March 15th in Tokyo

Things continue to be tense for all of us here in Tokyo, but without a TV or internet connection, it could seem like a completely normal day.

Staying calm and using as little electricity as possible seem to be the best ways to help at this time.  Getting accurate information, as opposed to the gossip or rumor that has circulated to a degree in the Japanese social info-sphere, is important too.

At the top of everyone’s “shimpai” (worry) list is the nuclear situation continuing to develop out east.  I know at least 2 people who have already left Tokyo for cities farther west, and a few people who are flying out of Japan tomorrow.  I’ve decided to stay for now, hoping the situation improves or at least doesn’t get worse, though that could all change at the drop of a hat.

One of the defining documents, at least for me, about the status and possibilities at the reactors has been this one: Fukushima Nuclear Accident – a simple and accurate explanation

Clear, accurate, live or up-to-date information is a little difficult to find in English.  NHK World English is the counterpart to live Japanese news releases, but I must say that the announcements being made are somewhat cryptic at times.  I would be happier if they would get to the point and describe possible worst-case scenarios and the dangers associated with them, to us.

What is the exact state of each reactor and it’s steel casing?  Are they cooling?  Are workers still able to pump water into the reactors at this time?  Not having clear, real-time information about these important points is frustrating.  New information will be announced at 5:00pm, 1.5 hours from now.

JR East trains are operating about 70% of their scheduled trains, so service might patchy and line-ups appear to be quite long.  Farther out, beyond the 23-ward area, service will likely be less reliable.  To what degree, I don’t know.

I spent yesterday alternating between watching TV and reading online, updating my emergency backpacks, and an unsuccessful mission to a few of the nearest supermarkets and convenience stores, “conbini’s”, looking for toilet paper (I still have stock) and bread.  The supermarkets and convenience stores are out of meat and fish, bread, and tissues and toilet paper.  In general though, most other foods have not yet become scarce or hard to come by.  However, I haven’t been shopping yet today, so we’ll see if that remains the case.

We had 2 or 3 small earthquakes yesterday after my first post here, one at 1:30am just when I was getting ready to go to bed.  Each time I grabbed my backpack and stood by the door, ready to go.  Apparently we also had one while I was sleeping.  None that I’m aware of since waking up.

Annoyingly, regular renovation on the school next-door’s field and building has continued, and their use of heavy, earth-moving equipment actually shakes my apartment.  At times I don’t know if it’s them, or another earthquake.

After the short-term worries, we’re all wondering about the longer-term repercussions on our individual lives.  Work is canceled this week, but what about next?  Nobody knows for sure yet what measures need to be taken to ensure the safety of schools, office buildings, rail lines, and so on.  If the students aren’t going to school, will they come to my English class?  Some of my schools are far away; can I get there and get back in a reasonable commuting time?  Will the rotating blackouts affect some of those areas?  Teaching in the dark isn’t really an option.

As for all the markets today, it seems to me another symptom of our dysfunctional economic system.  Viewed as a global community, it doesn’t make any sense to deprive the economies and communities of an affected region immediately after a disaster.  It’s like visiting the hospital to collect blood from all the patients for use elsewhere.

That’s all for now.  I will try to update again tomorrow.

Off for a much needed shower and shave!

*Update*: Just went shopping for a few things and found many of the shelves empty.  I took some photos and will try to upload soon.

*Update 2*: Japanese Cabinet Minister has said, to paraphrase, “We have enough food.  Slow down.”  No doubt worried about the vicious circle that could create.


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Ken Jensen on March 15, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Good to hear an inside perspective! Hopefully, the schools and trains will be operating normally soon. Stay safe.


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