Satellite images of Nikon Sendai plant before and after earthquake

Google released post-earthquake satellite images of the impacted areas in Japan. You can download the KLM file from their blog and explore it in Google Earth. Those are the before and after satellite images of the Nikon plant in Sendai (click on images for larger view):

The after image was taken on March 13, two days after the earthquake (you can find it in Google Earth by using this address: Sendai Nikon Corporation 277, Aza-hara, Tako, Natori, Miyagi 981-1221):

There are no visible structural damages to the buildings. If you zoom out and move east, you will see where the major devastation happened.

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  • Robin Edgar

    OK So there is very little structural damage to the plant, but I see very few cars in the parking lot in the second shot.

    The earthquake and tsunami *could* have had both direct and indirect impact on the employees of Nikon’s Sendai factory.


    • iamlucky13

      Almost certainly yes.

      First off, it’s likely that some of the employees lived in areas that were inundated. Looking at a map, the Sendai plant lies near some hills. Between it and the ocean is a large area of residential and light commerical buildings.

      It’s probably also difficult to get to the plant. There is a small river a couple blocks south that would have formed a low point for water to wash inland further. There is another 2-3 miles north. The roads crossing and near those rivers are probably heavily damaged and/or covered in debris.

      Additionally, with no or limited power at the moment, there’s not much point in going in, anyways.

      And lastly, and most importantly I would say for these first couple weeks, almost anybody in the area who is not simply struggling to find shelter and food and figure out what the heck they’re doing next is probably more concerned with helping their neighbors get back on their feet and return their city to some semblance of functionality.

      • Global

        Not to mention it appears to have been taken during the evening or early morning (so dark — normally google shots are much brighter). Possibly people were away for evening or weekend, etc.

        I don’t think one picture is a very good indicator for this particular plant. However, the devastation in other images is so obvious its almost beyond belief. And its so chilling to see 1 house surviving where 20-30 around it are crushed and miles on.

  • The thing to note is that there’s no cars in the parking lot now! No work getting done 🙁

    • Matt

      Please tell me you’re joking. Do you have any idea the level of tragedy going on over there? And all you’re worried about is that no work is getting done at the factory?!

      • Global

        You can say that judgmentally, but work is one of the normalizing and healthy things to do, especially after tragedies. The fact that people cannot work is itself a tragedy. Loss of income is often much worse than loss of home, as residency can be replaced, but loss of income and lack of productivity creates poverty and recession.

      • Robin Edgar

        Actually I did, and I do, have a pretty good idea the level of tragedy going on in Japan, which is precisely why I said –

        The earthquake and tsunami *could* have had both direct and indirect impact on the employees of Nikon’s Sendai factory.


  • Steven Blackwood

    Well, it WAS Sunday, so the lots would be emptier.

  • As a photographer, I know well that photographs distort. Looking straight down really will not show what is going on. There could be machinery dumped on the floor for all we know. If there were outgoing shipments in the port, those are gone now. To date news coming out of Japan is muddled and Nikon’s press releases are no exception. Take a culture that is secretive to start with, shake it up in a catastrophe and add in some bad translations and the result is FUD.

    If I were in Japan, I would be preoccupied with trying to buy petrol, wondering where my relatives are and when I am going back to work while worrying that a nuclear power plant might melt down even more than it already has.

    We can speculate all we want, but don’t expect clarity for several weeks.

    • Ronan

      “Looking straight down will not show what is going on.”

      Better tell that to your FBI and CIA spy satellites.

      • Anonymus Maximus

        they have a good side view too

        • Landscape Photo

          Do they also have an inside view? 🙂

          • Global

            The TSA is working on it at the airports! *snaps on rubber glove*

  • I don’t think the factory is in operation at such an early stage. Earthquakes are still expected, and moreover, they are cutting down on electricity usage.

  • ron

    I’d like to think that they could quickly clear some warehouse space to help house the tens of thousands of suddenly homeless people. As much as I am waiting for my new D4 to arrive, the very lives of so many in Sendai have been ruined. My needs seem so trivial now. My heart goes out to everyone impacted by this devastation.

  • The invisible man

    The satellite picture of Nikon’s factory is very sharp, anyone can see the D800/900 ?

    • Best post ever! LOL I like your sarcasm.

      • potver7

        Well, let’s hope it’s sarcasm…. else it may be among the worst posts ever…

        • Global

          Funny post.

    • Psst, google street view has even better detailed images around factory, you may find it there. Good luck! 😉

      • Global

        Hopefully they were using a 200-400/f4 with 1.4 teleconvertor on a DX at the time when taking pics around the factory windows.

  • cwhitham

    The official Nikon statement that no employees were injured does not speak to the possibility that employee families may have been injured or killed. It seems to me that the human side of this tragedy is more important than resuming production.

    • iamlucky13

      The press release was of very limited scope. It only tells us that no one was killed or seriously injured while at the plant.

  • vinman

    Is this a serious conversation? This factory sits in the heart of a region that has just suffered unprecedented destruction – if not in sheer numbers of human lives, certainly in infrastructure. There are nuclear power plants within walking distance that are bordering on stage 7 emergency status (Chernobyl). Homes are simply gone. Your car isn’t only missing, it could be a miles away under a boat under a house. Maybe your spouse is missing. There’s a good change you know many who are missing. Food is scarce at best. There is no power for heat (it’s winter there, and hovering around freezing in many places). Water is almost as scarce as food. It will be months before any single of the simplest daily normalcies are back – and then only the simplest ones. It’ll be that long before the Japanese start really seeing tangible numbers of dead. Children are dead, orphaned, missing, trapped in rubble.

    The Nikon Sendai plant looks superficially undamaged? Great. They can’t operate with no power. They can’t operate with dead workers (even though there weren’t any substantial injuries at the plant during the disaster, there were many others who weren’t). They can’t operate inside an zone evacuated due to likely radiation leaks and possible radiation damage beyond the scope of which we have heard anything about. The Japanese people and even the faculty at Nikon Sendai aren’t consumed with building D3s, D4 prototypes and great lenses. Hopefully they’re trying to ensure the safety of their families and figuring out how to use their resources to help rebuild their nation.

    Yes, this is going to postpone the next high end bodies and glass. Is it so important that it’s even a blip on the radar in light of what’s happened? It shouldn’t be.

    • Jim

      Amen – I ordered a D300s today (I had been holding out for the next generation) I’ll be happy with that until things return to some form of normalcy.

    • broxibear

      Hi vinman,
      I don’t think anyone posting here is being deliberately disrespectful about the grave situation in Japan.
      If you read through the previous threads you’ll see the concern and feelings shown, no one’s suggesting their camera equipment is more important than what’s happening to the people in Japan.
      Some of the posters are just discussing the effects on Nikon, and how that might affect them as far as equipment goes…it’s no different from those discussing the Nikkei 225 losing 16% in the past few days.

      • vinman

        No, most of the comments aren’t disrespectful outright, but I can’t fathom even speculating about when Nikon, Sony, Canon, Toyota, etc will start producing consumer goods again. I can live without a D700 replacement for quite a while. I’ve seen several threads just like this one devolve into people whining about delays and then defending their comments because this is “a camera site”. It’s the way these threads quickly spiral out of control over something that, by comparison, is less than trivial that blows my mind. The idea that some people are thinking about how their next gadget might be delayed when the people making those gadgets are homeless, missing children and loved ones, and they can’t even be certain their government is being truthful about the safety of their environment is infuriating and inhuman.

        • Rob

          The companies getting back to work and producing and selling not only helps a great deal by stabilizing the economic crash (both real and in the stock market), but also can be greatly motivational as it represents them overcoming such an unimaginable tragedy. Anything returning to a state of normalcy is pretty impressive in the weeks after such an occurrence.

          • Sly Larive

            Actually Rob, I would be concerned with them going back to work so soon. The Japanese need time to heal and mend their wounds. Time to find shelter and cover their basic needs. It will be very tempting for companies to push their employees back to work to minimize the losses. The company’s employees would be doing a better service to the community by helping with the basic needs such as searching for survivors than building D4’s for the upcoming days.

            I understand your comment and I believe it to be true, just a few weeks from now.

            • Alex

              Having spent 45 days on the US gulf coast after hurricane Katrina working the relief effort I can vouch for Rob’s point. However, the devastation is so vast that it could take years to get back to “normal”. Residential areas on the Mississippi gulf coast that were wiped out by the tidal wave are still mostly just concrete slabs and Mississippi has done a good job with recovery. Now Japan has to deal with nuclear issues that even in the best case, may not be settled for months. Just getting transit lines back to normal could take a couple of months and that is without the threat of getting radiation poisoning. Tragic, just tragic.

        • Global

          Stop judging others so strongly vinman. Your not doing anything better than they are. In fact, you’re making it worse by upsetting others intentionally. At least they were trying to find normalcy. And by the way, work and production go hand and hand with recovery. You may feel happy to sit in a hole crying, but most people here are consumers. While I have friends in Japan right now and whom I tutored in college and had many drinks with, I can’t imagine that they are going around yelling at people to “be more depressed” the way you are.

          They are being strong, thinking about how to put their lives back together, how to find pieces and build new beginnings and have a sincere desire to return to normalcy. Its not like after Hurricane Katrina or 9/11 that people just gave up on life to constantly focus on the negative — they looked to the positive. What to rebuild, how to rebuild, timelines, goals, hopes, dreams put together, collectively.

          The consumers with no other connections to Japan except their consumption are doing their part responsibly and do have a right to voice it. I think your empathy is a bit on overdrive and leading to more pain than is required, because youre starting to spread it.

          These guys want whats best for everyone and have the best of hopes for all. Don’t feel smug with the “are you kidding” judgments, because when Japan produces, Japan is a better place, people have jobs and family have resources. The sooner the better for all. The fact that it may take longer than some understand is only because its hard to fathom such damage. That requires a sensitive education, not a judgmental rant about their priorities! What you point out is correct in terms of environment, but incorrect in terms of sentiment.

          • Global

            Message directly from Nikon HQ:

            “We are currently endeavoring to normalize our business as early as possible through our BCM (Business Continuity Management) teams established in each in-house company.”

  • 2cents

    Yeah, production doesn’t mean jack right now. Wow, what a heartbreaking tragedy. I wish the best to all the Nikon employees and their families.

  • Merv

    It’s been what, less than a week since the earthquake and tsunami? I wouldn’t be surprised if we know more about what is going on in Japan compared to the traumatized citizens who are right now trying to figure out how get by for the next few days.

    Nikon, like most other manufacturers such as Canon, Toyota and Honda, probably have been told to shut down indefinitely. All of these companies have manufacturing facilities outside of Japan and the vast majority of Nikon’s customers will still be able to get their D3100 or D7000 with their kit lenses any time they want.

  • kt

    Well, let me share this with you, the Tokyo Electric Power Co, the company that operates the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plants have evacuated all but 50 of it’s employees out of the Sendai plants. The Institute for Science and International Security is talking about elevating the accident into a level 7 emergency, the same as the Chernobyl disaster, now where do you see a D3s replacement in this paragraph. You could easily be looking into a year or more before the area is rehabilitated and some semblance of normalcy trickle back.

    • Rob

      Sendai is 65 miles from the plant.

      • Global

        The US evacuation guideline is 50 miles — that leaves a 15 mile buffer. Still a bit close, considering employees likely live in that zone. I would say things are quite iffy at the moment.

        A sincere question — does Nikon have OTHER factories than the Sendai plant in Japan? While the Sendai plant may be of focus, I suggest that it might be possible for Nikon to produce certain products elsewhere.

        If medium-to-long term production is at stake, in the past more than a few executives have moved production in the short-term. Nikon might do this, first by shifting production loads, then by moving equipment. Saving one month or more of production can often justify an emergency relocation.

        And this kind of conversation or thought process is NOT inhumane as some might want to suggest. I guarantee you that many executives are thinking this way right now, especially those within the actual disaster zone and also those within the 50 mile radiation radius. They will still be planning for how to support their loved ones and employees.

  • David

    So without people the plant can’t run…duh. I really really really hope the people are okay. AND NOT because I just want more Nikon gear. I want those people to be okay.

    It’s going to take several months for things to get sorted out. Either donate or buy/pre-purchase gear to help out.


    • maddog

      No disrespect intended but if more gear comes out it means those people ARE okay. That’s win-win.

  • mshi

    Even if all those newly made D4, D400 and D800 are still intact, how do you get them out of there?

    • Global

      A factory isn’t necessarily a warehouse. There is no guarantee that there is anything isnt there at all. Not to mention there is no guarantee that the final designs for those products were concluded. No one even knows if prototypes of final versions exist.

      And they would be received by truck and then boat. Same as always. The roads directly around the factory were not destroyed.

  • Dweeb

    They look in good shape but look at the lower right building which may have facade damage. There’s also a set of three (pipe) lines on the left that appear crossed. The sign is still standing. The real problem is the insides being shaken up. But I doubt many of them are worrying too much about cameras right now.

  • kt

    Imagine if something like this happened a week after Nikon had just announced their D700 replacement or their new D4 in August. You’ll either sit down and wait for 1 year for actual production to start or buy a D3s at 15% above MSRP just to kill time.

    • mshi

      no D4/D800 for 2011, I can tell you.

    • ja

      nikon may relocate for the short term to keep on the time frame and we may see things released early to boost the japanese stock market. now a know what you’ll all be thinking , but japan will recover and nikon will recover and must keep moving to stay alive in all aspects , these people are amazing they’ll be back on track with in months, just think of what there have be up against , i was craping it just watching it on tv i feel so much for the people of japan look at the uk they panic when it snows for more than 3 weeks dont have enough grit forn the roads .
      my heart is with the people of japan

  • karebu

    You don’t have to guess the damage actually.

  • Jay A

    Don’t forget that work/having a job can also be very healthy for individuals going through a traumatic event. It establishes normalcy for the individual. So getting the plant up and working might help their employees greatly. I know after my mother’s sudden death, getting back to my job helped me greatly recover from that event.

  • I’m not even worried about the factory and I’m more concerned about the people :((

    may mother earth help us all .

    • Mock Kenwell

      Mother Earth is the one who did all this.

  • Anonymus Maximus

    One aspect that not really mentioned in the media and puts things into perspective, is also that the survivors have lost all their belongings without insurance. Earthquake and tsunami (after all a Japanese word) are excluded in each private insurance in Japan. These poor people have to start at literally zero plus their bank account balance. If they had a mortgage on the house maybe even with sub zero.

    Getting the nuclear situation under control, search and rescue and establishing basic support for people are the main priorities now.

    When the rebuilding phase will start in a few months the “Buy Japanese” thought that had been mentioned in another post earlier might indeed be quite sensible.

  • Jim

    I don’t believe there is a single person who is a Nikon fan who doesn’t feel the loss and tragedy here. We are fans of Nikon, their employees and the amazing workmanship that goes into their cameras. The magnitude of this tragedy cannot be understated.

    That being said, it seems like every article I have been reading here the last few days has been filled with conflict between those mourning this tragedy and those wondering when Nikon cameras will be available. The reality is, this website is about Nikon products and their upcoming releases and production. I feel that, in light of these events, discussion/announcements of Nikon products (at least those made in Sendei), should be halted until this country can get the help and support it needs.

    My two cents.

    • Mock Kenwell

      Amen. You can care about the people of Japan and still wonder when the D800 is coming out. We all know one is more important than the other. Get off all your high horses.

  • Simon

    Whenever anybody showing concern about camera production either here or in dpreview they get shouted down as being disrespectful. These are first and formost camera forums so of course concerns are essentially about cameras. If it was a general forum or one that is devoted to news headlines perhaps there is some justification in criticising people who are concern about productivity. Japan is a very rich country per capita they are wealthier than every major economies and more than most they can afford the means to look after their own and with reconstructions. Lets not forget other natural disasters and wars that suffer even greater number of deaths and hardship in countries that have very little money which are in fact more in need of help and thoughts from us.

  • eyecatcher

    It is dramatically for all the people there and sometimes it seems for me unbelievable. Like a horror scenary. Best wishes to all living there.

    Now to Nikon: I only believ in facts, not in speculations. You all should read the statement from Nikon Germany! There You can find concrete informations about the damage and mutch important about the people working at Nikon. The statement is dated 14.03.2011, also meanwhile the nuclear desaster is running.

  • AHC

    I was saving up to buy another body.. But I will donate what I’ve saved up so far towards the cause. Ganbatte Nippon! The whole world is behind you!

  • Hans

    Oh boy, is this all you can think off? That the plant didn’t got hit, and production for your precious Nikon goods can go on as normal?? Don’t you think this post is totally inappropriate, and disrespectful???

    • Rob

      Why are you here?

  • Massimo Masone

    btw Sendai and Fukushima are very very NEAR (50km, look on google maps)

    Fukushima is where the core meltdown is probably (i hope not) happening

    • Rob

      Actually, the plant is 65 miles away from the factory, so no, you’re wrong. The chances of any long term contamination of Sendai is about 0%.

      • Rob

        Actually I checked and being in southern Sendai, the factory is only 94km from reactor 1. So it’s still over 58 miles away. Get directions from 38.1766714,140.87768 to 37.421391,141.032501 and see for yourself. The plant is nowhere near the city of Fukushima.

      • Harry Lavo

        Listen, the potential of those four plants spent fuel rod pools turning to smoke and ash and not being extinquishable may mean they burn for DECADES and pollute the entire world. That is strontium 90 and other heavy isoltopes, the worst kind of radiation… will settle as dust and in rain and snow and last for a hundred years. Without a little luck, this could actually be the beginning of the end of mankind.

        Time for a little perspective!

        • Rob

          Do you actually believe what you write? Do you honestly believe the US military (and every person in the world) would just sit back and watch while the rods sat exposed FOR DECADES and everyone knew about it? The non-nuclear impact of this disaster is going to be much bigger than the nuclear impact. I don’t understand why people see the need to blow everything out of proportion.

          • Harry Lavo

            Yes, I do believe what I wrote. Once those rods are exposed long enough they will throw off so much radiation that nobody will be able to get within miles of them, nor fly over them. And once they burn, without water they can burn that long.

            So what are the options….bomb them? That just speeds up their dispersal into the atmosphere.

            Either they get on top of this in the next two days, or they won’t be able to stop it anytime soon.

            Why do you think the US Govt is taking our folk out of Japan?

  • Massimo Masone
    • Very interesting, thank you. Must be pretty dark in there now. It will be a long time before that region has recovered.

    • D700guy

      That’s a lot of precision stuff that could get bumped around.

  • Marcelo

    The after-tsunami-photo is fake.

    • Download the file and see for yourself.

  • D700guy

    It’s interesting to me that there are a few cars parked in the lot at the upper right corner of the image. They appear to have moved position from the ‘before’ image.
    Not sure if that’s any indication of activity there though.

    • Rob

      I assumed that was the lot for company cars/vans/ delivery trucks, and since virtually no one was working on a Sunday (after a major tsunami, with no power at the plant) that they weren’t being used.

  • Joel

    Guys, do you have any idea as to the extent of the devistation in Sendai at the moment? There is no power, barely any food and every worker at that factory has likely lost a close family member. It’ll be a while before Sendai and that factory are back on their feet again.

    Nikon BCP (business continuity plan) will likely have the manufacture of goods being moved offshore for the time being, possibly to Thailand where a number of their lower end bodies and lenses are made.

    • KT

      You have to wonder how fast could a factory in Thailand that has so far only assembled entry level consumer bodies like the D3100 or 5000, be adapted to manufacture or assemble a high-end pro body like the various D3 iterations that were made in the Sendai factory. I don’t think all bodies were made in all factories all the time but maybe someone can shed some light on that

      • Joel

        I’m not familiar with Nikon’s BCP process, but as with all major companies, their BCP will allow them to resume their manufacturing business after an unknown delay as they reshuffle top tier trained staff and equipment to other operational factories.

        The D3100, D5000 and D7000 will require the same kind of clean room and careful assembly process that is required for the D700 and D3, so I’m quite confident that their Thailand factory can handle the assembly for those bodies if needed.

        Looking at the sat images of Sendai, the infrastructure is basically decimated. I wouldnt be surprised if the infrastructure rebuilding processes takes at least 6 – 12 months.

      • PHB

        The Thai plant assembles the d300s and many lenses. The main limitation seems to be that it is a high volume operation less suited to short runs and prototypes.

        This type of disaster may well mean other priorities being imposed on the company and industry. There is going to be a monumental short term push for energ conservation to make up for the lost generating capacity. So expect lots of cfl and led deployment and moves for wind power. Nikon will be pulled into those national priorities along with other major corporations.

        The Sony fab may be occupied with other work. Has anyone considered if that might be affected? No sensors, no cameras.

        In the short term, there is going to be no production at Sendai of any consequnce for months. All the focus is going to be on stopping the reactors turning into a catastrophe.

        We may well see shortages of the pro level camera gear. Particularly the flagship bodies that ar never going to be made outside the US.

  • Bart

    Well Japan is in one big shit storm so I don’t think they are really concerned about getting the plant running again. I expect at least a 2 month hold of production in Sendai. And above all, there is the treat of 3 nuclear meltdowns. Not a good thing either. Also there is shortage of almost everything in that area.

    And after taking a look at the inside Sendai pic’s, i’m wondering, do you need a high education for the more precise things that are done there. Like installing the sensor and stuff like that?

  • D700guy

    This all makes me think that when the products are brought to market I.E. D4, D800 etc, how much more those who have been waiting for them will appreciate them. Their sentimental value alone will be far greater than that ever would have been.

  • Landscape Photo

    I wish to send my sympathies to whom dealing with this disaster. Time is not thinking about whether the D800 will be on schedule.

    Japanese people are very capable. They may even work harder and compensate their production losses. But now it’s not the point.

  • Josh

    Can anyone tell me what the giant factory to the east/right of the Sendai Nikon factory is?

    Also, this blows. If I knew I still had relatives there (I’m part Japanese), I would definitely call them and see if they’re alright….But I don’t know any of their names or locations 🙁


  • Gordon

    You all think Nikon production is more important than human life. Wtf. Now we must pray and think how to help all these suffer Japanese in these earthquake and not posting went the dslr production line will resume back and make productions for us.

    • Jay A

      Then go post these type of comments in a CNN blog. The topic in these blogs are Nikon related. As several posters have mentioned before, assuming you’ve read them,

      I don’t think anyone posting here is being deliberately disrespectful about the grave situation in Japan.
      If you read through the previous threads you’ll see the concern and feelings shown, no one’s suggesting their camera equipment is more important than what’s happening to the people in Japan.
      Some of the posters are just discussing the effects on Nikon, and how that might affect them as far as equipment goes…it’s no different from those discussing the Nikkei 225 losing 16% in the past few days.”

  • Nick Psomiadis

    Ken Rockwell has summed up the entire situation. Japan is in bigger trouble than what you see today. Forget about your precious Nikon gear there will be no production for quite some time from this factory. Read his comments here

    • Rob

      Ken seems to be exaggerating as much as most of the media, or at least I hope. Power is supposed to be restored within a couple hours at Daiichi. I don’t think there’s much chance we’re going to have to resort to burying the reactors in concrete, and they should be able to get things under control in the next couple days.

    • Tim

      I would not go to Ken to get my latest updates on the situation in Japan, he knows as much as you and me, maybe even less.

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