Social Media in Times of Crisis – Japan Earthquake Tsunami

Social Media can help unite us in times of crisis. Within moments, social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Youtube connect the world with the voices and images on the ground as well our own global reactions. We give you here one more reason that you should be participating in social media if you aren’t yet, as well as important links to information and ways to help the tragic situation in Japan following the devastating earthquake and tsunami.

japan crisis social media graphic by ray gordon

Our first alert in Kauai to the huge, tragic Japan earthquake was at 9PM Thursday night, March 10. We attended first to preparations for a tsunami predicted for 3AM our time. There was little sleep for everyone on Kauai and the rest of the state of Hawaii with tsunami warning sirens going off every hour from 10PM through 3AM with a bonus at 2:30AM. Residents from homes and vacation rentals directly at the coast needed to evacuate and we supported that effort by taking in a few people. As it turned out, the tsunami effect in Hawaii was very limited but given the magnitude of the quake and tsunami in Japan, it was certainly better to be safe than sorry.

We immediately got on Twitter @KauaiTalk @LindaSherman @RayJGordon and Facebook to make sure that our local friends in Hawaii were aware of the warnings and were taking precautions. We passed on news and responded to questions using the hash tag# created for the local event: #HITsunami.

All night, we watched the first shocking, horrifying and heartbreaking images that CNN could get a hold of. CNN didn’t have many that first night and kept running them over and over but we kept coming back to watch. My husband Ray and I lived in Japan for more than 13 years beginning in late 1993. (I was there for an additional 8 years before that). We were very worried about our friends in Japan. We checked for whatever social media we could find and also bothered them with emails.

At times of humanitarian crisis or when a nation or the world is focused on a special event, social media brings us together. Twitter in particular is very immediate. I wrote about this phenomenon calling it the Twitter Shared Experience. Facebook Pages that are open to updates can also be very useful. Blogs follow and allow us to share stories that support all of us. Information shared through social media is helpful to those in need and it links us all together, in all of our humanity.

Social Media for Social Good
Social media can be used for Social Good. You may have seen stories written about “social influencers” people whose voices carry to many thousands of listeners through their followers on Twitter, Facebook and blogs. In these times of crisis, these influencers can be a positive force. But so can each and everyone of us. You can share your voice on Twitter by including a # in your tweet such as #HelpJapan. People who use Twitter search can create a stream of information by putting that # in their Twitter search bar.* You can contribute your voice to the Facebook Pages I have listed here. You can comment on relevant websites and blogs or post a blog yourself.

I worked in Japan as an executive and was one of the few foreign participants in the Nihon Keizai Doyukai (Japan Associate of Corporate Executives). The Keizai Doyukai produces white papers for consideration by the Japanese government. There are few foreigners in this organization because it is conducted entirely in Japanese and requires the ability to not only speak Japanese but read Japanese in order to fully participate. I participated in several committees that touched on the image of Japan to the world.

Japan is a huge international aid contributor but they never talk about it. Japanese are humble by nature and do not brag about what they do. I am hoping that this crisis ultimately drags more English capable Japanese onto social media to communicate with the rest of the world about Japan. This will be part of an overall change from a rather insular society to one that is more fully linked with the rest of the world. We can help Japan financially and emotionally through our support delivered through social media platforms.

Following is the list of links* that I have collected so far. This has been a labor of love and I hope you find it useful. You are invited to add useful links that I have missed in the comments.

Social Good – Giving
List of Local Japanese Organizations Providing Direct Support Links to their English pages selected as trustworthy by Todd Wassel and his Japanese wife who are both professional aid and recovery workers with the United Nations
Tokyo IS Support Tokyo International School & TEDxTokyo communities have partnered with Second Harvest Japan to receive needed supplies at Tokyo International School for immediate delivery to the disaster areas (local donations)
Seven Ways to Help from Mashable a leader in Social Media news and analysis
South by SouthWest SXSW Giving
SXSW* – Use your social media influence to help Japan message – Red Cross
Time Magazine – Five Ways You Can Help
How You Can Help from Tokyo Time Out links to this Interaction list of charities

There are additional references to charities within many of the links on this page.
Celebrities are making major contributions, some direct and some collecting donations through fans such as Lady Gaga with a Pray for Japan wristband.

On corporate or non-profit giving: some people have objected to requests for passing forward the word on Twitter through retweets (Microsoft for Bing) or joining Fan Pages to raise money but Charlie Weingarten at Dog Bless You smartly replied: Some people ask why I don’t just give the money. Because together we are far stronger than working alone. Others are suggesting that Apple is taking a cut of contributions through iTunes (they are not!). I have to admit that I personally didn’t like a 2009 cancer campaign on Twitter that appeared to be all about breaking a guinness record so that a particular PR agency could show they had clout (without acknowledging major players that had helped them along the way). But while using caution to only contribute through organizations you trust, we need not be stingy with our Facebook likes and our Twitter RT’s (retweets). Microsoft quickly decided to just donate the $100,000 instead of continuing their RT campaign but ultimately, continuing to spread the word is good for everyone and … why is it that we need to begrudge these organizations some positive PR?

Useful Japan Disaster Dedicated Sites
Google Crisis Response includes flight cancellation status and other useful updated information (English)
Wikipedia current disaster page filled with useful links and updates
Press Releases from the Prime Minister of Japan related to Measures Being Taken
Olive – Advice Wiki for emergency areas in English and Japanese by @_nosigner
Wiki for Earthquake Info
American Embassy in Japan
Fukushima International Association

National Japanese Newspapers – English Feed
Nikkei leading business newspaper
Yomiuri large daily newspaper
Asahi large daily newspaper

Live News Streams from Japan – English
NHK World (Japan’s national TV station) has is providing livestream with full earthquake/tsunami coverage on this NHK Ustream Link

Live News Streams from Japan – Japanese
TBS Channel on UStream.

Useful Sites About Japan Providing Updates
Yokoso – Japan Culture, Lifestyle and Entertainment based in Yokkaichi, Mie, Japan
Entertainment Magazine in Japan – Time Out Tokyo
Japan Times – English Language Newspaper in Japan
Tokyo Post Online News Magazine
Japan Today Online News Magazine
Gaijin Pot Online Live, Work, Play Magazine for Foreigners in Japan

Rolling Black Out Information – In English
Yokoso News Updates
Links from Daniel Kahl showing specific cities

Finding People
Google People Finder

Useful Facebook Pages in English – includes Giving
eJournal USA published by the United States Department of State, Bureau of International Information Programs
Help Save Japan at SXSW
Prayer for Tsunami Victims in Japan (fortunately has non-prayer related info as well)
Rescue Dog Organization: Explore Dogs
Tokyo International School Emergency Supply Center

Useful Facebook Pages in Japanese, English and Other Languages
Bringing the world together Facebook Page
Facebook Page for Touhoku EarthQuake
Free Medical Consultation For Earthquake Victims

Twitter Corporate Produced (in both Japanese and English) helpful links and useful hash tags.
Search for essential local Japan earthquake crisis information in English on Twitter

Twitter #Hash Tags*

I am seeing tweets that say ‘instead of #PrayforJapan please use #HelpJapan’ and I agree! However, #PrayforJapan is still going strong, so if you want to get a message to all on the English channels you should use both tags.
In Japan they are using #jishin (earthquake) and others you can see listed in the Twitter blog at the top of this section. #EQJP has become an accepted format from recent earthquakes in Equador and New Zealand.

The #j_j_helpme hash tag reminds us that Twitter can be used to save your life. We wrote about this in our Your Cell Phone Can Save Your Life article.

Tweets From Japan
Tweets From Japan 60 volunteers translating tweets in Japanese into 12 languages – Google Doc
Earthquake and Relief live tweet streams on Twimpact this system by Matthias Jugel, owner of Twimpact (in Germany) searches tweets by keywords and #tags and includes cloud of active twitter accounts providing information. This is generally designed to capture Japanese tweets because of the keywords used. You can choose the translation language for your country.

In English (curating news)
@Tzarimas Helen Tzarimas from Sydney (update – Mar 15 – exhausted – passed to her Japan twitter list)
@seacorro Zoe Daniel from Bangkok
@Colvinius Mark Colvin from Sydney
@HiroTag Hiroko MD from Cardiff, Wales, UK
@Bunguman Yoshi Suzuki from Minneapolis, Minn
@MarianSteinbeck from Cologne, Germany
@MarcySensei Marcy Sensei, from Mexico City

Thought Leaders Not Currently in Japan
@Joi Joi Itoh from wherever he is in the world

Tweeting From Japan Personal Experience and Information
@YankeeReview Darren in Fukushima, Japan
@UnusualOlive Rika Oshima in Yokohama, Japan
@DanielKahl public personality, born in California, in Japan
@audreybenten Usually in Shinjuku, Japan – in Austin for SXSW conference
@tokyoreporter Brett Bull in Tokyo
@Matt_Alt Matt Alt in Tokyo
@tamegoeswild Joseph Tame in Tokyo
@1rick Rick Martin in Tokyo
@survivingnjapan Ashley Thompson in Shizuoka
@sandrajapandra Sandra Barron in Tokyo
@HidekiOnda in Tokyo
@Gen Gen Kanai
@MutantFrogInc Roy Berman
@KenMogi in Tokyo
@OurManinAbiko in Abiko, Japan
@Shioyama in Tokyo
@Tom_Vincent in Tokyo
@gakuranman Michael Gakuran in Nagoya, Japan
@SteveNagata in Tokyo

News Bureau Related People Tweeting from Japan
@martyn_williams in Tokyo
@HirokoTabuchi in Tokyo
@W7VOA Steve Herman
@JNatsuko Natsuko Fukue
@jtmasami Masami Ito
@Ularainblack Ulara Nakagawa
@fieldproducer Neal Mann (free lance)
@sanchanta Mariko Sanchanta
@dicklp Richard Lloyd Parry
@kzinagata Kazuaki Nagata
@Daiwaka Daisuke Wakabayashi

Japan News Sites in English

Japanese Government
@Norishikata Noriyuki Shikata, PR Prime Minister’s Office

Updates and Rescue Information in Japanese

Accurate Nuclear News
@BraveNewClimate Barry Brook author Brave new Climate
Japan Status Accurate radiation level information @JapanStatus
March 17 Obama Public Address: USA Not Threatened by Nuclear Fallout from CNN
Why I Am Not Fleeing Japan – Washington Post

I have created a Japan Crisis Twitter List on my @KauaiTalk account and am doing related tweeting from both @LindaSherman and @KauaiTalk but no longer in the format of a constant stream of information that you will find most of the time on the twitter accounts I have collected for this article.

How to Pronounce Japanese
Japanese pronunciation is flat with no emphasis on the second syllable that you are used to in English, so please stop putting emphasis on the dai in Sendai. The vowels in Japanese are the same as in Spanish so it is relatively simple to pronounce Japanese words. I produced this little Japanese pronunciation tutorial with audio during a raft of news anchor mispronunciations of the word karaoke during the holiday season.

Failure of Closed Social Media Systems – American Chamber of Commerce
ACCJ (American Chamber of Commerce) should be an important resource to American companies doing business in Japan. They have recently put up a Facebook Page and Twitter feed. Unfortunately, they have set their Facebook Page as a fairly closed system that does not encourage others to update. Their LinkedIn Group moderates comments (slowly!) so there is little activity there as well.

Why Japan Will Emerge Stronger After the Earthquake
We were in Japan during the Kobe (Hanshin/Awaji) earthquake in January 1995. Japan refused international assistance during that disaster which proved to be a regrettable decision. The spirit of cooperation both internally and internationally during this horrible tragedy and in the rebuilding to follow should be a positive force.

*Boomer Tech Talk Guide to Technical Words Used in this Article:
Hashtag: Used in Twitter, written #. This is used to create a stream in Twitter of all tweets that include that #. Using the hashtag allows Twitter uses to follow particular topics and events using the search bar in Twitter without needing to go to any particular one source. Twitter refers to some of these hashtags as “trending topics”. You can search for a key word with using the hashtag but the # encourages people to use the same word, making it easy to find a stream of information or commentary on one topic.
SXSW: Stands for South by Southwest. A huge annual music/film/social media conference held in Austin (this year March 11 – March 20, starting shortly after the earthquake hit Japan)
Links: You can click on a live link to get to a website, including a Facebook Page. I have not made the Twitter profiles into live links so when you see @name you need to enter to get to the link.

We hope that if you are not yet participating in social media, this article has given you one more reason to take that step. Social media can help you cope with a crisis in your personal or business life with immediate information and emotional support.

I would greatly appreciate it if you add useful links that I may have missed in the comments.

  • Bruce Sallan

    What an important and valuable article. I am so proud of my BoomerTechTalk partners, @LindaSherman and @RayJGordon for the obvious exacting, detailed, thorough, and immediate work that was done in preparing this article and humanitarian effort. The truth in these words is the best of what we as human beings can and should be doing to help our fellow man. The fact that Social Media can do such good makes me proud to be a advocate for its value through this website.

    Aaron Sallan, our “It’s a Tech World After All” creator, and my 14-year-old son came to me today to ask where to donate to help Japan. He wanted to take $100 from his savings account to give towards this cause. I now have the perfect place to show him what options he has and it’s ironically the place he works for and contributes such wonderful cartoons!

    Again, well done Linda and Ray.

    • Linda Sherman

      Thank you Bruce for those beautiful words.

    • Linda Sherman

      Thank you @BruceSallan for those beautiful words.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Bruce for the kind acknowledgement of our efforts. We think Aaron’s gesture is a remarkable one for a fine young man.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks Bruce for the kind acknowledgement of our efforts. We think Aaron’s gesture is a remarkable one for a fine young man.

  • Aaron Sallan

    thanks linda for posting this. i have decided to make a donation for the earthquake victims, i went to japan last december and i loved it so much. it is hard to believe how much damage can be caused by the force of nature. thanks.

    • Linda Sherman

      It is obvious that Japan means so much to you, Aaron. Are they talking about the crisis situation at your school?

    • Anonymous

      s you know, once you have visited or lived in Japan and met the people, you connect with them in a special way. Aaron, I am sure that the people of Japan will very much appreciate your thoughtful and sincere assistance.

    • Anonymous

      s you know, once you have visited or lived in Japan and met the people, you connect with them in a special way. Aaron, I am sure that the people of Japan will very much appreciate your thoughtful and sincere assistance.

  • Richard Sherman

    Great article. Very informative and well thought out.

    • Linda Sherman

      Much thanks Richard. I hope you pass it on to the large community of your music fans.

  • Carol Samuels

    Very thorough and useful – great to have the perspective of an American with so much experience in Japanese society.

    • Linda Sherman

      Thank you Carol. Much appreciated!

  • Bob Conti

    What a wonderful and well written article. You’ve covered just about everything and you did it with an insiders view having lived there for such a long time. I too have friends currently living in Japan. They contacted me right after the earthquake and before the Tsunami. They are o.k. but as you can imagine “still shaking” both literally and figuratively. You have provided a great source of information and I’m sure anyone with a heart appreciates it. Thanks Linda and Ray.. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those suffering through this tragic event. I am happy that you are both safe and well.

    • Linda Sherman

      Thank you Bob. You are indeed a man with friends in many countries, the result of the international touring you do with Thank you so much for sharing.

  • Joe – Poipu Vacation

    Great article both thought provoking and informative, thank you for showcasing the power of social media and caring people.

    • Linda Sherman

      I am hoping Sunday will be your first #BlogChat experience Joe. It will be great to have you join us for what should be a great twitter chat discussion.

      • Joe – Poipu Vacation

        I hope so too. I am real sick, and I have been writing for the past 5 hours.
        I know more about what to do on this island than i did this morning when i
        started. Good seo stuff and it will be helpful to anyone thinking of coming
        to kauai.

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  • Elen Sorpio

    Disaster in Japan is shocking! The earthquake and tsunami in Japan, died and went missing more than 16.6 thousand people. In Fukushima Prefecture earthquake and tsunami caused the accident at the plant. can view videos from the field of event, and scientists estimate that about a catastrophe.
    I think each of us must help people left homeless!

  • Moondustwriter

    Great article Linda. It’s been exciting to see how people are circling the wagons when a crisis occurs.

    • Linda Sherman

      Leslie @MoonDuster Circling the wagons in a crisis is an interesting reference. My mind jumps to the pioneers in America. In this case, I see the circle is the globe and no predator to protect ourselves from except suffering. What do you think? Thank you so much for stopping by to comment!

  • Victor Canada

    Great post Linda. So thorough. It really is exciting to see the good that can be done with a connected world. The positives far out weigh any negatives. I’ve loved Japanese culture since I was a child. I was first introduced through Martial Arts and learned much more since then. In Quality Management many of the terms are in Japanese and come from Japanese quality pros.

    Great job and I look forward to discussing the topic of Social Good through Social Media in BlogChat on Sunday 3/20.

    • Linda Sherman

      @VictorCanada Nice to know about our shared interest in Japan Victor #BlogChat reference is much appreciated. I am delighted that @MackCollier has chosen to use this talk about “How Blogs Can Be Used for Good in a Time of Crisis” starting with this article as a point of reference on Sunday, March 20.

      For our other readers, please note that the #BlogChat twitter chat is every Sunday night at 9PM EST. You will find hundreds of bloggers participating, a truly great group of people. Personally, I find it easiest to participate like this:

      Create two columns in Hootsuite (or another platform with columns) next to each other:

      One: Search #blogchat
      One: Search (your twitter name without the @sign)

      That way you can see both your sent and your mentions on the “your twitter name without the @sign” column.

      Don’t worry about keeping up with every tweet.

      Always include #BlogChat in every tweet you make.

      Take advantage of following people you meet on #BlogChat. People there enjoy networking with other bloggers.

    • Bruce Sallan

      EVERYONE please join @MackCollier, Linda and me tonight for an important #blogchat! Thx for the support Victor. Also, check out “our” 14-year-old Aaron Sallan’s take on helping Japan in his current “Tech World” cartoon:

  • Nicholas Sack

    This has got to be the most resourceful article the internet has to offer right now. I have many friends in the Navy over there helping out with the relief efforts and they say it’s definitely an eye-opener for them. Just to grasp devastation like that in person must be enough to make anybody buckle. My heart goes out to everybody that was effected by this.

    Great stuff Linda — Looking forward to hearing you and Bruce share some great thoughts and insight on tomorrow’s #blogchat :)

    • Linda Sherman

      Thank you for the huge compliment Nick. This has truly been an labor of love. Are any of your Navy friends over there on Twitter?

      • Nicholas Sack

        Not that I know of Linda. Most of them use Facebook and bash Twitter to be honest. And you are most welcome :)

        • Linda Sherman

          I was looking for you on Facebook. Can you help me? My personal profile is at

          • Nicholas Sack

            I threw you a friend invite! I’m glad we can connect on FB!

  • Kauai Beach Inn

    Amazing article, Linda!!! Thanks for the incredible wealth of information!

  • Kauai Beach Inn

    Amazing article, Linda!!! Thanks for the incredible wealth of information!

    • Linda Sherman

      Thank you Bob! Will you be on #BlogChat tonight? 3PM HST (Hawaii Time) It was a pleasure watching you during your virgin voyage on #BlogChat last week.

      • Robert Kurtz

        So…I made it to #blogchat after all :)
        Thank you for the reminder!!! Glad you enjoyed watching me…today was my first solo voyage.

    • Courtney Parham

      Yes, I also appreciate the time you took to curate these resources, Linda. I’ll be joining #blogchat tonight!

      • Linda Sherman

        #BlogChat hosted by @MackCollier Thank you Courtney for this comment and your tweet! I followed you and added you to one of my Twitter Lists. I look forward to interacting with you further on tonight’s BlogChat twitter chat: “How Blogs Can Be Used for Good in a Time of Crisis” 9PM EST 6PM PST 3PM HST

  • Kauai Beach Inn

    Amazing article, Linda!!! Thanks for the incredible wealth of information!

  • Kauai Beach Inn

    Amazing article, Linda!!! Thanks for the incredible wealth of information!

  • Linda Sherman

    Thank you Bob! Will you be on #BlogChat tonight? 3PM HST (Hawaii Time) It was a pleasure watching you during your virgin voyage on #BlogChat last week.

  • Harold

    Really good info and updates Linda. Thank you. The traditional media is letting us down in many areas, and social media is definitely not perfect, but you really tie a lot together here, thank you again! I wonder if you would add or consider to include the “Wall of Shame” or there is also one for fame? See

    • Linda Sherman

      Thank you Harold. People are definitely watching the comments here as well.

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  • David W.

    Good info, thoughtful comments.

    • Linda Sherman

      Thank you David. I keep adding useful links as they come to my attention. Most recently I added #Blog4Japan and @JapanStatus. delivers a reality check with accurate radiation level readings in Japan, which show that they are in most cases lower than the daily average exposure rate. Even where they read higher, it should be noted that the average exposure rate can vary up to 10 times in certain locations. The average levels nor the levels measured to date do not pose a threat to health. (this paragraph written with support from our tech partner, Ray Gordon)

      Having lived in Japan, and worked in the food and beverage industry with Coors and Barilla, I know that the Japanese authories are extremely cautious about food and water safety. Supermarkets and convenience stores have very tight and strict rules on expiration dates. Bans on imported meat because of mad cow disease were much longer than necessary. My favorite sushi accompaniment “kaiware” (daikon radish sprouts) was unavailable for years because of an isolated incidence of irrigation water contamination in one location.

  • June Marie

    Thank you for the wonderful information…do you know of a program that translates Japanese-English well ? I have made some delightful friends in Japan, some have a hard time with English and my Japanese is non. The programs I found on line have left me wondering what on earth I said to them. I would dearly love to comunicate well with them, I am bedridden most of the time so unable to go out looking, my search on line is confusing. Thank you again for a job well done.

    • Linda Sherman

      One way to find out what you said is to translate what you sent back to English again to see if the meaning was captured. Automatically translating Japanese sentence structure is very challenging because it is so different than ours. Keep your sentences as simple as possible and always use clear subjects rather than pronouns (especially avoid “it” and “they”) even if it feels like you are repeating yourself.

      I noticed that some relief links are using Google translation. I took a look at the following link (this is for translation TO Japanese, you can adjust as needed)|ja| and it seemed pretty good. Google provides this type of service for gmail:

      I’m so glad that you were able to find this page June. Did you find it “searching” online?

      • June Marie

        A few of the Ladies in Japan send links to articles they find or are sent to them, even if they are in Japanese I save them. I also get links through news casters I follow on twitter (also saved) both American and Japanese, honestly I am not sure who sent me what but glad they did. Because I sleep a lot it takes me awhile to go through the saved links, ones I really enjoy I sign for email updates. Thank you ever so much for the links and your suggestions, I am slowly working on them. Maybe one day, just for fun, I will send a short draft and see how I do.
        Thank you again…….June

  • firstSTREET

    Excellent article about social media and the uses it has during times of emergency. You make great points about the nature of communications, and how information flows. Great links and resources too!

    • Linda Sherman

      @FirstStreetInc Your kind words are very much appreciated.

  • teri c stoddard

    There’s a crisis going on in Maine right now, so we’re using social media to get the word out to help this innocent man.

    Abuse Hysteria in Maine: The Ghost of Michael Nifong

    Due to Assistant District Attorney Mary Kellett, an innocent man could go to prison for rape while his ex-wife, who abused him and their children and threatened to kill him in front of police (on tape) could go unpunished. Kellett sought to exclude key evidence that would have served to establish Filler’s innocence.

  • Justin Germino

    Social Media makes sure breaking news and events get into the hands of the public faster than ever. It also is an ideal way for family members to do checks with each other and can be faster than traditional phone calls when you can send a status request to groups of people in an affected area. This is a great compilation of resources that were sources of information during the emergency.

    • Linda Sherman

      It was a great pleasure meeting you Justin @DragonBlogger on #BlogChat. You make a very good point about the value of letting family members check and find each other using social media.

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  • Kailun Fan

    Hello Linda,
    I wanna ask that can i use the image in the article for my media essay?
    it is not for any commercial purpose.
    I am a student from University of New South Wales.
    thank you.