Japan, you’re in my thoughts.

Such unthinkable events going on in Japan. A massive earthquake, terrifying aftershocks, devastating tsunamis and an unfolding nuclear nightmare. I can only hope the worst is over, but we’re all looking at the news between the fingers over our eyes these days, aren’t we?

It’s popular in nerdy circles to view Japan from afar as some kind of geek-topia where everything is always perfect and awesome. Well, I’ve at least spent enough time there to know better. But I know if there’s one country that’s as prepared as any country is ever going to be for a series of disasters on this scale, it is Japan.

Prayers at Heian Jingu

That said, I hope people donate to help the people affected. The scale of the damage is hard to fathom. Japan, a nation technologically ahead of the curb in many ways, right now needs the world’s help on a basic, human level.

More prayers

If you are able, please donate to the Red Cross or a similar charity that will help out those that need it.

And if you have Japanese language skills to spare (and I really, really wish my Japanese were up to snuff for this), the Japan Association of Translators is a compiling a list of translators who can lend their interpretation skills to charities on the ground.

And there’s even a drive to send the evacuees fresh pairs of socks (and a care letter). Little gestures with grand meaning.

The Japanese earthquake/tsunami disaster and Twitter hashtag use

For the Twitter-curious, the hashtags being used by the Japanese and by those supporting Japan from afar are a bit different. I find it pretty interesting what people are using so I thought I’d break it down a little here.

Mainly English-speaking outside of Japan
#Japan, #tsunami and #earthquake are pretty intuitive but also ephemeral and not too specific to Japan – you will see tweets about the tsunami reaching the CNMI or Hawaii, for example, with the #tsunami hashtag. Mainly English-speakers are using tags like #PrayForJapan or #HelpJapan or variants thereof. CNN makes frequent use of the #quake tag to mark its tweets about the news.

Japanese-speaking globally, English-speaking within Japan
A lot of people in Japan (speaking Japanese, English, et cetera) on the ground or trying to get information out are using other tags, including #jishin (地震/earthquake – sometimes also Romanized as #jisin), #saigai (災害/disaster), #eqjp (EarthQuake JaPan – a space-efficient acronym, great for re-Tweeting important announcements), and a combination of the two in #jishin_jp.

Another interesting trend to note is the use of prefecture-specific hashtags to organize. You’ll see hashtags like #save_miyagi, #save_iwate, #save_ibaraki as well as just placenames like #Sendai (city), #Touhoku (the northeast area of Japan that includes Miyagi and Ibaraki prefectures), #miyagi_oosaki (the prefecture name followed by the town name).

Unfortunately as the threat of radiation grows, there are more tweets about how to fend off radiation poisoning and get access to safe water and shelter marked with the tag #bousai (防災, disaster prevention).

A handy hashtag that crosses into both language categories is #jishin_e, for English earthquake news.