This Month in 給食 – FINALE: March 2011

With this, my blogging about school lunch comes to a sudden halt. My school lunch ended on a high note as I was able to eat the 6年生の楽しみ給食 (6th grader’s special lunch) that consisted of apple jelly, fried chicken, two hashed potato star thingies, two sweet breads, and all in all yummy things.

I am not sure the reasoning exactly, although I think it has something to do with the power outages and not knowing if they would be able to prepare food as well as the gas “crisis,” but the city decided to cancel school lunch for the rest of the term. I am unsure what this means for the new school term starting in April, but we will just have to wait and see.

Distance from Power Plant

I am the blue dot

There, for those who think I am being naive and should be running for Okinawa or Kyushu right now, here is a map from the nuclear power plants to where I am located. Notice the nice big number up there with a 2 followed by some other numbers? I am well outside what even the United States is asking in terms of an evacuation radius.

What I find disturbing is that I woke up this morning, checked all my news sources, and read that hysterical Americans have bought up so much potassium iodide that there isn’t a crisis reserve left for Japan…

Not to sound mean and bitchy or anything…but…YOU PEOPLE OVER THERE ARE SAFE! THE RADIATION WOULD NOT CAUSE ANY DAMAGE EVEN IF IT REACHED YOU! There is a whole lot of ocean between Japan and the United States. Do Americans know that Japanese people are not rushing out to buy these pills despite them being in the immediate “danger zone”?

Update at 9:25 a.m. ET. You Don’t Need Potassium Iodide: NPR’s Jon Hamilton talks with experts about using potassium iodide to prevent cancer following radiation exposure. There’s been a run on tablets in the west, although there’s been no radiation danger there to residents. The Surgeon General clarified some comments she made on Tuesday; at first she described potassium iodide purchases as ‘precautionary’, now she says ‘she wouldn’t recommend’ it.

As I am sure you are all aware, the radiation levels are currently dropping. The radiation reading came to 279.4 microsievert per hour at the point roughly 1 kilometer west of the No. 2 reactor at 5 a.m. Friday, compared with 292.2 microsievert per hour at 8:40 p.m. Thursday, shortly after the Special Defense Forces discharged water from fire trucks, according to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

In other news, the power outages continue as well as the after shocks. I really do feel sea sick these days due to all the shaking – now partly being caused by really strong wind.

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.

Strawberry Cake Kit Kat

strawberry cake!

I really really wanted to get these. I have had good luck with the pink variety Kit Kats, and the wrapping on these were just so cute!

There will soon be a new feature here at Tobidasu! Due to some changes in my health, nothing serious but some things that I should look out for, I will not be eating school lunches anymore *points to angry tweet from earlier today* Instead, I will be making bentos each and every day. Chances are, I will be eating the same thing for an entire week, but I will be replacing This Month in 給食 with [insert witty title TBA] Bentos!

This will include pictures and recipes:) There will probably even be some things that Mom can eat and help her healing process. Here is a little preview:

recent bento

In the bottom container, we have white rice that has been enhanced with vitamins and a pickled plum.

In the top container, there is steamed brocoli, string bean and fried tofu salad, Spanish omelet, fresh strawberries, fried chicken in an orange sauce, and a small stuffed cabbage roll.

February’s lunches end on Monday, and then there are only 18 more days of school lunches – although, I have stopped taking pictures at the Jr. high because a little twit nearly broke my camera a few months back.

Japanese Caramelized Sweet Potatoes

daigaku imo Kit Kats!

This is one of my favorite Japanese dishes, but I can never get the recipe right when I try to make it myself. There are a few places that have opened up in my neighborhood that sell them. Makes my bike ride to and from work smell fantastic! Not sure if these would be a good Kit Kat though…

Awesome Google Logo

the super spiffy coming of age day google banner~

So, it is Coming of Age Day here in Japan and I just had to share the awesome logo that Google has up in honor of it. Isn’t that neat?!

2010 in Review

Well, another year has come and gone and it is hard to believe that it is already the 4th here in Japan. I am back to the half days of sitting at the Board of Education where they put us in a room of mostly windows and we all feel like a bunch of gold fish as people walk by and occasionally peek their heads in to make sure that none of us jumped ship and left early. Anyway, in keeping with tradition, here is my 2010 in review.

Jun and I went to Tokyo Disney Sea’s Bridal Preview and starting really thinking about picking a date. Besides looking at all the pretty dresses and seeing two that eventually became the ones I ended up picking, we learned that the Civil Ceremony option was definitely not something we were interested in. Sorry chubby fake Italian man, you can greet people at someone else’s wedding. I’ll stick with a traditional Christian ceremony. Jun turned 21, and we went into Tokyo to see the circus that was in town.

First snow of the year and several scary bike rides to work later, I taught my first Valentine’s Day lessons at my elementary schools. It was cute how surprised all my elementary school students were when I told them about how we held Valentine’s Day parties in my elementary schools and were even allowed to eat candy. Feels nice to know that I am teaching them something. Jun and I celebrated our two year anniversary as a couple by, and this is probably obvious, going to Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo Disney Sea along with staying at the newly built Tokyo Disneyland Hotel. Starbucks started selling their cherry blossom flavored drinks and Jun got serious about job hunting.

In March, we had more snow and I attending my very first Japanese elementary school graduation where I cried. Students at the elementary school that I could not attend their graduation sang to me and I cried even more. My host sister, An, turned 13 and one of my favorite university professors came out for a visit. March also marked my last visit to the Jr. high school with the crazy teacher who drove my absolutely up the wall with his terrible teaching skills, lower than dirt English skills, and his serious lack of social skills.

Celebrated the cherry blossom season with friends with the traditional picnic at a local temple under the blossoms. I also began working at a new Jr. high school where I finally had a teacher who spoke decent English and encouraged speaking activities in class. The downside? The school is a 40-50 minute bike ride from my home and the principal probably hates me – but he had decided he didn’t like me before I had even arrived at the school. Buttercup also joined our little family after what was probably a very stressful bike ride back to the apartment in a cardboard box

We discovered Buttercup’s dumb side as she tried to stuff way too many things into her mouth at once and that she has a love for sesame sticks. Jun and I went to Tokyo Disney Sea’s Spring Carnival along with Tokyo Disneyland’s new Easter Wonderland theme. I participate in two elementary school Sports Days and Jun and I enjoyed the warm weather.

My elementary school won their basketball tournament against another school and I went to cheer on my host brother, Ryu, at his Saitama Prefecture Cup championship match – they lost, unfortunately. I was given my own classroom at elementary school number two and I began making lots and lots of banana slug related decorations.

Celebrated the Star Festival at Tokyo Disneyland and all chaos broke out when one of the ALTs left to go home. The city refused to hire a new ALT, so everyone’s schedules were going to be switched around. My favorite elementary school’s students all wrote me letter which, thankfully, ended up not being necessary as my placement did not change and instead was granted one more elementary school bringing the total up to three. Jun and I went down to Yamanashi to their second home where there was a reunion of sorts in their cabin in the woods.
Fireworks festivals all over the place, we attended one of the larger ones wearing yukata with friends. I heard about a Harry Potter Countdown event being held in Tokyo and, thinking it was a huge deal, took the day off work to go. Ended up not being all that exciting, so after it was over Jun, my friend Tommy, and I went into Odaiba where we test drove fancy cars. Still, hearing about the event lead me to become the Japan Correspondent to a fantastic Harry Potter website that I am now very active on. I turned 25 and to celebrate we went to Tokyo Disney Sea for their BonFire Dance them that I participated in three times.

In September, school started up again and I found myself in elementary school heaven going 4 out of 5 days a week. That one day of the week where I had to go to Jr. high quickly became my hell day as the summer heat and talking only 10 – 15 minutes of an 8 hour work day tied together with a principal who complained that I arrived at work sweaty from my 40 – 50 minute bike ride. I cheered on my host brother, Ryu, in his final sports day as a Jr high school student, and therefore final sports day ever, and Hikari turned two-years-old. Jun and I went with his family down to Kanazawa again where we pretty much only ate and went to an aquarium.

My very good friend, Hitomi, got married marking my first wedding in Japan and the first wedding I attended of a friend’s. I went to Kawagoe Matsuri with my friends where I stalked a kitty on a leash and at the end of the month, Jun and I had our first fittings for the wedding. I picked out my dresses after thinking about it for a long time and am very happy with my white fairy tale princess gown and my exotic pink-orange-gold dress to wear to the reception. It only took…4 hours to figure out my dresses.

I cosplayed at Jun’s college’s festival to help sell Sri Lankian curry and I started doing a lot of coaching at my elementary schools in preparation for their soccer tournament. The elementary school I got the most involved with ended up winning, both boys and girls, so that was very exciting for me. Jun and I had a meeting at Tokyo Disney Sea, a 4 hour one, to talk about various wedding things, so we decided to spend the morning at Disneyland to enjoy the Christmas Fantasy theme that included a parade with Mickey and Minnie on ice skates! The definite highlight of the month was heading back to the States to visit my family for the first time in three years. There was much Taco Bell eating done and just enjoying being back in a country where I can walk around outside without having to worry about being stared at for looking different.

I arrived back in Japan on the 5th after making the tragic realization that I had left my camera in the States. I am not sure who was more upset about it, myself or my students. We had a really really long meeting of 6 hours where Jun and I made all the decisions about the wedding and began working like crazy on the wedding invitations. At least there are now fewer things to stress about now? For Christmas, Jun and I went to see the musical of Beauty and the Beast which was fantastic and went into Odaiba afterwards. My oldest host brother turned 18. And, to finish off 2010, Jun and I rung in the New Year at a local shrine that is said to have the most spiritual energy in the area. Here’s hoping that things keep looking up in 2011!

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