun. 2012.
  7. “City in Miyagi to offer disaster victims long-term housing units.”  Crisis Relief Japan., 24 Nov. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  8. Dengler, Lori. “Searching for Clues in quake-maddened seas.” Engineering News-Record 266.17 (2011):20-25. Print.
  9. Diggs, Charles. “Japan announces 40-year nuclear phase out as Germany grapples with upcoming atomic power losses.” Bellona, 31 Aug. 2011. Web. 30 Jan. 2012.
  10. “Fukushima radiation levels twice as high as first feared, says Japanese government” MailOnline. The Daily Mail, 6 Jun. 2011. Web. 30 Sep. 2011.
  11. “Fukushima water cleanup in action.” World Nuclear News, 7 Jul. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  12. Guo, Hua Dong, Yu Chen, Qiang Feng, Qi Zhong Lin, and Fei Wang. “Assessment of damage to buildings and farms during the 2011 M 9.0 earthquake and tsunami in Japan from remote sensing data.” Chinese Science Bulletin 56 (2011):2138-2144. Print.
  13. “Health concerns in Japanese tsunami shelters.” McClatchy. McClatchy Newspapers, 17 Mar. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  14. Inajima, Tsuyoshi and Stuart Biggs. “Fukushima Probe Highlights Nuclear Regulator.” Bloomberg L.P., 27 Dec. 2011. Web. 30 Jan. 2012.
  15. INES: The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. Vienna: International Atomic Energy Agency, 2008. Print.
  16. Jamail, Dahr. “Fukushima: it’s much worse than you think.” Aljazeera, 16 Jun. 2011. Web. 27 Jan 2012.
  17. Japan. Employment Security Bureau. Employment Policy Division. ‘Japan as One’ Work Project. Trans., 5 Apr. 2011. Web. 26 Jan 2012.
  18. Japan. Ministry of Health, Labour, and Welfare. The damage situation of and measures taken for the Great East Japan Earthquake (82nd announcement). Trans., 28 Jun. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  19. “Japan — Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Crisis (2011).” The New York Times Company, 16 Jan. 2012. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  20. “Japan nuclear: Radiation halts water clean-up.” BBC, 18 Jun. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  21. “Japan quake dead, missing nears 22,000.” Ninemsn. Ninemsn Pty. Ltd., 22 Mar. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  22. “Japan to declare cold shutdown of Fukushima plant.” Firstpost.World. Firstpost, 16 Dec. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  23. “Japan’s economy: Whose lost decade?” The Economist Newspaper Limited, 19 Nov. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.

  24. “Japanese firms shop abroad.” The Economist Newspaper Limited, 17 Dec. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  25. Jardin, Xeni. “Japan: Kan feared Tokyo would become uninhabitable after Fukushima nuclear crisis.” BoingBoing. Happy Mutants LLC, 8 Sep. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  26. Johnson, Christopher. “Japan slow to build housing for tsunami survivors.” The Washington Times. The Washington Times, 30 Apr. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  27. Jones, Richard. “Toxic truth about Japan’s ‘miracle’: Post-tsunami harmony is a myth and the reality is startlingly different.” Mail Online. Associated Newspapers Ltd., 18 Jun. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  28. Joyner, James. “Japanese Nuclear Disaster.” OTB, 12 Mar. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  29. Kageyama, Yuri. Japan proposes $50 billion to start reconstruction, building 100,000 temporary homes.” The Toledo Blade Company, 22 Apr. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  30. Kaku, Michio. “In the Arena.” Interviewed by Christine Romans. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 21 Jun. 2011. Web. 27, Jan. 2012.
  31. Kerr, Alex. Dogs and Demons: The Fall of Modern Japan. New York: Penguin Books, 2001. Print.
  32. King, Laura, Ralph Vartabedian and Thomas H. Maugh II.  “Japan fears a nuclear disaster after reactor breach.” The Los Angeles Times, 15 Mar. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  33. Leitsinger, Miranda. “Leaving shelters lands some tsunami survivors in deep trouble.”  World, 16 Jun. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  34. Matson, John. “Fast Facts about Radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Reactors.” Scientific American, 16 Mar. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  35. Matsuyama, Kanoko. “Rice Is Next Japanese Food-Radiation Risk From Fukushima Nuclear Fallout.” Bloomberg LP, 11 Aug. 2011. Web. 27 Jan 2012.
  36. McNeill, David and Jake Adelstein. “What happened at Fukushima?” Asia Times Online. Asia Times Online (Holdings), Ltd., 12 Aug. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  37. “Money not reaching victims of Japan earthquake.” Postmedia Network Inc., 4 May 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  38. Nagata, Kazuaki. “Fukushima fuel removal deadline set at 10 years.” The Japan Times Online. Japan Times Ltd., 22 Dec. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2017.
  39. Nakamura, Akira and Kikuchi, Masao. “What We Know, and What We Have Not Yet Learned: Triple Disasters and the Fukushima Nuclear Fiasco in Japan.” Public Administration Review 71.6 (2011): 893-899. Print.
  40. Newman, Andrew. “Hidden Depths.” Nature 474.7352 (2011): 441-443. Print.
  41. Oaken, Sally. “Japan urging citizens to grow sunflowers to remove radiation from soils.” Natural News Network, 29 Jun. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  42. Okada, Yuji, Jacob Adelman, and Stuart Biggs. “Fukushima Dismantling to Start After Cold Shutdown.” Bloomberg LP, 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  43. “Radiation hot spots found in Tokyo — 3.5 times limit set by Japanese law (MAP).” LLC, 18 Jun. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2011.
  44. “Radioactive-tainted beef scattered across Japan, government says.”  Vancouver Sun Online. Postmedia Network Inc., 13 Jul. 2011. Web. 30 Sep. 2011.

  45. Roach, John. “Vast devastation, search for survivors after Japan quake.” MSNBC, 12 Mar. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  46. Stimpson, Ian. “Japan’s Tokohu Earthquake and Tsunami.” Geology Today 27.3 (2011):96-98. Print.
  47. Suzuki, Tomohiko. “'Absolutely no progress being made' at Fukushima nuke plant, undercover reporter
  48. Takada, Ava. “Japan’s Food-Chain Threat Multiplies as Fukushima Radiation Spreads.” Bloomberg LP, 25 Jul. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  49. Takubo, Masa. “Nuclear or not? The complex and uncertain politics of Japan's post-Fukushima energy policy.” Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 67.5 (2011): 19-26. Print.
  50. Talmadge, Eric. “Living in shelters takes toll on Japan tsunami evacuees.” News-Sentinel, 7 Jun. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  51. “Temporary housing for tsunami victims unused: Japan.” Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co., 10 Jun. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  52. Thomson, Alex. “Earthquake, Tsunami Victims Seek Aid, Shelter Amid Continuing Aftershocks.” PBS Newshour. MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, 15 Mar. 2011. Web. 31 Jul. 2011.
  53. TrailmanStoicLife. “radiation Japan Yokohama 2-Apr,2011.” YouTube, 4 Apr. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  54. Watts, Jonathan. “Fukushima disaster: it’s not over yet.” The Guardian 9 Sep. 2011. Web. 26 Jan. 2012.
  55. White, Jay. “Radiation Hot Spots, Up to 200 KM from Fukushima Outside Evac Zone.” Weather-Tech, 18 Jun. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.
  56. Yamashita, Mananori. “Tsunami victims present relocation plan to city.” Daily Yomiuri Online. The Yomiuri Shimbun, 7 Dec. 2011. Web. 27 Jan. 2012.<