East Japan Great Earthquake Disaster Page for Sendai RMs
東日本大震災ページ (Higashi Nihon Daishinsai)
How can You Help? Key in "Japan Sendai" in online donation to LDS Humanitarian Relief. It's 100% tax deductible in the US and 100% goes into aid.
Site suggestions and feedback are always welcome using a ‘comments’ entry.
Chronological Postings (newest on top)
Media articles and personal stories ...about Sendai missionaries, conditions in the Sendai area after the disaster and the Church's relief efforts (Newest on top):
The Church's Japanese Website includes the following as of our latest check:
- May 2013 Missionary Update from Pres. Rasmussen: We now have young missionaries in Miyako along with the senior couple. We also have senior couples in Morioka, Ichinoseki, Furukawa, and Ishinomaki. The two companionships of senior couples in the mission home attend church (and missionary district meetings) in Nagamachi and Tagajo, respectively. So you can see that we are being blessed with senior couples. Three of senior couples are American, three are Japanese, and the two Senior Sisters who serve in the mission home are American though one was born in Japan and is fluent.
We still don't have missionaries in Fukushima nor in Koriyama, but we are constantly monitoring radiation levels and trying to determine ways to get missionaries back in those wards. Presently we are content to have a missionary companionship attend sacrament meeting and Sunday meetings every other week from Aizu (for Koriyama) and from Nagamachi (for Fukushima).
- Missionary Apartment Update: Effective August 2012, Ishinomaki now has sister missionaries. Effective 09 Jul 2012, Iwaki is allowed missionaries! Still no missionaries living in Koriyama or Fukushima due to radiation concerns. In December 2011: Ishinomaki & Miyako finally reopened w/new couple missionaries. Yokote apartment also reopened. Missionaries from nearby cities rotate attending church where missionaries aren't currently living.
- 24 Apr 2012 Helping Hands Volunteer Opportunities Extended Mormon Helping Hands tsunami volunteer opportunities now extended through August 2012. (All dates filled by Aug 1).
- 17 Mar 2012 Church News:Returning to Tohoku Sendai RM Sister Kristen McMain Oaks' first-hand account of her and Elder Oaks' visit nearly one year after the disaster
- 11 Mar 2012 ldschurch.jp (Japanese) pdf pamphlet summarizing the Church's efforts in the year since the disaster.
- 11 Mar 2012 Former Sendai Mission President Conan Grames publishesJapan Tsunami One Year Anniversary blog to report Elder and Sister Grames' personal experiences over the past year. He'll publish a total of four, one each week, in order to show how things unfolded on the ground.
- 11 Mar 2012 lds.org posting: Rising from the Rubble A 'prophets speak today' rewrite of Elder and Sister Oaks visit described in the Church News article just below.
- 03 Mar 2012 Church News:Apostle visits Saints in the Land of the Rising Sun By Elder Conan Grames, Asia North Area Public Affairs
- Stunning before and after one-year progress shown in these tsunami area comparative photos published in The Atlantic magazine.
- Arigato from Disaster Victims YouTube video
- 19 Nov 2011 Church News:Church continues aid following Japan quake
- 13 Sep 2011 Sacramento Bee: comparative photos: Japan marks 6 months since disaster
- 10 Sep 2011 Church News:Church helps Japanese fishermen get back to work
- Photo Gallery of Church-sponsored "Helping Hands" volunteer trips (see link below.)
- 16 Jul 2011 Church News:Helping Japan Heal--
Yellow vests, shirts have become well-known in Japan --article reflects on Church assistance in the months since the disaster
- Chronological Report of Church (Relief) Operations in Japan --Thanks to Casey Kennington for pointing this list out to us.
- 15 Jul 2011 KSL TV:Journey into Japan: Draper couple reaches out --Conan and Cindy Grames (former Sendai Mission President) describe their shifted assignments since the disaster. Article, Video and Photo Gallery.
- 13 Jul 2011 KSL TV:Journey into Japan: LDS missionaries don T-shirts, get to work --Sendai missionaries featured, including Sister Bennett, Elders Hildebrand and Lundell, Bro. and Sis. Thomas (honbu) and Pres. Tateoka. Article, Video and Picture Gallery.
- 25 Jun 2011 Church News:Japanese Resilience-'We have to move forward with God' In disaster's wake, members search and care for others
- 25 Jun 2011 Church News:Sendai missionaries return to disaster zone to help rebuild community (similar republish of the helping hands article below)
- 16 Jun 2011 Church News:Sendai Missionaries offer Mormon Helping Hands in Japan Recovery. Our own Sendai missionaries are featured in "days of service"-pictures included.
- 16 Jun 2011 Deseret News:Bishop Burton presents Aid to Japanese Fishermen - this article also confirms what we'd heard about "Helping Hands" volunteers: "...throughout the summer, local missionaries and LDS Church members from across Japan will come to the area. "Two to three groups a week will be here..."
- 03 Jun 2011 - Tokyo Missionaries travel to Sendai Area in Day of Service YouTube Video - they bussed in overnight, volunteered in "Helping Hands" style, and bussed back.
- 21 May 2011 Church News:Church Aid continues - Vans, School bags to help Japan Disaster Victims - written by our own Pres. Grames.
- 16 May 2011: News Flash! All Sendai Missionaries return to Tohoku
- 27 April 2011: Church press release announced some missionaries to return to safe areas of mission. We've learned directly from President Tateoka that the initial "safe" districts were Aomori and Niigata Zones and that the transfer of 22 missionaries back from Hokkaido after 1.5 months there took place on Monday, 02 May. Details of the transfer and pictures of the 22 missionaries just before their return can be found at the bottom of the Sendai/Sapporo combination page.
- 16 Apr 2011 Church News:Volunteers Tired But Staying Cheerful - great pictures
- President Grames posted an update re: Volunteers as follows: "The Church is not encouraging volunteers to come to Japan as housing is difficult and many utilities are still not working. A person must be prepared to be self-sufficient which may mean camping out. However, anyone who feels they must go should write to the Church at email@example.com. We will send you information. Currently, we are able to take accept volunteers and give them work to do. This may change over time. If there are too many volunteers for the Church to manage, you would have to rely on other agencies. Many government agencies are refusing volunteers. Please check with us and we will keep you posted as best we can." Elder & Sister Grames, Directors of Public Affairs (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Church Newsroom:Update and Video on the Church's Humanitarian Efforts
- Personal Stories from the Disaster Zone
- President Tateoka forwarded 10 Missionaries' Personal Stories
- Sendai RM Nate Farnsworth's post re: volunteering with rescue teams
- An American English Teacher in Sendai when the quake hit
- 02 Apr 2011 Church News: Japan: 4,000 Mormons give 40,000 hours
- President Tateoka's Personal Account of the Disaster --details of God's hand in assuring the safety of His missionaries
- Conan Grames Earthquake Journal --former Sendai Mission President now serving in Tokyo Area office shares amazing relief effort experiences
- Japan Earthquake & Tsunami Photo Gallery --Church's official photos & captions
- 26 Mar 2011 Church News:
(Miyako) Missionary: 'They were calling for us to help'
Members safe after 9.0 disaster
- KSL TV (video included):Sendai RM Kristin McMain Oaks (wife of Elder Dallin Oaks) connection/thoughts with the people of Sendai
- Idaho State Journal: LDS missionary witnesses tsunami--Tagajo Elders' Miracle
- MSNBC: Quake gives new meaning to a young man's mission--Tagajo Elders' Miracle
- Deseret News: Utah families of Japan Mormon Missionaries relieved to have sons home
- 19 Mar 2011 Church News: (several articles)
(Unofficial) Building/Member Status, Fundraising Efforts:
Narrative Summary of Events to Date, based on news reports, postings and emails from Presidents Tateoka and Rasmussen, thoughtful missionary parents and RMs (thanks, everyone!):
- Queries and messages posted by registered RMs on this Site are welcome-please use name of the Branch/Ward in the Subject line on the Messages board.
- Many fund-raising and other activities have been spearheaded by Sendai RMs - thanks for everyone's help and prayers! Post them on the Messages board.
- For those of you on Facebook, some RMs have set up a Facebook Group called News about Sendai earthquake where some more (unofficial) member information and links to YouTube videos are posted.
General Information:Wikipedia Article on the Disaster
NY Times Interactive Map of Damage/Casualties-Zoom-able maps includes tallies of Dead/Missing & Buildings Destroyed, Photos
Information related to the Mission and Missionaries:
The disastrous 8.9~9.0 magnitude earthquake struck at 2:46 PM local time Friday 11 Mar 2011, with an epicenter undersea about 80 miles East of Sendai. It was followed by a tsunami of up to 10 meters (33 ft.) that hit primarily remote, smaller fishing towns such as Kessenuma, Minami Sanriku and Rikuzen Takata. (We understand Church members living in or near these seaside towns attend church in Ichinoseki, and for a short time in the 1980s Kessenuma had missionaries.) Tagajo, Miyako and Ishinomaki, three larger seaside cities where church meetinghouses are located, were also hard hit by the tsunami. (Postscript: For about three months the Church reported none of its members were known to have perished in the disaster, but now it appears two did.)
Mission President Reid Tateoka was in Koriyama for meetings with missionaries at the time and was unable to return to Sendai due to the disastrous road conditions. Communication was next to impossible in the Sendai area, but working under an established emergency contact plan, each pair of missionaries reported in. 24 hours after the quake, eight missionaries had still not been accounted for (and their parents were notified), but at about 36 hours after the quake, the Church announced all missionaries were safe and accounted for. Knowing that a handful of missionaries could have very easily been in the low-lying tsunami areas where missionaries actually live and work, it is miraculous that all missionaries were in safe places when disaster struck. (Note: see link to personal stories of ten missionaries at top of page)
Pres. Tateoka coordinated with Church headquarters in Tokyo and Salt Lake. He also worked with local church leaders in their efforts to account for their members. The Church's Tokyo Area office used its Japanese website (linked above) to help disseminate volunteer information, instructions for helping to confirm the status of members in the stricken area and relief efforts. Meanwhile, radiation leaks from a troubled nuclear power plant (discussed in more detail below) raised global concerns.
About four days after the disaster, on 15 Mar 2011 (MT) (16 Mar JT), the Church announced it would move out the missionaries of both the Sendai Mission (~72 missionaries) and Tokyo Mission (~118 missionaries) to other missions in Japan, in an effort to move them to safer areas and to avoid people worrying about the missionaries. A total of 45 missionaries with less than three months remaining on their missions in (all missions in) Japan were sent home early and immediately in order to make room for the missionaries being evacuated out of the Sendai and Tokyo Missions. We learned the next day that all Sendai Missionaries were to be moved to the Sapporo Mission and Tokyo Missionaries were to be split among the Nagoya, Kobe and Fukuoka Missions.
Locating all the Sendai Missionaries and informing them of the move was a huge task. Two sister missionaries serving in Ishinomaki were the last to be removed to a safe zone for the transfer. (They immediately reported themselves as safe after the quake, but then couldn't be located for four days because they were out helping others and their cell phone batteries were dead.) Sendai Missionaries were transferred in a huge logistical operation. Most were bussed to Aomori then flew to Tokyo (Haneda Airport), others rode in cars/trains to Tokyo. By 18 Mar 2011, all Sendai missionaries had arrived in Sapporo by air. Many inspirational details about these events are described more fully in President Tateoka's Personal Account of the Disaster.
We can't imagine how difficult it was for Sendai Missionaries to leave their areas of labor, most without being able to notify investigators and members whom they had grown to love, and without knowing when or if they would ever return.
For President and Sister Tateoka, these events were surely even more difficult and heart-wrenching. Since President Tateoka had the Priesthood keys for all the (non-Stake) Church units in Tohoku, he stayed on to carry on that responsibility.
President and Sister Tateoka were allowed accompany the last missionaries to be evacuated to Sapporo. There they were able to have one final emotional taikai (meeting) with their missionaries before returning to Tohoku to devote their full attention to the extensive needs of the members there. Afterward, all Sapporo missionaries were brought into Sapporo for a huge transfer/reassignment. Sendai Missionaries were Sapporo missionaries for about two months. On 02 May Niigata Zone and Aomori Zone missionaries were allowed to return to the mission, and on 24 May all other Sendai Missionaries returned. Pictures and descriptions of these events are on a separate Sendai Evacuation/Sapporo Mission Combination page.
Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Plant The crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant shut down automatically at the time of the earthquake but its critical spent nuclear rod cooling/containment and backup systems were wiped out by the tsunami. The plant was built in the 1970s by General Electric under contract from Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). It supplied power to Tokyo, more than 175 miles distant, and not to the surrounding area. The plant is located on the mostly rural Pacific coast close to three mission cities: Iwaki (26 miles), Koriyama (36 miles) and Fukushima (38 miles), with mountain ranges in between. Radiation news grew worse over time after the disaster. About ten days out, an evacuation zone of 20km (13.2mi) was extended to 30km (19.8mi). Alarming radiation levels were reported in seawater near the plant. One month out, the Japanese government nuclear safety agency raised crisis level from 5 to 7; level 7 is highest rank on international standard and equivalent to the severity of 1986 Chernobyl disaster; agency said volume of radiation from Fukushima is one-tenth that at Chernobyl. As more international assistance became more evident, the news became worse.
Current Status of Missionaries in Fukushima-ken By August 2011, five months after the disaster, two missionaries were allowed to return to Aizu, but not to Iwaki, Fukushima or Koriyama. Members seem resilient and determined to 'ganbaru' (persevere). Thanks to Sendai RM James Sinkovic, who is currently living in Aizu, for keeping us in the loop. He reported that in October 2011 two more missionaries moved into the Aizu apartment, and the missionary sets take turns traveling to Iwaki and Koriyama on Sundays for church to boost the members' spirits. I'm assuming the Fukushima Ward gets visits from nearby Sendai. President Rasmussen reported in mid-November 2011 that missionary couples originally planned for assignments in Iwaki and Koriyama were assigned instead to Yonezawa and Morioka, respectively, due to a directive from the Area Presidency. In December 2011, couple missionaries were assigned for the first time since the disaster to Ishinomaki and Miyako. Effective 09 Jul 2012, Iwaki is allowed missionaries! Still no missionaries living in Koriyama or Fukushima due to radiation concerns. In August 2012 we learned, in addition to the missionary couple assigned to Ishinomaki, 'regular' missionaries are planned to soon be assigned there.
Disaster Cleanup and Humanitarian Relief is moving forward, but with many transportation links damaged, food and fuel are limited in some areas. Many worldwide news reports have focused on the strength, character and resilience of the Japanese people. Impassible roads and heavily damaged train lines are being quickly repaired and reopened, one after another. (See chronological links above with before and after pictures.)
Transportation Shinkansen (bullet trains) became operational on all routes in Tohoku on 29 Apr 2011, only 50 days after the disaster, though at reduced speeds between Sendai and Ichinoseki. In late September, Shinkansen speeds returned to normal levels. Zairaisen (conventional non-Shink lines) are operational everywhere except for a few lines running close to the Pacific coast/tsunami area. The Senseki line from Sendai to Ishinomaki goes only as far as just past Tagajo. The Joban line from Tokyo (Ueno) through Iwaki to Sendai, including the nuclear plant area, is operational through Iwaki to its northern suburb of Yotsukura. In Tokyo, in order to limit power consumption (Fukushima Dai-ichi Plant off line), reduced schedules were in effect during the summer months. The Sendai Airport reopened one month after the disaster.
Monetary Contributions for the Japan Disaster are reported to be well behind those for Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti Earthquake. Many fund-raising activities are taking place (some advertised in the "Messages" link on this Site). Webmaster Note: A link for donations is located at the top of this page.
Links to some amazing photos of disaster areas circulating around the Internet. Australian Broadcasting Corporation-before and after
New York Times-before and after
MSNBC-Panoramic Image of Destruction in Kessenuma
Highway Repair-Only in Japan!
Here's a telling aerial perspective of the tsunami's effect on the Sendai airport, which is located very close to the ocean, visible in the background. The airport reopened just over one month later, on 13 Apr. Kyodo News via AP