|As part of our report about the Great East Japan Earthquake of 11th March 2011, we invited people who live around Japan to send us their thoughts and feelings about the events of that day - and how they affected their regions. This page was first published in June 2011 and is shown here unchanged.
Opinions are those of the writers and not those of SnowJapan. Many thanks to everyone who has contributed. On this page, some people mention the Japanese 'shindo' scale - more information on the shindo scale can be found here (outside link).
Since March 11th, the trust that I still had of the mass media - which painted all of Japan as a disaster zone - totally evaporated. Their outpouring of overly sensational headlines with no regard to the real situation was disgraceful. The only way in which Furano was affected by events in Tohoku was that most people cancelled their holidays - in spite of the fact that we had close to no quakes and we are over 500km away from Fukushima. Things got very quiet very quickly. My thoughts with the people who have been directly affected by this tragedy.
sent in by Colin
In Furano we only felt a minor tremor following the earthquakes. Other than that we were totally unaffected and life has gone on as normal, and there is certainly nothing to worry about up here in Hokkaido.
Unfortunately the media coverage and peoples understanding of the affected areas has meant there has been a dramatic drop in visitor numbers to the region. This is having a significant affect on local businesses and peoples livelihoods. I can only hope that tourists will soon be able to see beyond the sensational news images and headlines and realize that Hokkaido is still a great place for a holiday, as it was pre earthquake
sent in by -30deg
Truthfully, the earthquake almost didn't affect us at all in Niseko. Of course, a lot of visitors cancelled reservations and chose not to come to Niseko in March, but there was no infrastructure damage, our food is still delicious, and the skiing was still fantastic throughout March and into the spring season. The main difference was that there were many charity events held around here and everyone seemed excited to do work to support people from Tohoku. Niseko continues to be a fun, comfortable, and safe place to live.
sent in by Max
I felt the earthquake but it wasn't anything more than a shake up here. A few hours later I turned on the TV to find all hell breaking loose to the south and those scary images of the tsunami. It was as if it was in another world but still heartbreaking to think that this was all happening relatively close. As for Niseko, life went on as normal really. There was a very significant drop in the number of visitors and the season really got quiet in those last few months. Other than that, though, there really wasn't anything out of the ordinary happening here. We are over 500km away from the Fukushima nuclear plant, so that really is not affecting us.
I can understand people being wary of planning a trip to Japan at the moment, but unless you are planning on being in Tohoku and of course that area of Fukushima there really isn't anything to worry about. In fact, Japan really could do with the support now. Places as far as way as Niseko are going to be badly affected in terms of visitor numbers if people start to abandon plans to visit.
sent in by Peter
I was out on the mountain when the earthquake happened and really didn't know anything about it until that evening when I got home and put on the news. A shock to say the least.
sent in by Matt
Everything is normal in Niseko, and it has been since March 11th. (Apart from there being less people on the slopes!)
sent in by Tochio
The people in Tohoku affected by all this are going through some nightmare times. I went down there in April to help for a week and the scenes were just crazy, like out of some movie. But here in Niseko, nothing changed. I didn't even feel the earthquake. I was driving at the time. No damage, no resorts closing. The only thing that did change was the last few months was very quiet. Great for those remaining who enjoyed a really good spring season, but really bad for business. There's lots of worry looking forward to next season and bookings are poor compared with the last few years as of early June. My message to people would be that there really is no reason not to get here. Earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima are not affecting us.
sent in by Charlotte
Niseko is well many hundreds of km from Fukushima. My heart aches at seeing what those people are going through, but up here we are not affected by it.
sent in by Masao
Niseko didn't even experience any kind of supply issues - life really did go on as normal. The power grid up here is completely separate from the Tokyo Electric and so even when there were planned blackouts in some areas of Japan, we didn't have that. So basically there really was close to zero direct impact from the events of March 11th.
sent in from JFlo
We understood there was an earthquake only because of some minor light trembling but TV that was on at that moment showed us how dreadful the situation was elsewhere in Japan. All the scheduled programs stopped and the only thing on all of the channels was the tsunami warning for the Tohoku area. They showed a list of towns and villages with the predicted tsunami arrival time and size. But I don't think people realized just how big the tsunami was going to be. I called my parents immediately to let them know that I was perfectly safe in Hokkaido. I knew from previous earthquakes that foreign media first of all exaggerate the danger; and secondly, is not very accurate with the reporting of the location of the earthquake. Unfortunately, I was right.
The earthquake was given the name "Great North East Japan Earthquake" at first. They meant the North East of Honshu, but the message wasn't conveyed abroad and the word North included Hokkaido in many peoples minds. The name was later changed to "Great East Japan Earthquake", but the damage had been already done and Hokkaido was included into the area for many people. The Hokkaido government has since been working hard to try to explain to people that Hokkaido is as clean and as safe as it always has been.
Concerning Rusutsu.... nothing and nobody has been affected physically. It was a shame to see a lot of people leaving in a hurry straight after the earthquake but certainly understandable. I do hope that people all over the world will get a lot of trustworthy information on current situation in Japan through summer months, and we'll see a lot of them back here in Rusutsu. We are approaching the fruit season - strawberries at the end of this month - which is a very good rival to winter delights. I'll certainly be enjoying them!
sent in by Anna
We really only experienced minor shaking here in Rusutsu on March 11th and I didn't feel anything after that. That's really all there is to report from here as life is continuing as normal. Shocking to see what has happened to our south, but for us here nothing has changed. There were lots of cancellations in hotels in the area and the season ended quietly, but hopefully people will see that Rusutsu is unaffected by everything that has happened.
sent in by Friedlen
Our hearts go out to the families who have lost someone or lost their homes due to the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear reactor problem, but life goes on for those left behind. Please support our friends and the businesses in the Rusutsu/Niseko areas - these areas on Hokkaido are safe, the food fantastic, the spring water crystal clear, great golf courses, wonderful powder snow and the people so welcoming. They really need your support in the months ahead and there is also a need for them to see some smiling faces.
We can’t wait to come to Japan again.
send in by Sandra
Just a quick report from Sapporo, though there's not really much to report! I didn't even feel the main quake, I was driving at the time and it wasn't strong up here anyway. I did hear it on the news and saw those tsunamis coming in. It's as if all of this is going on in some distant country though, as nothing much has changed here in Sapporo and we are a very long distance from the ongoing problems at Fukushima. Heart goes out to everyone affected.
sent in by Pierre
A quick check-in from Tomamu! Felt the initial tremor, but nothing really after that. We are really just too far away for it to affect us much. As with lots of places though, tourism was badly affected, even considering how far away we are from it all. People going about their business as normal here and in other areas of Hokkaido.
sent in by Minami
We felt the quake pretty strongly here in Zao and we were cut off from electricity for about a day. The ski resort closed immediately after the main quake and actually hoped to open up fairly quickly after that but for one reason and another it was 16th April before they opened up for that last part of the season (eventually closing on the 8th of May). The reasons for the closing included trying to save electricity, the fact that many people from the affected area - and those going to and from to help - were staying in Zao, and actually also because they thought that not many people would turn up anyway... Japan just wasn't in the mood. We did get a few good weeks in at the end of the season though, but it was all very quiet.
It's important to emphasize that there has been no structural damage to the resort and as I write this there is really no danger presented by the Fukushima nuclear plant to the east of where we are. It's nearly 100km away.
The skijo will certainly be totally back to 'normal' for the 2011/2012 season. Lots of locals are worried about people's perceptions and of some media reports that seem to be implying that all of northern Japan is a no-go. That's just simply not the case. Rather, now is the time to visit!
sent in by Mr Takahashi
I was at Zao when the quake happened, walking through the village actually. It was a strong shake, followed of course by a lot of aftershocks - some of them big too. I live in Yamagata so I quickly tried to make my way back down to my home. Since then there have been a lot of aftershocks. I have been back up there quite a few times since then, and it's pretty much life as normal. It is still definitely quieter than normal though and if that continues then the village will start to really suffer as it relies on tourism. So my message would be that there's really no reason not to go to Zao now or in the future. If you were planning to go, no need to change those plans!
sent in by Graham
It was a rough month after March with lots of aftershocks and lots of people who had lost their homes here. But all of the support and spirit of friendship was amazing to see. Thanks for all the support. Structurally Zao was not damaged at all.
sent in by Masaaki
The earthquake was scary. But people pull together and in the end there wasn't any structural damage.
sent in by Hiroko
We felt the earthquake and many aftershocks here in this region of Fukushima. No damage to the resorts or buildings though. The biggest damage is going to be economic. With the name 'Fukushima' now associated with the nuclear problem, it's all a bit worrying. We are 80+km away from the nuclear plant and radiation readings here are normal. The ski resort will open just as normal for next season and I hope that people will be happy to visit the area again as before. I have no doubt the businesses here will be needing support.
sent in by Michael
I live close to Fukushima City. It sure has been an eventful few months in this part of the world. You might have heard about it!
We are still here, going about life. Wary and concerned, but not enough to make us want to decamp somewhere else. We love Fukushima. The mind boggles at what some people are going through fairly close-by. We got away with just being shaken. Pretty violently. Quite a few times.
Looking long term, as long as 'Fukushima' (you know the one I mean) is brought under control and outside of the exclusion zone surrounding the plant remains 'safe', the hope is that we can all get back to a normal life soon.
What hurts most is that now everyone knows the name 'Fukushima' - but for not good reasons. If only the name of the nuclear plant didn't include that word! I so hope that in the long-term we can recover from that image. Fukushima Prefecture is a big place. The ski resorts to the west, mostly in the Bandai and Inawashiro regions, will be unaffected by any these events. Radiation over there is at normal levels.
sent in by Don and Ami
Inawashiro escaped the worst of the earthquake, as far as damage is concerned, even though it was felt strongly. All utilities were functioning afterwards, but phones were affected, and the expressways were closed which, more than anything else meant the end of the ski season, despite the excellent snow.
We are more than 80 km away from the Fukushima nuclear power plant, and all radiation readings in Inawashiro have been just about normal, so no radiation health issues here. False fear and rumour, however, has put paid to a lot of tourism since the nuclear crisis began, which is causing financial hardship. Agricultural plantings are going ahead as if normal, so people need not fear coming to Inawashiro. Aftershocks are still happening, less and less I should add, although the majority of people living here do not seem too bothered by them. The town, at present is accommodating a few thousand evacuees in the inns and hotels.
sent in by Edwin
If it wasn't for the nuclear incident, I think people would have got back to normal lifestyles quickly after the earthquake as there wasn't really any damage. Unfortunately that particular story continues and while here in western Fukushima the radiation readings are said to be normal, it's only natural that people are still concerned. But, normal they are, so we need to continue and get on with things. Let's just hope they clear up that situation as quickly as possible.
sent in by Hideo
First of all let me say I'm not based in a snow town, so I should mention that before continuing. I live near Koriyama city and on March 11th we felt an incredibly strong earthquake measuring shindo 6 on the Japanese scale. If you don't know what that means, it's basically borderline buildings-falling-down violent shaking. And that's in Japan where they are built to withstand a strong quake. It was by far the most terrifying thing I have ever experienced and the almost constant aftershocks for the first few months just piled on the stress. I wouldn't wish that experience on anyone.
After a sleepless first night we then find out about the problems over at the nuclear plant. Which is uncomfortably close to Koriyama. Actually about 50km from where I live. I live outside of the official exclusion zone, but it is of course worrying all the same. There are also a fair few people from towns closer to the nuclear plant now living in Koriyama. People are doing their best to try and get on with their lives but wary of conflicting numbers and reports.
So what about skiing, you ask? Well, my season was abruptly ended and I never regained the feeling to get back out there. The nearest places to here are over in the Inawashiro and Bandai regions. Their radiation readings are 'normal' and I wouldn't have any issues going there.
I'm afraid the problem that resorts in Fukushima are going to have are not related to actual problems, but simply the fact that they are in 'Fukushima'.
sent in by Michael
We are quite a distance away from the coast here in Appi Kogen - about 80km. We felt the earthquake quite strongly but there was no damage and of course the tsunami was far away. The resort did close early in an effort to save electricity so we were affected in that way.
We are also well over over 300km away from the problematic nuclear plant in Fukushima.
Summer is nearly with us now and Appi is operating normally and will be next winter also.
sent in by M
Shizukuishi is located in the mountains of western Iwate prefecture and therefore away from the coast. Thankfully we escaped the worst of the earthquake and the terror of that tsunami. The earthquake was probably one of the strongest I have felt and we also have felt many aftershocks. But in terms of actual damage to property or the ski resort facilities.... there was none. Fukushima is a long way from here and there are no radiation worries. The resort will be opening for summer in late June and there will be no issues preventing it from opening next winter season.
Thoughts to all the people badly affected by the ongoing issues.
sent in by Fredrik
Not again!... was my first thought when the house began to wobble at about 2:50pm on that Friday. I was soon scrambling out of the house, in the car and tuning in to NHK to see where the earthquake was coming from. It was obvious that this was a really big event and I was sat in my car watching as the tsunami came rolling in. My heart sank seeing those images. While it was all terrible, in one way I was simply relieved that it wasn't a local event after experiencing a few major local quakes over the last 7 years.
So you can perhaps imagine how I felt being woken up by a violent shindo 5 earthquake the next morning - this one was obviously more local. NHK soon told us that this was coming from over the hills in Sakae-mura, about 40km away from here. I was pretty much in a state of panic for a short while there as the situation became pretty overwhelming but managed to calm down fairly soon as I realized the futility of it all.
I had plans for a fun and busy spring ski season which had to be shelved. I initially planned to get out a bit later on in April and May, but just wasn't in the mood along with getting busy with work. Some skijo around here kept open while others quickly closed for the season - information on how that all panned out can be found on the Yuzawa Now daily reporting page of this site.
Damage-wise though... there was none. Resort lifts, infrastructure, hotels, etc were all undamaged.
sent in by muikabochi
I was at at home when the main quake happened. It was a different kind of experience from the more local quakes we had experienced in 2004 with the Chuetsu Earthquake. That was a more violent, noisy, up and down all over the place kind of shaking. This started off with a very gentle sway and continued with larger sways that went on for quite a while, but it was all strangely quiet. That made me guess that this was a big quake somewhere far away. After rushing out of the house and into my car, I put the TV on and found out that it was off the Tohoku coast and very quickly realized that there was going to be some terrible stories coming from there soon. To add to that lot, we got our own strong - separate - earthquake early on the following morning. That was much more violent and straight away we guessed that it was local... turned out the epicenter was not that far away just over on the Nagano/Niigata border.
Although buildings and facilities in Minamiuonuma and Yuzawa were not actually damaged, the ski resorts that remained open were all of a sudden extremely quiet and hotels in the region saw most of their bookings cancelled. Some people were having problems getting here due to gasoline restrictions and there was a very strong sense of self-restraint throughout northern Japan. And many people simply weren't in the mood, which was understandable.
From what I hear, bookings for next season are generally slow and while we have summer to look forward to, there is a worry that people might decide not to visit Japan because of what has happened. Personally, I wouldn't want to be visiting the east coast of Fukushima right now, but other than that I can't see a reason to avoid visiting Japan post-March 11th that wasn't here before then.
sent in by Andrew
Physically we were almost completely unaffected by the Tohoku earthquake, or the larger and more local one that followed. The only sign we had around the area was the reappearance of a spring just below the Akakan resort. Lots of iron (it turned the ground red), but unfortunately cold.... thought we might have a new onsen source!
The bigger effect of course is the downturn in the economy. Several of the resorts closed early, but really for no apparent reason. Electricity, or the lack of it, was given as a reason, but I don't believe that really was an issue (know, for example, that one of them buys electricity from prefectures to the west, and that there is a surplus in the winter months anyway).
Seems more like the too common attitude of throwing up one's hands and saying that it's unseemly to have fun when others are suffering. Meaning, of course, that everyone who depends on tourism should also suffer along with the victims. Tourism basically stopped, followed by the shutdown of hotel jobs and incomes.
It was a little better during Golden Week, but people really need to get money flowing around, or places like Myoko really will suffer. And, since this is SnowJapan, I'd have to say nothing is more appropriate - and out of the eyes of the negative, stay-at-home types - as going skiing. Or climbing. Or hiking, Or fishing.
sent in by Bill
We certainly felt some earthquakes here - on the Friday, the Saturday and aftershocks after that - but nothing was damaged other than hearts and minds. And an onsen I believe. And the incomes of businesses here as many people decided not to travel or ski, perhaps understandably. I am hoping that people will realize that everything is just normal here and come as planned in 2011/2012.
sent in by Tomoko
Myoko has been dealing with some problems with an onsen source, but apart from that the area is damage free. A few resorts quickly closed up shop for the season after the event, but some went on until May as normal. But it was very, very quiet.
sent in by Christopher
We felt Friday 11th here but it was nothing too major. But the next morning we were rocked big time here in Tokamachi. The epicenter of the north Nagano/Niigata earthquake on the 12th was pretty much on the far border of Tokamachi and it was a very rude awakening. Scary as hell. Some damage to some old buildings and some rice fields collapsed. The nearest major ski resort, Nozawa Onsen, took some damage and had to repair the top part of one of their gondolas mid-season but they managed to stay open right through. I was totally impressed with that.
Now it is a few months later, we still get the odd smaller aftershock, but it seems to have considerably calmed down. Let's hope that we have now had our quota of shakes for the next... hmmm, 100 years!
sent in by tokabochi
The earthquake in Tohoku on the Friday was recorded as a shindo 4 on the Japanese scale in Tsunan town. That was quite strong but it was a strange wobbling sensation and different from the other quakes I have experienced. Perhaps because of the distance from here.
On the other hand the earthquake at 4am on March 12th was a shindo 6 on the Japanese scale here, and violent too. The terror of waking up by that.... it still haunts me. We have had quite a lot of aftershocks since then, some strong, but things seem to have settled down now. It was all pretty overwhelming though with that happening just the morning after what went on over in Tohoku.
We are about a 20 minute drive from Nozawa Onsen. It was shindo 5 over there and they suffered some damage, though the most damage was in Sakae-mura which is between Tsunan and Nozawa. Even now, there are lots of signs of the damage caused in Sakae... bumps on the roads, some collapsed buildings and road repairs being made.
I was amazed at how Nozawa ski resort not only stayed open pretty much throughout it all, but even extended their season. They even managed to get the gondola moving as well. Good for them, I say! I'm just generally amazed and humbled by how quickly the locals get back on their feet and life back to some kind of normality. We can learn from that.
I can't see any of this affecting next snow season in any way. The resorts will be open as normal. This will all be a memory. I hope that will be the case for people considering visiting the region as well. Think of it this way.... we had a strong quake, so that means that another one is unlikely for the time being. Right?!
sent in by Kent
Yuzawa wobbled for the Tohoku earthquake on Friday, but rocked and rolled on the following morning just before 4am. That Saturday morning surprise was the local Nagano/Niigata earthquake that seems to have been looked over by the media. No real damage in Yuzawa or the resorts, but the ski season obviously took a bit hit with empty slopes and cancellations. Next season should be going ahead as normal and I am sure the locals will be happy to see visitors and get support.
sent in by David
I would by lying if I claimed the whole experience wasn't scary. The media didn't help. The original quake wasn't so bad here, it was pretty strong but at the same time kind of calm. The one on the Saturday morning though was strong, I think it was shindo 5 in Yuzawa and definitely the strongest I have ever experienced. Definitely not the best way to be woken up at 4am!
Damage wise? None, as far as I can tell. Structural damage anyway. Those events really did damage the ski season though. Ski resorts that remained open were very quiet and hotels saw mass cancellations. I was surprised to see places like Gala Yuzawa close early for the season in particular. Having said that Kagura was able to keep open until late May because we did actually have a really good season here in terms of snow.
The problematic Fukushima plant is over 200km from here and on the other side of some pretty big mountains, so it's not really an issue. It shouldn't be if you are considering Yuzawa anyway. None of this should really... 11/12 will go ahead as normal.
That's my advice.
sent in my Tigre
Yuzawa felt the earthquake on the 12th March much more than the one on the 11th - though we felt that too. There are very sad events but we now look forward to next season.
The earthquake didn't do any direct damage here in Katashina. Hotel cancellations, problems with getting fuel just after the event and people staying at home did, but luckily it was towards the end of the snow season rather than the beginning.
Marunuma Kogen managed to stay open into May. I imagine it will be one of the first ski resorts in Japan to open up come autumn, as always. And I'll be there... no reason not to be!
sent in by POno
Here's my report from Kusatsu in west Gunma. Here we felt both the main March 11th Tohoku quake and also the next morning Nagano one at about the same intensity. It's never good being woken up by shaking, so that one was worse for me!
Apart from that though we escaped being affected by it all. Yes, we felt aftershocks but not too many and they were only smaller. And there was no damage at all to anything in the area around here.
People tried to get on with their lives as they normally would but this town relies on tourism and that just totally disappeared as Japan went into that period of 'jishuku' (self-restraint).
We can only hope that people start getting back into the idea of visiting tourist spots otherwise there will be many more secondary victims of the Great East Japan Earthquake.
sent in by Takahashi
The initial quake was a 'shindo 4' in Minakami. Strong, but nothing that will do any structural damage. The one the following morning coming from Nagano was also a 'shindo 4' but that one definitely felt stronger - I hear that is because we were closer to the epicenter. All that was more than enough to cope with; but then the news about the nuclear plant started to come in and it was all looking grim for a while. A fair few people moved away for their own reasons. A fair few people moved in as refugees from Fukushima and other affected areas. The ski resorts helped donating stuff that people over in affected areas could use.
The ski season limped on but it had obviously taken a big hit. Take a look at the Minakami Now daily reports on this site to get an idea of how the ski resorts coped with it all. I think some of the reduced operations was in an effort to save electricity and part was them thinking that no-one would turn up even if they opened. Resorts that did open for the last part of the season were certainly very quiet.
Now that things have calmed down (over here at least), it's getting back to normal. There are still less tourists around than usual but slowly people seem to be getting out and about a bit more. By next snow season things really should be 'back to normal'.
sent in by Craig
The Great East Japan Earthquake really shook us up here. Not enough to make buildings collapse and of course not as much as people to the north east. In the week after March 11th, I think fear was the biggest enemy for many people not directly affected by what was going on. So many rumors and speculation as well as some eye-popping headlines really put a lot of people on edge. I know a fair few people who decided they wanted to either be in West Japan or out of Japan. Most have now returned.... some saying that they over-reacted.
So we got shook a bit and the Fukushima nuclear plant is 'only' 200-250km away from here! Compare that to what lots of people are going through and you realize that we are lucky.
Next ski season? I can't see any reason why it won't be happening as usual. No damage, no reason for anything other than a normal season. Hope to see you out there.
sent in my Chuo
Here in Hakuba, we felt the main shock from over in Tohoku but it was nothing major. Not enough to close things down at all. We also felt the one over on the Nagano-Niigata border the morning after but again it was nothing major over here. So we escaped any kind of damage and did not feel the relentless aftershocks that so many other people seem to have put up with. We are also a long way from the east coast of Fukushima where the nuclear plant is located. The biggest worry Hakuba people have is the affect on the economy. Ski resorts remained open into May as normal but were close on empty. I can understand that people weren't in the mood just after March 11th, but with a lack of guests the local economy was fast having it's own crisis. There was no reason to not ski and every reason to get out there and support the local economy, the bonus being that I was enjoying myself at the same time. We can't just curl up and sleep it out, the economy needs us to move on. Any reason not to come to Hakuba next season? If you were planning to come anyway, there is absolutely no reason at all to change those plans. In fact, coming here will be helping support Hakuba and Japan. The same applies for wherever you decide to go to in Japan. Yes, I would avoid 50km or so around Fukushima Dai-ichi, but apart from that I would have no worries going anywhere else in Japan.
Disclaimer - I don't own any related business, though I have a few worried friends who do!
sent in by DM
In the wake of March 11 much of north eastern Japan was crippled and a greater concern became apparent, that of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. There was much panic created by mass media misinformation around the planet that unfortunately continues to this day. No one in Japan is taking this present crisis lightly of course and authorities are working every day on cooling the reactors and reducing the radiation that is leaking from them. In saying this the radiation outside of a hundred km radius is negligible and most of the country, however solemn, has returned to life as usual. There is much work still to do to fix the Daiichi Plant and secure the safety of those close to the plant as well as get the areas affected along the east coast back on their feet and housed.
Great efforts directly after March 11th to assist those in need meant that the Japanese were not travelling and ski resorts were barren of guests from within the country and from overseas. The snow, however, in Hakuba continued to fall and those happy to be safe in the Japanese Alps continued to enjoy the good snow conditions. There was a feeling in Japan at the end of April that it would be best for all concerned if the people of Japan began to travel within the country and provide any boost to the economy that they could rather than just direct aid. It was at this time that Hakuba with it's still deep snow pack was enticing for those wanting to ski and ride and enjoy life again. Don't feel for a minute that the people in need have been forgotten, however, as there are more people now than before volunteering their time in areas worst affected and continuing to collect needed goods and donate to the relief efforts each and every day.
It would also be a great assistance to the people of Japan and those along the east coast if overseas travellers returned to Japan, as it is safe to do so as long as you stay away from the Fukushima Power Plant.
sent in by Dave
As noted by others already, the massive quake & succeeding aftershocks that ravaged the Coastal North-East of Japan were felt rather gently by us here in Hakuba. In fact it wasn’t until we saw the news reports that any of us realized that something significant had happened. Along with the rest of the world, we were shocked & deeply saddened by the images & videos we saw.
It was indeed a strange melancholy, seeing a region of a country you love suffer such massive devastation, yet we also felt a sense of relief being so far away. This quickly changed to uneasiness however, as we watched the drama unfold at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. I have to admit, it was pretty tense for the week or so immediately following the quake. Although a lot of us Hakuba folk may be experts when it comes to predicting where & when the next 40cm dump will come, none of us had much of an idea what the implications of a nuclear disaster hundreds of km away would be.
Fortunately, as time passed, it soon became abundantly clear that Hakuba was at no risk of contamination from what has turned out to be multiple meltdowns at the troubled plant. Local governments have done a great job of posting radiation levels in villages & districts all over Japan and these have been corroborated by readings taken by multiple NGOs & even private individuals.
In fact, we had a customer stay in early April who is an Australian scientist doing research in Japan. He brought with him a Geiger counter which he had also just taken with him on a trip to Sydney. Interestingly, Sydney’s background radiation levels were higher than those recorded in Hakuba, Nagoya & Tokyo – attributed to the geological make up of Sydney.
Background radiation levels in Hakuba have remained unchanged since before the crisis, as have levels in the water supply (0 btw), local produce, livestock, etc. This is in fact the case for pretty much anywhere in Japan 80km from the plant & beyond.
Hakuba is also on a different power-grid than that served by the troubled reactors, so there have been no blackouts or power issues here either. Likewise, no issues with supply shortages of any sort. In fact, the only real tangible effect felt in Hakuba was the utter lack of people here for the latter half of March.
Now that the dust has started to settle and it becomes clear that Hakuba is totally safe, cool heads are prevailing we can look forward to next season. Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for Tohoku & hope to see you back here shredding pow!
sent in by Craig
I lost my niece in the tsunami in Miyagi. It is heartbreaking for my family. There are many many stories like this. But, there has been no damage in Hakuba. But if people don't come back, the economy here will take a lot of damage and many more people will begin to suffer, for no good reason. Please look at the radiation readings -- they are normal -- and don't be put off by any extreme media stories out to get headlines. Hakuba will be open as normal with no threat to your safety!
sent in my Mr Nagumo
Some people I know here in Hakuba didn't even feel either the March 11th or March 12th earthquakes. So seeing what happened is looking on from a place very far away. It sure affected the snow season though as people cancelled and the slopes were eerily quiet. Things picked up a bit on some weekends, but it remained quiet until the end of the season. So the only damage here was to the local economy. We're a large distance from Fukushima as well so that really isn't an issue. I don't have any related business interests, but it is quite bewildering how something that didn't affect the area seems set to affect it quite seriously even next season. It really shouldn't.
sent in by fski
The main earthquake in Tohoku on Friday afternoon wasn't that strong here, but we did feel it - starting off as a slight wobble and getting to be a much bigger and long wobble. Next morning though we were all woken up by a strong shudder here in Iiyama. It instantly felt more 'local' and the TV reports, which were still reporting full-on from Tohoku, instantly switched to cover this Nagano/Niigata border quake which in itself was very strong. Nozawa is a bit closer to the epicenter than where I am and sustained some of damage. Madarao, a bit further afield, got off without any real damage.
Just a word of admiration for the Japanese though who quickly picked up pieces and moved forward during what was a stressful period for everyone. I have heard this word used by other people a lot, but those first few days really were simply overwhelming.
It's early June now and I haven't felt an aftershock for a while and people are doing their best to get things back to normal. That new Shinkansen line that goes through our town is still being built. People are out shopping and playing sports. All looks normal. Radiation isn't an issue here - we are a long way from the east coast of Fukushima.
Hopefully, these events won't affect people's thinking about visiting Japan for next snow season. I really don't think they should.
sent in by id
The ski season had been up and down concerning snow conditions with some fantastic powder days out there, especially in late January. Thing were actually looking good for a decent end to the season as well.
We felt the earth move on March 11th. A strange sensation and the lifts had to be stopped at the ski resort but there was no damage.
It's unfortunate that the season had to be been cut short due to the events happening on the north eastern coast of Tohoku in northern Japan. Due to those events, people were trying to conserve energy and for that reason the resort decided to close in late March rather than continue into April.
The 11/12 season will go ahead as normal.
sent in by Masa
March 11th, before 3pm:
That was just a bit of a wobble really here in Nozawa. A 'shindo' 2 on the Japanese scale.
March 12th, just before 4am:
That one was a whole different story. It was a lower 5 on the same scale. Followed by another of the same intensity about half an hour later.
A lot of shaking and thing flying around the room and falling off shelves. Everyone was out in the road minutes after the original one.
It was hard to believe this was happening after what had happened the day before and obvious that this was more local.
Turns out that it was very local and neighboring Sakae village got an even stronger shake up and a fair bit of damage.
Here in Nozawa, the ski resort saw some damage to the upper part of one of the Gondolas and a building or two up there. In the village, there was damage here and there mostly to older buildings.
The English media then went about scaring people about the problems facing the Fukushima plant, which is actually more than 250km from here and generally whipping up a mad frenzy that was simply outrageous at times. Shame on them.
Nozawa ski resort remained open until the middle of May, even extending the season - awesome attitude - though it was all very quiet those last two months.
2011/2012 snow season? It will go ahead as normal, the snow will be great and the people of Nozawa as friendly as always. Perhaps even more than normal.
Was it all very scary? It sure was.
Is there any radiation problems due to what is happening over in Fukushima? Not at all.
Does it put me off Nozawa? Why should it? No way.
It makes me want to support them all the more.
sent in by Nozzler
Early March saw a return to winter conditions and some more dumps of snow and really great conditions in Nozawa Onsen.
Then March 11th arrived and the earthquake and tsunami over on the north east coast of the Tohoku region. We felt it here, though it didn't seem set to make any huge difference to operations....early on Nozawa was planning to open as normal the following morning. That didn't quite happen though as the northern area of Nagano had it's very own strong earthquake waking everyone up at just before 4am on Saturday. That was felt much more locally than the wobbles the previous day and actually caused a fair bit of damage - both to the ski resort and other facilities, and fragile feelings of the people in the region.
The resort coped remarkably well with it all. Even though there was damage to one of the Gondolas and upper areas of the resort, along with some lighter aftershocks from time to time, Nozawa was up and running once again the day after on the Sunday. While there was a lot of changing of operations and they were limited at times, the resort managed to stay open and even extend the season until 15th May. Remarkable if you ask me, and I want to congratulate the people involved in keeping things going during this far-from-normal period of time.
The ski/snowboard season is now over of course and Nozawa is looking forward to summer. People are reflecting on the season but getting on with things. As everyone does their best to get back to normal, it would be great to see more people in the village. As with many places in Japan, Nozawa went very quiet after the events of mid-March. The local quake is done and gone quiet, we are far from Fukushima and so there is no risk from any kind of radiation, etc.... just back to being the quaint and friendly village that Nozawa always has been.
sent in by David
I have lived in Nozawa most of my life but never experienced anything like that. But even though we got hit with some damage, that can quickly be repaired. Since March 11th, we have had many comments and kind thoughts sent to us and we thank you from our hearts. Nozawa is moving on, feeling stronger, and we are looking forward to welcoming visitors during the next ski season to enjoy Nozawa.
sent in by Michi
Nozawa is safe, really! Please come and support us!
sent in by Katagiri
We had some wobbles here in Shiga Kogen but nothing that caused any damage to the ski resorts or hotels. The season continued until late May though after March 11th everywhere was really quiet.
We are a long way from the nuclear plant and readings show that radiation readings are absolutely normal here and in this whole region of Japan. So I do not think people should be thinking about that problem.
sent in by Groyby
We felt the earthquake. I was skiing at Ichinose. Very strange feeling and happy that I wasn't on the lifts, which had stopped immediately. There goes the weekend, we thought, and at the time didn't realize just how bad the story was to be until we got back to our hotel and saw those shocking images of the tsunami and what was happening in Tohoku.
sent in by Monseer
Tohoku earthquake not so strong here, but I felt it. The earthquake the next day more so. Resorts closed for a short time to check facilities, but I don't think there was any real damage. People stayed away after that though and the season fizzled out into some very empty slopes. Yokoteyama did open until the end of May though. No radiation here. So not much to report really other than the important message that.... everything is just as normal.
sent in by Sachi
I think it was a 'shindo 3' in this part of Japan and I did feel it and the one that hit NE Nagano the following morning. Nothing major though in this area. Just watching those images from Tohoku on television was scary enough. I think the whole of the east part of Japan was scared to do anything the following few weeks and there was just this self-restraint thing going on which made matters worse.
Sugadaira ended the season completely intact and not affected, but extremely quiet.
sent in by Rebecca
No snow here... for the most part anyway! But a quick report for the record anyway. It was all very dramatic in mid-March, but things are somewhat back to normal now. Other than some lights that would normally be on being turned off in an effort to save electricity and more people preparing a 'grab bag' for any possible future drama, life goes on as normal. Most of my escapee friends and colleagues who left Japan soon after March 11th have returned.
sent in by Norman
There was almost a state of panic with some people in the days after March 11th. Rumors, speculation and incorrect information did not help. With no structural damage to repair though, time heals fairly quickly and Tokyo has got back to being Tokyo. Albeit not quite as bright in the evenings as it was before.
sent in my Rodger
I felt the main earthquake on March 11th but only a few weak aftershocks since then. I was actually in a restaurant at the Dynaland ski area when it happened. I had no idea that it was such a big event until I saw the news on television later on. There was no damage at all in these areas and basically life goes on as normal.
If you take a look at a map of Japan you will see that we are very far from the Fukushima plant that is causing ongoing problems.
sent in by Hiro
We are a long long distance from Tohoku and Fukushima. Although I believe Hiroshima city felt a slight tremor for the original quake, I did not feel anything and have not felt any aftershocks. My heart goes out to everyone affected by this event, but it has not affected this region of Japan at all.
sent in by Hiro