524Disaster in Japan : a new medical gazeBr J Gen Pract. 2011 June; 61(587): 376–377.Patrick Hutt Clinical Associate, Salaried GP and Deputy Editor InnovAiTRyuki Kassai Professor and Chair of Department of Community and Family Medicine, Fukushima Medical University For many involved in general practice, it is particularly sad that Fukushima has overnight become known for a disaster when it had been slowly fostering a reputation for very different reasons. Fukushima, a rural and industrial area that has traditionally struggled to attract enough doctors to serve its aging population, now boasts one of the first structured family medicine training programmes in Japan.7 As such, it has received a number of international visitors interested to see Articles from The British Journal of General Practice are provided here courtesy of Royal College of General Practitioners On the 11 March 2011 disaster struck Japan. A magnitude 9 earthquake followed by a tsunami hit the east coast of Tohoku and Kanto. Thousands of people have been killed, more people have been left homeless, and the headlines around the world now give their attention to the damaged nuclear reactors in Fukushima. This disaster poses particular challenges for Japan and symbolises a more general dilemma for health professionals observing around the world. In Japan, relief efforts have focused on rescuing trapped or stranded people, evacuating those in unsafe areas, and providing basic shelter, water, food, and medicines. Despite establishing the emergency management committee and activating 120 field units,1 the government has faced some criticism for not acting more swiftly following the disaster.2 The evolving figures are shocking. On 12 April 2011 Reuters reported that 13,843 people were confirmed dead by Japan's National Police Agency, while 14,030 were missing.3 It was reported that 136,481 people remained in shelters, with the majority of the 70,000 people previously living in the 20 kilometre nuclear exclusion zone thought to have left their homes. A request for international aid has been issued. The challenge faced by rescue workers includes poor access to affected areas, flooded hospitals, an older population, and growing fears about the safety of food and water supplies.3 Potassium iodine tablets are being distributed to limit the impact of radiation exposure.4 That such a nuclear problem should befall Japan, considered one of the exemplars of ‘safe' nuclear power, has prompted many other countries to take note.5 In the coming months more details will inevitably emerge regarding the details that led to the nuclear accident. However, despite the understandable concern about the Fukushima nuclear reactors, some have argued that a disproportionate amount of media time has been spent covering the explosion, as opposed to the human tragedy of those killed, injured, and displaced by the earthquake.6STRENGTH OF FAMILY MEDICINE IN FUKUSHIMA