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from Ian Bremmer:

Japan’s year of resilience

Almost a year on from a devastating earthquake and tsunami that left the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe in its wake, it’s fair to say Japan has experienced a crisis unlike any other since the 1945 bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that ended World War Two.

Over 13,000 people died from the quake, many from drowning. The final death toll, which will include those who were unable to receive proper medical care during the disaster, will be even higher. An estimated 100,000 children were uprooted from their homes after the quake, along with some 400,000 adults. And in the areas affected by fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster, cleanup work is really just beginning. With all of this coming in the teeth of the global economic crisis and Japan’s national industrial slowdown, the densely populated main island of Japan has not seen anything like this in decades.

Now Japan has to contend with the fact that its primary power supply, nuclear energy, is effectively verboten in the country. How will it rebuild its power infrastructure when the very idea of a new nuclear power plant is dismissed nearly out of hand? How will it rebuild when its costs for construction have skyrocketed thanks to the setbacks its industries have faced this year? How will it continue taking care of the thousands who have yet to return home, many of whom are living in fallout zones and may never even have the option to do so? The challenges facing the country are serious.

Yet Japan’s response to tragedy has been nothing but remarkable. The Japanese are diligently rebuilding their infrastructure. That deserves our admiration. So does the government of Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda, who reflected in public that he wasn’t meant to be a “shiny goldfish,” but rather a mudfish or catfish -- a leader who gets down in the muck but gets the job done. To that end, Noda has mobilized the country’s military and his civilian bureaucracy in service of rebuilding, and is, based on conversations I have had, winning plaudits from Japan’s business community for his work.

from Photographers' Blog:

Tragedy in Fukushima: when can we go back to home again?

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After covering myself from head to toe in protective clothing in the hope of protecting me from radiation, I went to accompany evacuees who were temporarily allowed to visit their homes in the 20 km no-entry zone surrounding the tsunami-crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, a place now notorious for its radiation leaks.

My destination was Okuma town where the whole population of about 11,000 had been evacuated since last year’s earthquake. The town is still afflicted with high levels of invisible radiation.

from Photographers' Blog:

Have you seen this Fukushima child?

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By Kim Kyung-Hoon

Near midnight on March 12th, 2011, I was looking for Fukushima evacuees who had fled from towns near the nuclear power plant hit by a massive tsunami and earthquake the day before, and was now leaking radiation.

On hearing the warnings of meltdown and radiation leaks at the nuclear plant, my colleagues and I drove west from Fukushima airport where we landed by helicopter with two very simple goals: stay as far away as possible from the nuclear power plant, and find the evacuees.

from Full Focus:

Fukushima silence

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Buildings remain vacant and streets deserted inside the 20km (12 mile) radius exclusion zone surrounding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The March 2011 tsunami knocked out the plant's cooling systems, leading to the world's worst atomic crisis in 25 years.

from Photographers' Blog:

Learning to smile again

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By Toru Hanai

Six months after Japan's massive earthquake and tsunami, I went back to visit six-year-old Wakana Kumagai who lost her father in the disasters in Higashi-Matsushima, Miyagi prefecture.

I photographed Wakana when she visited her father's temporary grave at a mass burial site in Higashi-Matsushima on April 21, after attending an entrance ceremony at her elementary school. I was struck by how positive and optimistic Wakana behaved.

from Photographers' Blog:

Half a year after disaster

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By Kim Kyung-hoon

“Time flies so fast.”

I can’t count how many times I've mumbled this phrase while traveling in Sendai and Fukushima last week for the six month anniversary of the March 11th earthquake and disaster that left tens of thousands dead across Japan and caused the worst nuclear disaster in 25 years.

With the scenes of fear and hopelessness from the areas devastated in March and the hardship of the assignments still vivid in my memory, I feel like the disaster happened just a few weeks ago.

from Photographers' Blog:

Invisible snow

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Invisible Snow from Reuters Tokyo Pictures on Vimeo.

When the Fukushima nuclear power plant exploded, I was in Fukushima covering people who had evacuated from their houses near the plant, as they underwent radiation checks as authorities isolated those who had showed signs of exposure.

The disaster control center in the prefectural government hall in Fukushima city, situated about 63 km (39 miles) north-west of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, was chaotic. However, once I stepped out the building, everything around me looked the same in the city and it was difficult to comprehend what was actually happening. People in the city were walking their dogs outside and riding their bicycles on the streets, although lights were out and many places were experiencing cuts in water supplies.

from Photographers' Blog:

Clearing the rubble but not the sorrow

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By Kim Kyung-hoon

In 2004 I was in Indonesia’s Banda Aceh covering the Indian Ocean tsunami disaster which killed over 230,000 people in several south Asian countries. I met a tired-looking man tackling huge piles of rubble created by the tsunami in a brave effort to clean it up. He had only a shovel to use on the debris stretching on all sides as far as the eye could see. He stopped a moment and bemoaned to me that it would take more than several years to clear the rubble in his country. He also added that a rich country like Japan could clear it quickly with giant heavy construction equipment if a similar disaster happened in Japan. When I left Banda Aceh after my one-month stay there, the scenery going from the Reuters temporary base to the airport was almost the same as what I had seen on my first day there, and dead bodies still lay on the streets.

Last weekend, I traveled to Japan’s tsunami–destroyed towns again with my colleague to cover Japan’s traditional festival obon, when families welcome back the spirits of the dead.

from Photographers' Blog:

Fishing with film

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By Carlos Barria

In the "old" days, back before digital photography, photographers used to lug around tons of extra luggage, portable dark rooms, and set up shop in their hotel bathrooms. Or they would send their film -- by motorcycle, car or even plane -- to somebody else in a hotel or office close by to develop it, scan it and file. Or they might have to scramble and look for a lab in the middle of a crisis, in a foreign country. I don't think my colleague Joe Skipper speaks Spanish, but I know that when he covered a showdown at Colombia's Justice Ministry in the 80s, he learned how to say, "Mas amarillo!," "More yellow!


North America chief photographer Gary Hershorn arrives to the Vancouver international airport with all his photo lab luggage. REUTERS/Stringer

from Photographers' Blog:

Robot Paro comforts the elderly in Fukushima

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By Kim Kyung-hoon

When I covered Fukushima’s nuclear crisis in March, the first radiation evacuees who I encountered were elderly people who had fled a nursing home which was located near the tsunami-crippled nuclear power plant which was leaking nuclear radiation.

On that night, most of the elderly who could not move well due to old age spent a cold night on a temporary shelter’s hard floor.

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