East Japan blackout schedules
The earthquake last Friday forced 11 reactors out of action, leaving East Japan with a serious power shortfall. In order to conserve electricity and prevent unforeseen power cuts, Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) is enforcing scheduled blackouts across the region. These are being spread across five 'blocks,' each of which can expect power outages of just over 3 1/2 hours a day, though there's been a lot of variation between different areas so far.
The complete list of the areas that fall into each block is only available in Japanese (click here if that's what you're after), but Tepco has made a partial list available in English. The following is a summary of which areas fall into each block, though note that only some parts of particular areas will actually be subject to the blackouts:
The timing of the blackouts changes rotates each day. See here for the schedule.
There's also a quick way of working out your blackout times available here. All you need is your 6-digit Japanese postcode. Instructions are clear and concise.
If you are living in an apartment block, water tanks will not be refilled once they are empty during the blackouts, so prepare water in your bathtub and keep a bucket filled for flushing the toilet, and use less water.
In case of earthquakes during blackouts, charge your mobile phones beforehand. You may not have access to the internet, so stock up on batteries for the radio.
For people who are handicapped or disabled, or rely on other medical equipment, please check that your equipment has enough power and resources to last you at least three hours.
Electrical appliances, such as irons and hairdryers, etc, should remain unplugged during this time unless essential. To avoid fires, please make sure that such appliances are turned off before you leave the house.
The best place to get English updates on train schedules at the moment is at Beerkat's Kanto Train Status page.
Free translation for non-Japanese speakers
A free translation service has been set up for non-Japanese speakers, on 050 5814 7230 and 03 5366 6001. English, Chinese, Korean are available 24 hours a day. Portuguese and Spanish between 9am-8pm. Please note that this isn't an emergency information service.
If you're trying to understand the TV news reports yourself, Harvey at JapanNewbie has compiled a helpful list of Japanese news earthquake vocabulary.
Emergency messaging service
If you're stranded and you need to leave someone a message, dial 171, then 1, then your own home phone number, then leave your message. To pick up a message, it's 171, then 2, then your home phone number (the number you think the stranded person would have left).
The numbers to call for Sendai-based foreigners: 022 265 2471 or 022 224 1919.
Ibaraki International Affairs Division has set up a hotline to provide support for earthquake victims. The service is available from 6am-6pm in English and Chinese: 029 301 2862.
NHK TV messaging service
If you want to send a message to someone in the affected areas where all phone lines are down, NHK will broadcast your message on their TV service. The numbers on which to place your message are 03 5452 8800, or 050 3369 9680.
If you're still having trouble with your gas supply, call Tokyo Gas on 0570 002211 (03 5722 0111 from mobile phones). The company has English-language guides available for download here.
Google people finder
Google has started a Person Finder service, in case you're fearful for loved ones.
Facebook have a quake page for Japan-based foreigners.
Links to responsible coverage of the nuclear reactors situation
We're currently recommending keeping tabs on coverage by the Washington Post, whose layman-friendly updates have been excellent.
Elsewhere, MIT research scientist, Dr Josef Oehmen, is offering informed insight and much-needed peace of mind via this blog.
This Yahoo Q&A on the Japanese nuclear power plant crisis is also enlightening.
In general, we recommend watching sites like these for informed analysis, rather than responding to Twitter feeds, most of which are little more than scaremongering and may even be re-Tweets of formerly valuable information several days old. If in doubt, check the initial time stamp, then check the information against a credible media source.
As the aftershocks continue, you can keep keep others notified about your safety using a free iPhone app courtesy of Softbank.
Free drinks and phone charging services
Suntory vending machines have emergency levers beneath a sticker on the upper-right corners. Pull the sticker off, pull the lever firmly and you'll get free drinks.
Elsewhere, Bic Camera is offering a free phone charging service at all their stores.
Click here for: Japan earthquake: live blog from a shaking building