We've seen the sightseeing boats perched on top of two-story buildings in Otsuchi, firemen in silver radiation gear combing the city of Natori for life, the relief workers in orange hazmat suits removing survivors from the debris of their homes and offices.
The Japanese earthquake and tsunami last year became the most recorded natural disaster in history.
Videos uploaded to YouTube were watched around the world as millions of people witnessed the events in second-hand horror. When the Great Kanto Highway shattered like a mirror, it was rebuilt in a mere six days. Unfortunately, political debate has lingered over how to reconstruct the greater urban landscape.
When the tsunami struck, hundreds of thousands were left without food, water, shelter, medicine, or electricity. When relief efforts began, over 340,000 people in the Tōhoku region were displaced.
Today, it is estimated that more than 12,000 survivors may remain in cramped temporary housing for four more years. The Japanese Red Cross raised almost over a billion dollars in aid and has been providing shelter for the evacuees. Stories of suicide and alcohol abuse pass from one hut to another.
While social workers and psychologists have not been hired by the government to work with the survivors, public arts programs have sprung up throughout the camps in an effort to relax and relieve the inhabitants.Sadly, the earthquake and tsunami were two acts of the three-act tragedy. Fukushima Daiichi was the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, displacing 50,000 households and leaking radioactive material into the air, water, and earth.
As the one-year anniversary of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear meltdown looms before us this Sunday, nuclear protests are being planned in nearby Taiwan.
National Geographic reports that almost 100 organizations will participate in the “Bidding Farewell to Nuclear Power Parade” in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung.
Protesters want the government to cut funding for the three existing nuclear plants and prevent additional nuclear power plans.
In response to the nuclear disaster, the Japanese government blamed the lack of safety regulation on the close ties between nuclear power executives and their regulators.
Regulators continue to promote nuclear power, though the Associated Press reports that only two plants have built up seawalls since the Fukushima Daiichi meltdowns, and one of them is Fukushima Dai-ichi.
Only one plant has installed the kind of vents that could have prevented the hydrogen explosions that exacerbated the nuclear crisis.
Few definitive steps have been taken, while officials continue to review the evacuation procedures of the radioactive zone and attempt to improve disaster response.
“This is our fate as a nation with so many nuclear plants. All we can do is pray a tsunami won’t come,” said Hideyuki Ban, who heads the anti-nuclear research group Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center and sits on a government panel on atomic energy policy.
The Japanese response to nuclear crisis has been more protracted than the U.S. response to Three Mile Island in 1979, though there were no deaths or injuries associated with that event.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission snapped to, and provided emergency-response planning, worker training and radiation protection within a year.
One hopes that will all the progress that has been made in Japan, there is still much more to come.