13,100 people have been confirmed dead, 13,700 missing.
145,000 people are living in evacuation centers. (source: NHK World)
We've been getting some pretty strong aftershocks. They seem to have been clustered along the eastern coast, about halfway between Tokyo and Sendai, and while a couple have topped 7, most have been between 3 and 5. Where I am, they're not such a big deal. Every quake I notice gets mentally compared to The Big One, and since March 11 no household items have even come close to falling over. I have friends in other parts of Tokyo that live several floors up that are having a more intense experience and I see a range of anxiety levels. Some are more annoyed than anything, others are constantly on high alert and the aftershocks are taking a toll.
Monday's big aftershock killed four people and seriously injured three people in Ibaraki (northeast coast, approximately halfway between Tokyo and Fukushima). All but one death was the result of a mudslide. (source: NHK World)
Japan has raised the nuclear incident level of the Fukushima Daiichi plant from 5 to 7. I really didn't expect that. (source: Kyodo News) BUT. Even with that new piece of information, the radioactive material being released from this plant is about 10% as much as released from Chernobyl. (source: Kyodo news ticker)
The government has expanded the evacuation zone. People within 20-30km are being asked to stay indoors or voluntarily leave within the next month. This is due to concerns about radiation exposure over time; levels over a 25-day period have exceeded the limit set for one year. (source: NHK World)
There was a fire at the No. 4 reactor, but it has since been put out and there has been no change in radiation level. (source: Kyodo News)
Radiation levels in the seawater near the plant have plummeted. They're still high (5,000 times the legal limit), and about twice as high as they were in the same spot last Thursday, but not nearly as high as they were on April 2nd (7.5 million times the legal limit). (source: NHK World)
There may be radioactive cesium on the ground in Fukushima, but they're running tests to see what's really going on and to decide what to do about it. A professor from Hiroshima University is advising people in that area to wear masks to avoid breathing in dangerous dust. (source: NHK World)
Milk from some farms in Fukushima have now cleared the government radiation standards and will be shipped to stores again. (source: NHK World)
I know it all sounds pretty dire, but that's what happens when you look at all the headlines at once. For anyone thinking of starting a fresh wave of "maybe you should leave," I have these hypothetical questions for you:
If your home started experiencing small earthquakes (they may not all be small where they happen, but they are relatively small by the time they reach me), would you pack everything up and move?
If it's the nuclear situation that causes anxiety, go to a map and look up a city or town 230 miles away. If that town had a nuclear plant with problems, would you leave your home?
If you would, I completely respect that decision. Everyone has their own set of priorities. I want to impress upon everyone reading this that while we are here, Tokyo is home. It's not all that difficult to cut a vacation short, but home is harder to leave. Even with all the nonsense going on in the national news, there is no place I'd rather be than where I am right now. Other than the tremors, life is very normal. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the sun is shining, festivals are crowded, random old people approach me on the street and strike up conversations. Restaurants are serving food, theme parks are open (Tokyo Disney is set to reopen on Friday). The worst of our upcoming shortages are going to be beer in the spring and rolling blackouts in the summer. It's really not as bad as a high dose of news headlines makes it sound. Really, truly, hontouni.