Sendai Airport Opens with WWII Bomb Still Present

A huge World War II bomb uncovered near a busy runway at Sendai airport in Miyagi Prefecture was underneath a shield of concrete and sandbags on Wednesday as flights resumed, a government official said.

A worker rebuilding drainage systems at the Airport—which was swamped by last year’s tsunami—on Monday uncovered the 225-kilogram bomb, believed to have been dropped by U.S. forces.

Bomb disposal experts ordered the construction of three-meter-high concrete walls, supported by soil up to the same height, to protect the bomb.

Crews piled some 300 sandbags, each weighing a ton, on top of the mound to construct a casing that stands six meters high.

Read the rest of the story: Sendai airport reopens with WWII bomb still there.

International Disaster Reduction Meeting Begins in Northern Japan

A two-day international meeting on disaster reduction opened on Tuesday in northeastern Japan, a region hit hard by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami in March last year.

The meeting, held mainly in Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, has brought together ministers and experts from some 100 countries and organizations for talks to share their experiences of and lessons learned from natural disasters, including the Japanese earthquake.

“I would like you to feel the energy of disaster-affected people trying to move ahead toward a tomorrow,” Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda said at the opening.

Japan will provide some 3 billion dollars in aid over the three years from 2013 to promote efforts to make the world more resistant to natural disasters, Noda said.   

A junior high school student from Onagawa, Miyagi, gave a presentation on the March 2011 disaster and proposed disaster-reducing measures.

Sendai: A Boom and Bust After Japan’s Tsunami

The first time I drove into Sendai, Japan, I thought I had arrived in a small town. It was March 13, two days after last year’s earthquake and tsunami killed up to 20,000 people and destroyed hundreds of miles of coastline in northeast Japan. Only a handful of buildings were lit up the night I drove in; the otherwise dark streets were devoid of people and cars. When the late winter sun weakly rose the next day, it didn’t bring the heartbeat of a major regional city with it, but the dull pulse of a lonely outpost on life support.

The streets of Sendai today bear no resemblance to the lanes I drove along that night last year. On a Thursday evening, the city’s outdoor malls were flush with a trench-coated, post-work crowd and restaurant touts trying to lure them into their eateries. Kokubuncho, the city’s entertainment district of bars, cabarets and izakaya, was aflame in artificial light, catering to the flood of construction workers who have come from all over Japan to get in on the rebuilding that – 10 months after the disaster – is just getting started. Businesses from watch shops to hostess bars to real estate developers are says sales are up 200% over this time last year.

Read the rest of the story: Dispatch from Sendai: Boom and Bust After Japan’s Tsunami.

Japan’s tsunami-hit towns are mostly cleaned up but barren, with much work remaining

SENDAI, Japan — From 1,000 feet 300 meters up, the view of the tsunami-battered Japanese seaside communities shows striking progress: much of the rubble, crumpled cars and other debris is gone.

Yet seen from a helicopter Friday carrying Associated Press journalists, there are few signs of rebuilding eight months after the March 11 disaster, triggered by a magnitude-9.0 earthquake off the tsunami-prone coast.

What remains — the stark, gray emptiness where bustling towns once stood — is a sobering reminder of how much work still lies ahead.

Read the rest of the story: Japan’s tsunami-hit towns are mostly cleaned up but barren, with much work remaining.

“Street Arm” pumps up quake-hit Japan city

By day, Kenichi Watanabe runs an insurance agency. By night, he’s an arm wrestler — and on a recent Saturday, he’s preparing to do battle.

Under a moonlit sky, Watanabe and his opponent face off across an arm wrestling table in a bustling pedestrian street in Sendai, a northern Japanese city hit hard by the March quake. Watanabe is lean and cut, like a lightweight boxer, but his rival looks a couple of weight classes bigger.

They grip hands and adjust elbow positions. Biceps bulge, forearm veins pop. Lights from arcade and karaoke signs dance across their faces as they lock eyes and await the "Go" signal.

Read the rest of the story: “Street Arm” pumps up quake-hit Japan city.

Family found long-dead in Sendai home

The remains of three people who may have been dead for up to a year after a suspected family suicide were found in a house in central Sendai, police said Thursday.

The police are trying to identify the remains, which were discovered Wednesday in a two-story house where a 62-year-old man was living with his 55-year-old wife and their 19-year-old daughter. The home is in a residential area of Aoba Ward.

The autopsies suggest the three died six months to a year ago, but the cause of their deaths remains unknown, the police said.

Read the rest of the story: Trio apparently long-dead found in Sendai home.

Japan battles to stop radiation leak into sea

While cherry blossoms opened in Tokyo, temperatures plunged again, leaving tens of thousands of homeless shuddering in evacuation camps along the ravaged northeast coast of Japan’s main Honshu island.

No quick end was in sight for the world’s worst nuclear emergency since Ukraine’s Chernobyl disaster of 1986, warned a government lawmaker who has advised Prime Minister Naoto Kan on the crisis at the six-reactor plant.

“This is going to be a long battle,” said Goshi Hosono, who highlighted the threat of 4.5 metre (15 foot) long spent fuel rods that remain volatile for months and need to be cooled in pools with circulating water.

“The biggest challenge at this plant is that there are more than 10,000 spent fuel rods,” Hosono said on Fuji TV. “It will take a very long time to reprocess them, and we sincerely apologise for that.

Read the rest of the story: Japan battles to stop radiation leak into sea.

After the Japan Quake, Sister Cities Rally for Relief

In Napa, Calif., residents planned a fund-raiser for Iwanuma, Japan, after seeing photographs of the damage caused when the tsunami swept over it. In Galveston, Tex., a group stitched blankets for the residents of Niigata to protect them against radiation that could fall with the snow and rain there. In Tuscaloosa, Ala., residents gathered money for Narashino, a city in Tokyo Bay.

In each case, the American aid was going to a sister city in Japan that had been hit by the earthquake and tsunami. It was an effort repeated across the United States, as towns big and small responded to the destruction and lives lost in their Japanese sister cities.

“This is a very powerful network of people who care about each other like neighbors,” said James Doumas, executive vice president and interim chief executive officer for Sister Cities International, a nonprofit group that is underwritten by the State Department.

During an emergency meeting Monday, more than 100 residents of Riverside, Calif., discussed how to get aid to Sendai, their sister city, which is on the coast near the epicenter of the quake.

“There is a very visceral connection between our two cities, and there has been for a long time,” said Lalit Acharya, the international relations officer for the Riverside mayor’s office.

Read the rest of the story: After the Japan Quake, Sister Cities Rally for Relief.

Japan’s Worries: Go? Stay put? Believe the government?

SENDAI, Japan — To stay or go. To trust government reassurances or heed more alarmist warnings spread by Internet of radioactive clouds wafting over Tokyo. These are among the potentially life-altering questions being pondered by millions of Japanese in range of the crippled nuclear reactors at Fukushima.

Evacuation orders have been issued to residents within 20 miles of the nuclear complex, about 180,000 people, with the Japanese government insisting those further away are not at great risk. But with each fresh report of a fire or explosion at the stricken plant, people living beyond the evacuation zone, including some in Tokyo 100 miles to the south or in Sendai about 50 miles north, have already decided to depart.

"The first few days I wasn’t that worried about the nuclear situation, but now I’m getting worried. It’s more serious," said Rotaro Sakai, a 24-year-old engineering student in Sendai, who queued up at 6 a.m. to snag a coveted bus ticket to Yamagata, to the northwest.

People seem to be basing their departure decisions on a combination of technical assessments and emotional tugs, leavened with a healthy dose of skepticism over government credibility.

Read the rest of the story: Go? Stay put? Believe the government? Japan worries | The Portland Press Herald / Maine Sunday Telegram.

Disaster Japan: Survivors speak of desperation and panic

Survivors of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami huddled in shelters and hoarded supplies on Saturday as rescue workers searched a mangled coastline of submerged homes, cars and stranded boats.

Aerial footage showed buildings and trains strewn like children’s toys after powerful walls of seawater swamped areas around the worst-hit city of Sendai, about 130 km (80 miles) from the earthquake’s epicenter.

"Everything is so hard now," said Kumi Onodera, a 34-year-old dental technician in Sendai, a port of 1 million people known as the "City of Trees" and cradled by dormant volcanoes.

Onodera said her ordeal the night before was "like a scene from a disaster movie."

"The road was moving up and down like a wave. Things were on fire and it was snowing," she said. "You really come to appreciate what you have in your everyday life."

Adding to the panic, radiation leaked from an unstable nuclear reactor in Fukushima prefecture, near Sendai.

Read the rest of the story: Desperation and panic grip Japan.