Update: April 11, one month post-quake

There’s still a lot of concern about radiation and I don’t know what to make of it. The TV is full of nodding grey-hairs who throw around words like millisievert and becquerel. I don’t know what they mean. (Neither does Word. They both got red squiggly lines.) They say that except for the immediate power plant area, the radiation we’re experiencing isn’t even as bad as what was floating around in the 1960’s when everyone was testing nuclear bombs. I guess that’s some consolation. We don’t have any way of knowing if the government is telling us the truth about the situation. Nobody trusts TEPCO, and for good reason. They don’t have a very good record of coming clean about their operations and have proven their safety standards to be below par again and again. I’m no fan of nuclear power, but to be fair, they were given the nearly impossible job of providing enough safe, steady and affordable electricity to feed Tokyo’s insatiable appetite and we shouldn’t be surprised if they come up short. Last month’s quakes were the biggest ever recorded, so I don’t know if we can put all the blame on them for not planning for the unimaginable. Some are blaming them for building a plant on a fault line, but also to be fair, most of Japan is on fault lines, and useful land is scarce. Remember that Japan has half the population of the entire United States, is only slightly bigger than California, and 70% of that land is uninhabitable mountains. Still, like I said before, a quieter, darker Tokyo is a nice thing. Asian cities are mostly loud and garish. Japan could take a leading role in Asia and even worldwide in rolling back the razzle-dazzle. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen.

Tokyo seems to be dying is small ways. I heard that the ANA hotel, which is usually fully booked with business travelers, is now operating at 8% of capacity. And there’s a chain of restaurants that serve simmered beef on rice very cheap. They have hideous orange signs and were always very brightly lit. Now they’ve got their lights turned down, but this is discouraging customers, which is bad for the business and thus the economy, so they want to turn the lights back on. That’s a classic Catch-22.

On the other hand, the Sakura trees are in full bloom and as glorious as ever. When the wind blows, the petals fall in clouds so thick it looks like it’s snowing, then they cover the streets with a delicate pink carpet that muffles our footsteps. Meguro River is lined on both sides with very old Sakura trees that lean out over the water. One night a few years ago, I was pedaling home from work and stopped on a bridge. There was a full moon directly over the river, perfectly framed with pink blossoms dancing in a breeze. It was breathtaking.

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