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Earthquake/Tsunami/Radiation Update

I am going to quote a fantastic blog article that I stumbled upon this morning:

We seem to be in a situation where the global media coverage has caused more panic abroad than in Japan, which is remarkable. While the concern is touching, my fellow expats in Japan and I are spending a lot of time reassuring friends and family

You can read the rest of this blog article over here, but pretty much what they have to say is exactly the same for what is going on over here.

I am afraid that this may become long, but I will just give you all an overview of what has been going on here for the last few days.

The day that the quake hit, on Friday, I had thankfully taken the day off from work with all intention of taking care of wedding plans. Jun and I were on our way to City Hall to take care of some documents regarding my change in VISA status when it hit. At first, I thought that I was woozy from not having eaten lunch, but once I saw a table fall over, Jun and I hightailed it out of the building and to a parking lot across the street and waited for the ground, traffic light, and power lines to stop shaking. Every single bike in the parking lot fell over domino style. Shaking lasted a good while, and ended up being about a 5 in magnitude here.

After everything calmed down, everyone reached for the cellphones, but there was no service across the country. Jun and I decided to go back to the apartment to see if anything had fallen over and, this was mostly just me, to check on the hamsters. Thankfully, nothing all that big fell over – mostly things in the bathroom, kitchen, and photo frames, so we were able to clean that up easily. The worst was definitely my picture cards falling over…it really did look like a teacher’s room exploded. All my supplies were on the floor and that took a while to resort them.

Jun and I kept our eyes glued to the TV for the remainder of the day and late until the morning. Hardly got any sleep due to all the aftershocks and warnings on TV.

Once again, I am going to quote the blog that I used before.

Life here in Tokyo has mainly been affected by two things.

The first is a power shortage due to power plants outside Tokyo being damaged or taken offline. The nuclear plants in Fukushima are an obvious example. We are all being encouraged to be conservative with our electricity usage and for certain sections of the Tokyo area, scheduled power cuts are taking place. I haven’t experienced one yet. The biggest impact of the power shortage is on the trains. Tokyo’s trains do an outstanding job of transporting a phenomenal number of commuters every day. At my local station at rush hour, a train comes along every couple of minutes. The number of trains running was reduced dramatically on Monday meaning that crowding was severe and it was very hard to get into work. I’m very pleased to report that the situation has improved drastically and most trains are running very well today, two days later.

The second is a succession of aftershock earthquakes that continue to rock eastern Japan. There are a lot of these (maybe 30 a day?) and some of them are quite strong – we had one last night that was magnitude 6.2. They’re very unnerving but none of them have been as powerful as the first earthquake and none of them have caused any damage in Tokyo.

As a result of both of these things, people in Japan are buying all of the rice, noodles, bread etc. available in supermarkets and shops. There are empty shelves everywhere. As a friend of mine said, this is not a food shortage, it’s a food hogg-age. If you arrive at the shop at the right time, just after the shelves are filled, you can get anything you want. If you don’t, they empty quickly. I’m sure this is temporary and will end soon. We are still getting newspapers and deliveries to our house every day, even Monday. Everything works but demand for staples has shot through the roof and supply isn’t catching up.

The final thing I’ll mention concerns the situation with the nuclear power plants. Understandably, everyone is very concerned about this. Unlike an earthquake or a tsunami, the dangers are less visible. At the moment, the situation with the Fukushima reactors is not affecting people in Tokyo at all. There is an evacuation radius of 20km and Tokyo is over 200km away. I know very little about nuclear reactors and their dangers but I see no reason not to believe the official advice being given by the Japanese authorities.

Jun and I just went to the local supermarket, and here is what we found:

Yes, people are hording and it is rather sad considering we have plenty of food in this area. There is almost no bread in any of the stores as well as rice.

The other big scare is this radiation thing. Now, news all over the world is saying different things and I hope that all of you are ignoring the French because they are a bunch of idiots.

Once again, I refer to the blog. You really should all go and check it out. It puts everything better than I ever could.

The final thing I’ll mention concerns the situation with the nuclear power plants. Understandably, everyone is very concerned about this. Unlike an earthquake or a tsunami, the dangers are less visible. At the moment, the situation with the Fukushima reactors is not affecting people in Tokyo at all. There is an evacuation radius of 20km and Tokyo is over 200km away. I know very little about nuclear reactors and their dangers but I see no reason not to believe the official advice being given by the Japanese authorities.

I have heard some rumours that the Japanese authorities are playing down the dangers. Having spent a lot of time in Japan frustrated at the overly worrisome and cautious nature of the Japanese people on so many occasions, the idea that the Japanese authorities suddenly want to take risks with the lives of their people seems absurd to me. The Japanese are the most diligent, conscientious and cautious people I know. I often feel that they are overly so.

Nevertheless, it’s not just the Japanese who think that there is no reason to leave Tokyo or Japan. From the advice issued by the British Foreign Office:
# We are actively monitoring the situation at nuclear facilities and urge British nationals to observe the advice being given by Japanese authorities, including the 20km exclusion zone around the Fukushima facility and to remain indoors, keep windows and doors closed and not use ventilation if you are between 20km and 30km from the facility. This is consistent with the severity of the reported incidents across reactors numbers one, two, three and four, with the independent information that we have, and with international practice. We are keeping our advice under constant review, taking into account statements from the Japanese authorities and informed by independent UK scientific and health experts.

# On 15 March the Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir John Beddington, spoke on the Today programme. He said that this was an entirely different situation from Chernobyl; and that: “the exclusion zone of twenty kilometres… is entirely proportionate.” He stressed that people should not go into the exclusion zone set up by the Japanese authorities. He went on to say that, apart from those living in the 20 km area around the reactor, there is no real human health issue that people should be concerned about.

So, I hope I have painted a better picture of my situation. So far, everything is alright and Jun and I are doing fine…minus a few things that have done some pretty emotional damage.

Number one being that the wedding has had to be postponed. Disney has made the decision for all weddings until April. Now, we have to wait for them to contact us and see what day we can have ours. At the earliest, we may get lucky and be able to have it in May…worst case will be that we will have to wait another year. I cried and cried about this as it came as a shock, an expected one, but a shock nonetheless.

The other shock is that Jun’s graduation ceremony has been canceled…not postponed…canceled. Furthermore, all the exchange students have been sent home – the same program I participated in in 2006 – 2007. I feel so sad for all these students who finally got the chance to study abroad, but now that has been taken away from them 😦

School lunch has also been canceled for the rest of the term, so it looks like I will be starting those bento lunch posts sooner than I thought. I’ll try to get my final school lunch post up soon.

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3 thoughts on “Earthquake/Tsunami/Radiation Update

  1. Good post. You can do a great service by updating it “occasionally to bring an objective insider’s perspective to the situation there.

    I, for one, get really tired at certain American Journalists who focus on “sensationalizing” the news rather than reporting the facts.

    Posts like yours, if honestly prepared and presented, can help those in the U.S. develop a more “balanced” and perhaps more “realistic” view of what is going on.

  2. Kathryn,

    I’m a friend of your Mom’s. I own the little feed store in Felton.

    I really appreciate your post, hearing the truth about what is really going in Japan from an insiders point of view is refreshing.

    Please keep posting. Be safe and take care.

    Valoree

    Thank you for your insight and honesty.

    We hope that

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