Three Months After the Earthquake (Jul 14, 2016)

2016.07.14 ●News

Three Months After the Earthquake (Jul 14, 2016)


Past messages for the Director
On the way to restoration (May 2, 2016)
Eleventh day after the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake (Apr 25, 2016)
To all IMEG members and supporters (Apr 19, 2016)
Be smart. Stay foolish. (Apr 4, 2016)

Photos of the institute after the Kumamoto Earthquakes



Three months has passed very quickly. I became director in April, and barely managed to overcome the difficulties thanks to everyone on the staff. I could feel the unity of our institute members getting stronger through the daily lunch meetings and the collaborative work in the afternoon. While we usually do not carry anything heavier than a pipette, we lifted heavy equipment and benches off of the floor. We bailed out water, bucket-by-bucket, that had become a pond under the floor, and also carried liquid nitrogen tanks up staircases. We shared the food, water, and sweets from all over the country. Meanwhile we sent regular updates to MEXT concerning the restoration progress, and also received coverage from newspapers and television. At the Council for Research Institutes and Centers of Japanese National Universities, I explained the conditions that we experienced after the earthquakes, which led to the special lecture at our institute by a professor from Tokyo University’s Earthquake Research Institute.


The IMEG building remains as it was immediately following the earthquake, with many cracks in the outer walls and windows that won’t open. One of the two elevators is not running and damaged expensive equipment remains. However, the aftershocks are considerably less now, sleeping through the night has become easier, and it seems that everyone’s energy and physical fitness has returned to normal. The usual experiments, such as those that use cell cultures and mouse breeding, have also almost returned to a pre-earthquake state, and we have been receiving weekly state-of-the-art seminars from visiting lecturers.


Thanks to the efforts of members of the laboratory staff, the liaison research promotion facility staff, administration personnel, and of various merchants, we have now grasped the status of the equipment damage. At first, it was very difficult to get estimates, one-by-one, for items which we weren’t sure could be repaired, but progress is coming along and we are now negotiating a huge number of purchases and repairs. There are still a lot of time-consuming procedures to go through but we will work hard to finish repairs by the end of next March hopefully. We should have a briefing about building repair policy sometime in August (September at the latest).


We have received offers for a variety of research support from many universities and research institutes both home and abroad. We have also kindly received assistance for travel expenses from the journal “Development.” The restoration will take some time so we graciously accept these offers of assistance. Additionally, we have received many donations from people around the country. There was much confusion after the earthquake, and it took considerable time to complete the list of donations, but just seeing those names brought tears to my eyes. I was once again reminded of just how many people support us. Thank you very much.


We will continue to post updates about the recovery situation on our website. Our institute is one the few that make the photos of damage inside the building open to the public. We keep in mind that we show photographs with the dates they were taken to convey the situations that change every day. We never use the over-representative photos or exaggerated phrases in the text, just as should be done when writing scientific papers. We would like to share with the public information about the damage caused by the earthquake, which will lead to the greater care in the research community to be prepared for another earthquake. In the near future, we plan to organize the lessons that we learned from this experience, including how to secure the equipment. Making earthquake predictions is extremely difficult, and they can happen anywhere in Japan. Seismic reinforcement of home and workplace, as well as securing the precious equipment, is very important.


Total recovery will take still more time, but our research is continuing forward at full throttle. We believe that the best way to show gratitude to everyone is by releasing new research results from Kumamoto. Thank you for all of your support and encouragement.


Ryuichi Nishinakamura
Institute of Molecular Embryology and Genetics (IMEG), Kumamoto University