Ian Thomas Ash, originally from New York, is a freelance documentary filmmaker who has lived in Japan for 10 years. When the magnitude-9.0 earthquake hit off the coast of northeastern Japan on March 11, Ian felt its effects in the nation’s capital, Tokyo. The impact of the quake, tsunami and the ongoing threat of radioactive fallout from the stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant 150 miles away is taking its toll.

In a recent guest articles for Discovery News, Ian documented the impact the ongoing crisis was having on the populace of the nation’s capital. He also wrote about what he saw during a trip to the city of Ishinomaki, one of the many cities hit hard by the tsunami. In April, Ian documented the journey made by a group of volunteers led by three brothers who travel to tsunami-devastated Ishinomaki City. He also interviewed ENS Margaret Morton, who was stationed aboard the Navy destroyer USS Mustin when the earthquake struck.

Ian also ventured inside the stricken Fukushima power plant’s 30 kilometer radiation exclusion zone with cameraman Colin O’Neill to document the conditions the local population are currently enduring. Part 1, Japan Crisis: Entering the Radiation Zone, was published on May 9; Part 2, Japan Crisis: The Children of Minamisoma City, was published on May 18; and Part 3, “Japan Crisis: Going to School 32 km from Fukushima,” was published on May 31.

You can see more of Ian’s documentary work by visiting Ian’s YouTube Channel. He also regularly updates his personal blog, Documenting Ian.

WIDE ANGLE: Japan in Crisis


Following the March 11 triple disaster of an earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdown, people as far away as Tokyo and beyond are still being affected on a daily basis.

There is constant news of radiation being found in fresh produce and other agricultural/marine products. And now that the nuclear reactor in Fukushima is no longer operational, the whole of the region has been asked to conserve energy this summer (by decreasing use of air conditioners, for example) or face more power outages.

While editing my film about the children in the 30 km zone who have been exposed to unnaturally high levels of radiation, I found myself becoming even more frustrated.

Then I discovered an unusual way to relieve the stress: I began finding funny moments in the otherwise sad footage. I call them my “gallows humor” moments, and they offer much-needed respite from this great tragedy.

In “Reporter vs. Radiation,” a foreign correspondent for a major international publication asks an expert in radiation something he should have learned in kindergarten:

The grandmother in “Grandma vs. Earthquake” always puts a smile on my face:

Technology is outdone by nature in “Tsunami vs. Car GPS”:

And finally, in “Papa vs. Radiation” a middle-aged man finds something other than genetics to blame for going bald:

The events of March 11 took away so much, but they haven’t taken away our ability to laugh.