Last week, I posted the link to Dos and Don'ts of Disaster Donations from an aid blog I respect called Good Intentions are Not Enough. Since then, this blog has been tracking the opinions of various aid providers and watchdog groups about how to help Japan, and the interesting thing is many are saying--and emphatically--please don't do anything. Don't send money. For the love of God, don't send any stuff. Do not go there. Pray and wait.
GiveWell lays the argument out most clearly and thoroughly. They find significant evidence that Japan is not requesting additional funding for disaster relief. This includes the Japanese Red Cross which states on its own website/bulletin that they are "not seeking funding or other assistance from donors at this time."
GiveWell's bottom line is "you as a donor do not have the power to improve the relief and recovery effort in Japan. If you do give, your gift will probably be used (a) by the charity you give it to, for activities in a different country; (b) for non-disaster-relief-and-recovery efforts in Japan." They of course support charitable giving and the charitable impulse as long as you understand your money will more than likely go to other needs.
There's another approach. Brigid Slipka makes the practical suggestion of setting aside an amount that you would like to go to the recovery effort and donating it in a month's time, or six months, or whenever it seems clear that the money will be useful. "There’s so many ways to convince oneself not to be philanthropic, not least of which is just inertia. So when the spark is there, follow your emotions and set aside a generous amount. Then, as the information shifts from stories to facts, follow your head and designate the gift wisely." Such a good idea.
A number of other relevant links can be found here.
Blessings in your discernment.