No news is good news

Nothing much has changed. We’re still having aftershocks and they’re still scary, but there’s still no damage here. The tourism industry is taking major blows–Hato tour buses are running with only five passengers, flights are being canceled, hotels are nearly empty. Not that I planned it this way, but I’m glad I work in education.

Store stocks are pretty well back to pre-quake levels. There are still some things we can’t get, but nothing we can’t live without. We’re getting used to the idea that lights will remain off and trains will remain slow, but people are starting to pick up the pieces and life will go on.

I don’t want to start inducing yawns, so won’t post unless there’s something interesting to say.

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Little Things

Back to work tomorrow, but my three days off have been nice. Sensei has started delegating classes, so today’s kicking class was taught by Hama-chan, who is a good friend. At the beginning of class, I was at the back of the room and she said, in English, “Eda, come on,” then had me demonstrate the kicks for the newbies, which made me feel very special indeed. It’s little things like that that make the harder ones easier to deal with.

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My Earthquake Tree

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April 11, part 2

Jesus. Not two minutes after I hit the publish button, we had another major aftershock. We’re still OK. Mac and cheese for dinner tonight.

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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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Update: April 9

The tribulations in other peoples’ lives give me perspective on my own. Ma is running around like the proverbial headless chicken dealing with end-of-term chaos. Scratch is taking care of a post-surgery aunt who lives in a horrid hovel. Dad and Susan just survived trans-continental migration and are trying to get settled. Others are reporting various medical traumas, both major and minor. Some who say they care can hardly be bothered to check in at all. (You know who you are.)

I finally saw Shibuya with my own eyes last night and while it’s certainly not Zen, it is quieter and darker than it used to be. That doesn’t seem to have affected the number of strangely dressed young peacocks on the prowl for adventures. (Friday night! Party, party!) I made it all the way from NHK to the station without my head exploding, and that’s a first.

Work is crazy right now and there are still fewer trains running, so they’re crowded and slow. It takes longer to get where I have to go, and there are still a bazillion stairs to climb. The paper said we’re requested to cut back a further 15% on home power consumption this summer. I don’t see how we can cut back much more; we’re shunning the oven, unplugging everything we’re not using, stumbling around in the dark. I feel guilty every time I run the washing machine but really don’t want to forego clean underwear.

We are also being encouraged not to have cherry blossom viewing parties this year as we’re supposed to be in a “meditative” mood. Huh. I’m going to one on Tuesday anyway, but it’s an indoor, ladies only affair, so perhaps nobody will notice that we are not as Zen as we ought to be.

Got my tax refund today. There is cause for joy in Mudville after all.

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Update: April 3

We actually went to a party today. It was a friend’s baby’s birthday, and the party was supposed to be last weekend but she couldn’t get the stuff together at the time. It doesn’t matter. He’s only one and probably doesn’t know what a birthday is yet. I called her before we went and although she usually asks for booze or dessert, this time she asked if I could find some mineral water. We have a couple of cases that we ordered before it disappeared from stores, so that wasn’t a problem. There are plenty of other things to drink; we just can’t get bottled water. But Tokyo tap water is still fine. Many years ago it tasted like liquid death, but it’s quite tasty now, which reminds me of something. Also many years ago, we couldn’t get American mayonnaise. I was talking with one of the American military moms whose kid was in our video and she said she did her shopping at the PX on base. It used to be, “Hey man, can you get me some drugs?” but then it was, “Hey man, can you get me some mayonnaise?” and now it’s, “Hey man, can you get me some water?”

One woman at the party said that in some ways the tsunami was lucky, if that’s the right word. She pointed out that it struck at 2:30 in the afternoon, when people were at work or in school, rather than 2:30 in the morning, when everyone would have been in bed. I hadn’t thought of that. Another thing that came up was how everyone keeps feeling aftershocks that aren’t happening, so I’m comforted to know that my PTSD is not unique. Craziness loves company.

This morning’s paper explained some of the current shortages, like drink makers can’t get plastic caps for soft drink bottles and publishers can’t get ink or paper. Natto (sticky, stinky fermented soy beans) makers can’t get foam packing trays. Hiroshi noted that there probably isn’t much natto itself, since it mostly comes from the north. In their infinite wisdom, people in the south don’t eat it, so it isn’t produced there.

The other day, one of the voice actors I work with mentioned that the American school is still about half empty since most expats have bugged out. Over lunch, my Japanese colleagues thanked me for staying, not just because there’s work to do, but because it showed a certain solidarity with Japan, which I thought was kind of touching. I didn’t tell them that it was more of a certain solidarity with my kitties. I really don’t know what I might have done if they weren’t a factor.

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