“On March 11, 2011 at 11:46 pm CST Japan was hit with an earthquake of 9.0 magnitude, followed by a tsunami shortly afterward. This earthquake and subsequent tsunami is known today as the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The epicenter was located 80 miles east of Sendai, the capital of Miyagi Prefecture, and 231 miles northeast of Tokyo.” This is how most stories of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami are started. This intro is short, professional, to the point, and really speaks to how those who responded during operation Tomodachi carried out their mission. Operation Tomodachi (Japanese for friend) not only aided in the improvement of United States and Japan relations, but also serves as an outstanding example of how to respond both quickly and efficiently in such important times.
Japan is no stranger to earthquakes nor are they unfamiliar with tsunamis; however, the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami was different. Registering at a staggering magnitude of 9.0, the Tohoku earthquake was the largest in Japan's history. The “death toll is estimated at 14,027 people, with 13,754 people missing. Furthermore, the disaster displaced over 136,000 people, destroyed over 4,500 buildings, and damaged 71 bridges, over 3,500 roads, and 26 railways.” (Tomodachi Analysis) Despite the earthquake's magnitude, it was the resultant tsunami that caused the majority of the deaths from this disaster.
“In Miyako, the capital of the Iwate Prefecture, the tsunami attained a maximum wave height of 125 ft, inundating various coastal areas. The same tsunami caused a dam failure in Fukushima, destroying approximately 1,800 homes and causing a majority of the casualties in that particular prefecture. In addition, the tsunami also caused the largest nuclear incident since Chernobyl when it severed the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant’s power grid connections, causing overheating. The flooding and earthquake damage in the surrounding areas hindered external assistance, leading to a nuclear meltdown.” (Tomodachi Analysis)
“The scale of the disaster may lead one to conclude that casualty and damage effects should have been significantly higher. However, over the last two decades, Japan made significant investments in nationwide disaster risk mitigation infrastructure. The country currently invests approximately 1.2% of its government’s budget on disaster mitigation — a rate far above that of other industrialized countries. These investments include a ductile, earthquake-resistant design for new structures and retrofitting older construction, not just in Tokyo but across the nation. This investment resulted in the majority of buildings withstanding the original 9.0-magnitude quake and its sustained aftershocks.” (Tomodachi Analysis)
Prior to operation Tomodachi, US-Japan relations were in a bit a political rough patch. The difference in core values between both countries was tearing a hole in their relationship. Operation Tomodachi sewed that tear back up, and made...