New Episode of "Social Media" Revolution in the War against Nuke Plant

In ancient Japan, or so the folktale goes, there used to be a mountain where old people were taken and abandoned once they reached 60 years of age. Although the practice of obasute was probably more rural legend than actual reality, it is a chilling reminder of the perils of old age in a nation where roughly one-quarter of Japanese are now 60 years old or above.


This news has been going around on Twitter world in Japan for some time - a group of retired engineers are getting together and trying to volunteer in the war zone of Fukushima to stop the nuke power plant calamity. I was thinking that although it was such a brave move, Japanese government and TEPCO would be too bureaucratic to allow such an unprecedented grass-roots move to take any realistic effect.

Now, I just heard the news that the group was officially asked to help by the government and TEPCO, negotiating their position, and that they are currently in the process of establishing themselves as NPO.

This is truly amazing. I don't think it is anything unique to Japan - forget about Bushido, it is long gone, but Americans are known for hero-loving and any other countries have enough number of conscious minded people who would do this under such circumstance. But Japanese have been generally shy and are not used to organizing such things in large scale.

I think Internet age made the change. They put up the site and spread the words through Twitter and other social networks. Domestic and international media took it up, and even more people agreed to join in. It created the momentum.

It may help that the leader, Mr. Yastel Yamada, was a left-wing activist as a student in the 1960's. But the tools - net, Twitter and social media - are there to help now.  They don't have to throw the fire bottles against the establishment - Tweets are stronger than bottles.

So, in a totally different angle, I believe it is another case of "social media" revolution, following "Jasmin Revolution" in Tunisia and Egypt.

Here is the link to their official site. The announcement of the government/TEPCO acceptance is only written in Japanese - the meeting was held on May 26, and was announced on 6/3.


Japan telecom recovery - DoCoMo’s new disaster readiness plans

I am at Wireless Japan 2011 in Tokyo right now.  On the first day, CEOs of all wireless carriers are speaking at Keynote, and found that DoCoMo’s Mr. Takashi Yamada’s talk about their disaster readiness plans quite interesting.

As I have been reporting in this blog, DoCoMo has been quickly recovering their damaged service and as of now, service is recovered at most of the affected areas.  One of the remedies that they took was to build small number of backup large zone base stations on high ground, instead of rebuilding each individual small zone base stations.  In Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant area, they built a special long-range base station at the outer edge of the 30km radius area, facing towards the Nuke Plant for the people working on the recovery effort.

In addition to the direct recovery effort, DoCoMo is introducing 20-billion yen scale disaster readiness plans across the nation.  Some are regular things such as increasing the satellite phone inventory, and my favorites are those two.

1)      Large zone backup

DoCoMo is building the backup base stations on top of the DoCoMo/NTT switching offices, where robust power back up is available.  It gets lit up to cover 7km radius when a disaster strikes and regular base stations are down in the area.  They are building average of 2 of these backup stations per prefecture (5 for Tokyo and 4 for Osaka). 

2)      Voice transfer system

Right after the earthquake this time, they had to limit circuit switch voice traffic by 80%, but data could get by with only 30% limit.  However, some people still have difficulties in using e-mails, so they are planning a backup voice file system to be implemented this fiscal year.  When a caller makes a call but hits the limitation, the circuit automatically diverted to the voice mail system, and the voice message gets turned into a voice file and gets delivered to the destination phone number in digital voice.

Japan Telecom Recovery - Another quake, another mobile service stoppage

News reports say another strong quake hit Northern Japan, just about the same area as the big one one month ago.

NHK video footage of Sendai shows a big flash of light on the horizon and the city lights went off.  My Twitter TL says it is likely that an electricity substation had short circuit or something.  Other tweets say that Onagawa Nuke Power Plant, another working power plant in the area, has taken additional safety measures and it is OK.

Again, according to my TL, mobile phones in Sendai area are not working perfectly now, because of the carriers' restrictions rather than the physical damage or power problem of the base stations.  As long as the power recovers, service is likely to be restored.  Currently, data connection is relatively better.



Japan Telecom Recovery - Help Iwate by drinking sake! via YouTube

This is a bit of off-track from "telecom recovery" issue, but these YouTube videos are going viral in Japan now. Hana-Sake Nippon (word play for "Bloom" and "Flower and sake"), appearantely the coalition of sake-brewers in Iwate prefecture, one of the hardest-hit area in Tohoku by the quake, is putting up these PR videos, asking people to "go admire cherry blossoms to help Iwate's economy."

Early April is the season for cherry blossoms in most areas in Japan, and traditionally, people would go out and picnic under cherry trees in parks, as a great excuse for drinking lots of sake.  However, due to power shortage and other logistical difficulties, as well as due to the public mood to "refrain from wild parties", sake sales in general has plummeted to the bottom.

Tohoku area sake brewers, as a consequence, is facing the threat of "economic secondary disaster".  They have decided to turn to the power of viral (and doing it cheap and quick).  There are 3 videos in this series as of now.

Please, people in the world, drink Sake from Tohoku area (Iwate, Miyagi, Fukushima etc.) to help them overcome this difficulties!  (=good excuse to drink sake under cherry trees!)


Japan Telecom Recovery - DoCoMo published service recovery map, 3/22

NTT DoCoMo has published a detailed map that shows their service status of Tohoku area.  As their usual way, it is TOO detailed and a bit hard to understand because of it, but basically, grey shows the no service area, and blue is the temporary service area with mobile cell sites. DoCoMo service recovery map, 3/22

According to the chart below, current unfunctional cell site number is down to approximately 600-700 in Iwate, Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures.

DoCoMo recovery chart

Source:  DoCoMo press release 3/22


Japan Telecom Recovery - Power shortage a big headache for tech industry, 3/22

This morning, my Twitter time line was filled with a rumor that Google Japan is fleeing Tokyo and moving to Osaka.  It turned out to be a false rumor, but they say it is true that some employees are temporarily moved to the Western part of Japan. That is credible, as I am hearing similar reports from my friends in Japanese tech industry, and it is NOT because of the fear of radiation, but is because of power shortage.

According to Nikkei Newspaper 3/19, TEPCO, the power utility in Tokyo and its vicinity, is trying very hard to recover its generator capacity but the output is still expected to remain much lower than demand.

Here's the math.


TEPCO's capacity before the quake:  63 mil. kw

-> Current capacity after the quake:  34 mil. kw

-> Expected capacity as of End April:  42 mil. kw

Damaged plants

  • Fukushima Nuke Plant capacity:  9 mil. kw -> no hope to recover
  • Higashi-Ogishima power plant (Kawasaki, Kanagawa):  2 mil. kw -> expected to recover by end April
  • Kashima power plant (Kashima, Igaragi):  4 mil. kw -> expected to recover by end April
  • Hirono power plant (Hirono, Fukushima) and Hitachinaka (Tokai, Ibaragi) -> will take longer to recover

(TEPCO is planning to increase the operation in other working power plants as well.)


Normal demand in winter:  50 mil. kw

Normal demand in summer:  60 mil. kw

This is why rolling blackout is in place right now.  23 wards in Tokyo, the city center, are not currently included in rolling blackout plan, but majority of people are commuting from suburbs.  Trains do not run as scheduled, no elevators run in high-rise, and even in unaffected area, businesses are restraining by turning off neon signs, dimming lights and shortening factory operations.

I am hearing that data centers in Eastern Japan are largely unaffected and are running perfectly fine.  Howerver, due to this power shortage situation, employees are having hard time to come to work and their productivity is low.

Some people are also saying that it is for the "national cause" to diversify the industry locations to avoid power crisis in Tokyo.  Unlike physical factories, IT workers are relatively flexible in terms of work locations. Local governments in Western Japan are gearing up to accommodate such demand.  Not just Osaka, the second largest city in Japan, but also Kyoto has a nice cluster of tech companies, as well as Fukuoka.  It may be actually a good chance to crack the problem of too much concentration in Tokyo, IMHO.


Japan Telecom Recovery - KDDI recovery status, 3/21

As Light Reading says KDDI is not saying anything (in English, probably), here is my translation from their Japanese press release as of 3/21. <au mobile>

No service restrictions are in place

There are non-working cell sites in the following prefectures: Aomori, Iwate, Akita, Miyagi, Fukushima, Yamagata, Niigata, Ibaragi, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama, Chiba, Tokyo, Kanagawa

As of 3/18, non-working cell sites number is down to 620.  (Source:  @KDDIPR Twitter)

Mobile cell sites are deployed in the following locations:

  • Ofunato City Hall (Ofunato, Iwate)
  • Otsuchi High School (Otsuchi, Iwate)
  • Yamada High School (Yamada, Iwate)
  • Sun Village Takada (Rikuzen-Takada, Iwate)
  • Sizugawa Junior High School (Minami-Sanriku, Miyagi)
  • Onagawa Sports Park (Kesennuma, Miyagi)
  • In addition to those, 20 mobile power charger vehicle are deployed in various locations.

<Fixed Lines>

No service restrictions are in place.

Some services are not available in some parts of the affacted area due to physical damage to the circuits:

  • Fixed and Internet Service such as au one net, IP−VPN, WVS, Ether−VPN
  • au Hikari, Hikari Direct in parts of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures
  • Metal Plus in parts of Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures


Some international circuits are down, but it is probably not because of the Tohoku earthquake, but is  due to a separate earthquake in Taiwan.

  • International Dedicated Lines to Australia and the U.S.
  • International IP-VPN to Australia and the U.S.
  • International value-added service:  Alasca, Bermuda, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, the U.S., US Virgin Islands, Venezuela

<Emergency deployment>

Following phones are in place to support emergency workers

au mobile phones:  727

Satellite phones (Iridium and Inmarsat) :  38

Others:  Portable power generators, cell phone cahrgers, power source cable tap etc.

Source:  KDDI Press Release, 3/21


Japan Telecom Recovery - Light Reading reports about NTT, 3/18

A week after the earthquake and tsunami struck northeast Japan, NTT Group (NYSE: NTT) is still battling to restore domestic fixed and mobile lines to its customers in the affected areas.


NTT seems to have informed to foreign press about their damage and recovery. Softbank is lightly mentioned, and KDDI apparently has not informed them in English. Please do so quickly, KDDI!!


Japan Telecom Recovery - "Hack for Japan" being held, 3/19-21

To gather the idea and knowledge of Japanese Web people to come up with better solutions for Japan's current crisis, several major Japanese Web/Net players got together and organized "Hack for Japan" event.  It is currently under way, 3/19-21. Participating companies provide hosting/cloud service, technical help and other resources, and participants can use any open software, including various Web APIs, Android/iPhone, Windows/Mac and so on.  It is open to any developers for free.

As Tokyo/Tohoku area logistics is too hard to maneuver, the event is basicaly held online on Google Wave and Google Moderator, but there are several physical venues in Western Japan.

Participating Companies:

Google Japan, Rakuten, Yahoo! JAPAN, Microsoft Japan, Twitter, Amazon Web Services, Salesforce Japan, OpenStreetMap、Hatena、Mixi、Evernote Corporation, Cloudant Inc., Sakura Internet, Tonchi Dot


Kyoto Research Park (capacity: 100), Fukuoka AiP Cafe (20), Okayama Libra Hall (30), Tokukshima Tsukimigaoka Beach Park (capacity unknown)

For further information, please visit the following offical Webpage.

Hack for Japan Website

Twitter Hashtag: #hack4jp

Source:  Hack For Japan announcement page