Comparison of a town in Japan before (left) and right (after) the tsunami. View more images like this here [1], courtesy of the ABC.

The Impact of the 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake and Tsunami was vast. A direct impact of the earthquake was a tsunami that affected the eastern coast of Japan. Another subsequent impact was the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. According to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan, "in the 65 years after the end of World War II, this is the toughest and the most difficult crisis for Japan".[1]

On 10 February 2014, the Japanese government confirmed confirmed 15,887 deaths, 6,150 injured, and 2,612 people missing. 127,290 buildings completely collapsed, a further 272,788 buildings sustaining heavy damage, and another 747,989 buildings partially damaged across each of the preferectures.[2]


The main article for this section is Earthquake
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The mainshock (yellow) and a Magnitude 7.9 aftershock (orange)

The earthquake caused the tsunami, which was the third mega earthquake-generated tsunami in the decade, following the Sumatra tsunami and the Chile tsunami.[3] The tsunami in-turn caused the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster. Aside from the direct damage caused to buildings and infrastructure, the earthquake indirectly caused the damage described below.

Aside from the tsunami, the earthquake had 10907 aftershocks, most of which contributed to the destruction and damage of buildings and infrastructure.[4]



The tsunami hits farmland in Japan, causing widespread damage and damaging crops

The main article for this section is Tsunami

Soon after the 2011 earthquake off the coast of the Tōhoku region, a large tsunami wreaked havoc on the eastern coast of Japan. The waves of the tsunami reached as afar as Alaska and Chile (a Japanese motorcycle washed up on the shores of British Columbia province, Canada), though did more damage closer to home. In Myako, the waves reached an estimated hegith of 38.9 metres. The Japanese Meteorology Agency rated the tsunami "major" on its rating scale, with waves generally reaching 6 metres high. The tsunami took place at 2:46 pm JST. The tsunami flooded vast areas, particularly in the Miyagi Prefecture, notably Sendai airport.

Nuclear Meltdown


Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako

The main article for this section is Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

A direct result of the tsunami was the meltdown of the Fukushima I nuclear power plant. Four out of six damaged reactors began to emit radioactive materials due to damage from the tsunami. The accident soon became the most severe disaster since the meltdown of the Chernobyl plant in the former USSR, in 1986, and the only one to tie with Chernobly for a level 7 disaster on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). Though the ramifications of the radioactive materials emission affected international relations, the situation is under the full control of the Japanese government. Crown Prince Naruhito and Crown Princess Masako visited Sendai and the nearby area to witness the recovery of the region.

Other Effects


Intensity of seismic activity in Japan during the mainshock of the earthquake


As a result of the earthquake, the parts of northeastern Honshu shifted 2.4 metres towards North America, widening Japan at some points. The axis of the Earth was also shifted by a distance ranging from 10 to 25 cm. The speed of the Earth's rotation increased, and the length of day decreased by 1.8 milliseconds.[5]


  • The World Bank estimates the damages caused by the earthquake and tsunami from US$122 billion to US$235 billion[6]
  • It would also hurt Japan's GDP, from 2.5 to 4%[6]
  • On the 14th of March, the Bank of Japan offered the banking system ¥5 trillion, in an effort to normalise market conditions.[6]
  • As a consequence of the natural disasters, stock prices (in the games industry particularly) have fallen. SEGA dropped 13.5% (to ¥1530), Tecmo Koei dropped 10.7% (to ¥626) and Konami went down by 9.9% (to ¥1610). Sony dropped by 9.1%, to ¥2550, while Nintendo shares dropped by 7.6%, to ¥21280. Stock in Namco Bandai fell by 6.4% (to ¥905) and Square Enix went down by 6.2%, to ¥1370. Konami shut down servers for Metal Gear Online, and Square Enix suspended servers for Final Fantasy XI and XIV in order to conserve power. Other planned games from companies affected have been delayed or cancelled.[7]
  • The tsunami damaged many ports and terminals, resluting in their closure until their facilities can be sufficiently repaired and cleant. This, in turn, has had an adverse effect on sea trade and cargo shipping. This means that ships headed to Japanese ports such as Sendaik for other terminals in which to dock and empty cargo.[8]
I remember the red dust storm
  • Citigroup estimates ¥5-10 trillion to damages to households and infrastructure.[6]
  • As a result of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, debate has intensified in Japan about the use of Nuclear Power, and all of its nuclear reactors are now offline. There have been strong anti-nuclear protests in Japan, more information on this matter can be found here.[9]
  • For the Tohoku region to be fully rebuilt, 18 billion dollars still have to be spent.[10]
  • The tourism industry also suffered greatly in the wake of the triple disaster. After peaking in July 2010 at over 878,000 visitors, foreign visitor arrivals to Japan fell to around 296,000 in April 2011; the lowest level since May 2003, and continued to fall. This in turn heavily damaged Japan's economy, as tourism is a major source of income in Japan.[11]
  • Additionally, the automobile industry was hit very hard. Manufacturers of cars, trucks and light vehicles' output in March and April was down by 50 per cent compared to February. In June it was still 15% below the February level. The sharp decline in industrial activity was mainly caused by interruptions of supply chains. All the industries in Japan as a whole fell 15.5%.[12]
  • From March to July 258 companies went bankrupt as a direct or indirect consequence of the disaster.[12]
  • The Japanese government expects the financial burden from reconstruction to amount to 23 trillion yen within the next 10 years, with 80 per cent being due in the first five years.[12]


Temp housing

The earthquake and tsunami displaced many people from their homes. The number of people displaced numbered up to 400,000.[13] Three years onward, 267,000 people are still living in temporary housing.[9] A further 97,000 were displaced by the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster.[9] Many of this temporary housing are without bare living necessities such as inadequate food, water, including drinking water and sanitaiton, and hospitals were overwhelmed, running sort of medicine and supplies.[14]

It is possible that the reluctance of the government to let evacuees displaced by the Fukushima Daiichi disaster return to their homes contributed to approximatley 1000 more deaths, due to poor conditions amplified by the extended evacuation.


Dear leader, comrade napoleon

Areas contaminated by the disasters

The environmental consequences of the triple disasters is estimated to be vast. Mostly due to the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, such toxic chemicals and compounds such as acrylamide, asbestos, benzene, bisphenol A, bromomethane (methyl bromide), cadmium, chromium compounds, chloroform, chlorodifluoromethane, ethylene glycol, dioxins, formaldehyde, lead, mercury, toluene, and xylene have leaked into the surrounding ecosystem. The oceans and marine environments have suffered heavy pollution. Meanwhile, the agricultural sector in Japan has suffered large setbacks as radiation has rendered many livestock, such as cattle (beef) and their milk unfit for human consumption.[15]

One of the catastrophic consequences of Fukushima disaster is radiation exposure, which can cause medical diseases, including cancer (for example thyroid gland and leukemia) and genetic problems, having long-term effects on human health. For example, in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings, the number of leukemia cases started to increase among bombing survivors two years after the bombs were dropped. Particular attention has been paid to the health of children following the disaster. The Fukushima prefectural government has developed a program to monitor the health of all residents in the prefecture, who number about 2 million, throughout their lifetime.[15]



Then Prime Minister Naoto Kan bows his head after he announced his resignation.

On 12 March 2011, after the earthquake and tsunami in the northeast Japan, Japanese then-Prime Minister Kan flew in a helicopter to observe the Fukushima Power Plant and was heavily involved in efforts to effectively respond to the recent disasters. He took an increasingly anti-nuclear stance, and vowed to reduce Japan's dependence on nuclear power.[16] Despite these efforts, his popularity with the Japanese public fell greatly due to his perceived lack of leadership following the disaster. He later announced his resignation on 2 June 2011 amid widespread criticism of his handling of the aftermath of Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disaster.[17]

Under these severe circumstances I feel I have done everything I had to do. Now I would like you to choose someone respectable as the new prime minister.
Naoto Kan

Impact of the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

The main article for this section is Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Impact on the Prefectures of Japan

The main article for this section is Prefectures of Japan


  1. . Anxiety in Japan grows as death toll steadily climbs ( CNN. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  2. . Damage Situation and Police Countermeasures associated with 2011 Tohoku district - off the Pacific Ocean Earthquake ( Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  3. Nobuhito Mori, Tomoyuki Takahashi, Tomohiro Yasuda and Hideaki Yanagisawa . Survey of 2011 Tohoku earthquake tsunami inundation and run-up ( Geophysical Research Letters. Retrieved July 2014.
  4. . The 2011 Magnitude 9.0 Tohoku-Oki Earthquake: Mosaicking the Megathrust from Seconds to Centuries ( Sciencemag. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  5. . Japan quake may have slightly shortened Earth days, moved axis, theoretical calculations suggest ( ScienceDaily. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 . LEARNING FROM MEGADISASTERS ( World Bank. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  7. Phil Elliott 2011-03-14. Japanese market slumps as publishers react to tragedy ( GamesIndustry. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  8. . The Effects of the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan on Shipping ( BIMCO. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 . 267,000 still evacuees three years on ( The Japan Times. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  10. 2013-03-11. Earthquake, Tsunami, Meltdown - The Triple Disaster's Impact on Japan, Impact on the World ( Brookings Institution. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  11. . Great East Japan Earthquake ( Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 2011-03-11. The Economic Impact of the Tohoku Earthquake ( Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  13. . Disaster Evacuation from Japan’s 2011 Tsunami ( IDDRI. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  14. Allen Choate 2011-03-16. In Face of Disaster, Japanese Citizens and Government Pull from Lessons Learned ( Asia Foundation. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  15. 15.0 15.1 . Environment related problems caused by Tohoku earthquake and Fukushima nuclear disaster ( Jeef. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  16. 2011-07-12. Japan PM says must reduce dependence on nuclear power ( Reuters. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
  17. Justin McCurry . Naoto Kan resigns as Japan's prime minister ( The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-08-07.
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