Life goes on in Japan

I watched another video of the carnage left by the tsunami yesterday.  My girlfriend said the video hasn’t been on the news yet because the damage is too severe.

The video was taken by a few people from the town of Onagawa driving around town naming things that used to be in this or that place.  That’s where the city hall was.  That’s where the hospital used to be, this was a train station.  The narrator gets lost because there’s nothing recognizable around.

They drive more and what’s most noticeable, besides chaos everywhere, is just how flat everything now is.  They spot a train lying on it’s side in the distance, nowhere near any tracks.  As they finally start climbing a hill you think they’ve reached the safe zone, and then you see cars on their sides, more debris.  The tsunami reached a height of at least 20 meters here.  Twenty meters!  Rescue personnel said they found over 1000 bodies in town.  The tsunami in Minamisanriku was worse, by the looks of it.

I’m sure you’ve seen similarly shocking videos by now, and there are many of them, but I’m still surprised by the scale of it.  One of the women in another video expressed it well, screaming, “Is this not a dream?”, while 20 or 30 large boats and even ships floated into and then back out of her town.  I couldn’t find the video again later.

I think that I’ve never really been confronted with the severity of a natural disaster before.  I’ve seen them on t.v., and because they’re so far away or I don’t know anyone there, the scale of human suffering involved has usually escaped me.  The death toll here will probably be well over 20 000.  In contrast, the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004 killed over 230 000 people.  It boggles the mind to imagine how that many people can be killed all at once.

But, life goes on.

Things are not at all bad here.  Tokyo is 90% normal.  Bottled water isn’t easy to get, but if you’re on a mission for it, you can find it at the supermarket in the morning.   We keep having aftershocks but nothing serious.  M4, maybe M4.5 once every 2 or 3 days.  They are much less frequent than before.  The nuclear situation hasn’t affected the availability of foodstuffs that I’ve really noticed.  Some things run out quickly, but you can do without, or change to a different meal.  Trains aren’t fully regular.  For example the Toyoko line only runs local trains, but the leave every 5 minutes.  Basically things are getting along pretty well.  I don’t think there’s anything to be afraid of, unless there’s a leak seeping directly into Tokyo groundwater sources, which I think is unlikely.

I’ve just celebrated the first weekend of “Hanami”, the celebration of blooming cherry blossoms.  My grumpy old neighbour told me I can’t celebrate Hanami because of the earthquake, at which point I took great pleasure telling her that the park was full.  This coming weekend should be better!

This is maybe the best time of year in Japan.  Many people come to Japan during Golden Week (end of May-1st week of April), during the summer or Christmas Holidays, but there’s nothing like feeling spring in the air, grabbing some drinks and a barbecue, and going to hang-out with friends in the park with all the trees blooming light pink.  Just a week later, all the petals will be falling off in the wind, creating a week-long dream of raining petals.  It really is beautiful.

After Hanami, we’re in for a few weeks of excellent street festivals scattered around Tokyo.  Hopefully I can go to more than a few.  Here’s hoping they’re not canceled!

Went to the park this morning to take pictures of the cherry trees.  It’s a completely amazing day out.  Have a look!


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Peter Jensen on April 8, 2011 at 6:23 am

    Nice photos! Looks like spring arrived at a similar time in Tokyo and Saint Louis 🙂


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