blacklilly: (Crazy)
I came back to Tokyo yesterday. The shinkansen was packed, but my friend and I were lucky to get a seat. The four days down in Osaka were a much needed break from the constant anxiety in Tokyo - I stopped shaking, and despite dreaming about earthquakes for all but one night, got some rest and relaxation.  Every time I go to Osaka I wonder why I don't live there.  The atmosphere of the city seems to suit me much more.  The pace of life seems less frenetic than Tokyo, and the people much more friendly and relaxed.  There's something nice and grimy about Osaka which I like, too.  And the mexican restaurants are deeelicious.

I met up with an old friend on Sunday for lunch. Ayumi is a former student of mine from London, and she was always really cool.  She played in a punk band in London, and looked after the school principle's little boy as a part time job. She's really different from many of my Japanese friends.  We once went to an izakaya in Tokyo and she asked for a spoon.  They waiter gave it to me, and I promptly handed it to her as she had lost her patience with chopsticks for eating rice - too much time in England with mashed potato.  We went to a little omu-rice restaurant in Amemura (America-mura) and then went to buy earrings in a silver shop.  We walked past a group of young kids having a dance competition on the street.  There was a lot of silver lame, spandex and braided hair going on. Very cute.  Ayumi took off for a band practice and I took to wandering the streets, where I observed some guy getting mobbed by people and upsetting the traffic.  It turned out that he was Kid Yamamoto, a famous K1 fighter.  I had no idea who he was until I googled him after a friend also mentioned seeing him. 

So today, we've had three noticable aftershocks.  They've been 5+/6+ tremors, though in Tokyo they only registered 1 and 2.  I noticed the first one at work, mainly because I started feeling nauseous, and then the secretary called out "jishin" (earthquake) and we waited to see what would happen.  The other two have been since I got home, though I don't recall noticing the second one, which is actually a good thing.

This afternoon I headed down to a hotel near the British Embassy in central Tokyo to pick up some iodine tablets.  The likelihood of having to take them is low, as was stated when the embassy handed them over, but it provides some peace of mind for myself and the people back home.  The queue was quite long.  It took about an hour waiting to register but was pretty quick after that.  I bumped into three other people I know in the queue. 

The man standing next to me got talking, and provided a great conversational hour.  He is teaching techincal writing at Tokyo Univeristy, but has a doctorate in civilisation collapse in ancient cultures.  We talked about that, Angkor Wat, Frtiz Schumacher, and vertical farming, as well as his forthcoming book, which he says is a response to Jared Diamond's "Collapse".  I've not read Jared Diamond, but I am aware of his stuff, so will have to look it up.   This also ties in with what my friend Erik has been blogging about since last week.  Erik has some really good stuff to say on environmental issues, and he writes very well.  Check it out.  Very interesting, and very lucky that I got to talk to him, as the people ahead of us spent much of their time wailing about some sort of apocalypse, telling each other to hush up about the apocalypse, and slagging off the French.

So, apart from the continued tremors, things are slowly slowly continuing and getting back to normal.  The trains are running, though there is no set schedule running on some lines.  I had to take the subway to get the tablets earlier, so was a little nervous about doing that, but it turned out alright.  The subway is pretty empty in comparison to over-ground trains, but in general things are quiet.  Food is back in the shops.  In one supermarket they are rationing how much you can buy.  I got two 2-L bottles of water today (I guzzle a lot of water), and my friend picked up some gas canisters (1 pack per person).  10kg bags of rice at rationed to 1 per purchase, and there was no bread left, but plenty of bakeries.  So, not so bad.   There's still palpable tension about, but the Japanese are good at dealing with difficulty - mature, as Erik put it - and are battling on sensibly where others might lose their heads.

Oh yeah, I checked the BBC yesterday, only to find that we had started bombing Libya.  When did this happen??!!  And more importantly - ANOTHER war?????? 


blacklilly: (Default)
Day 3 in Osaka!  I was sitting in bed last night and thought the hostel was shaking, but yet again, it turned out to be me.  I hope I can keep myself from going nuts when I go home tomorrow.  No word of any big events or changes on the news this evening, other than that power is soon be restored to the coolers at the nuclear plant (fingers crossed).  Japanese TV has cancelled all advertising and so is running the same four or five public service announcements.  One is about strokes, one about cancer, one about having good manners on the train, and the other (curiously) about being friendly to people. Talking to strangers is the best way to make friends.  I'd like to see that work in reality.  Or maybe that's just me.

I thought I'd show you a couple of pictures from last week:

            

The one on the left is my kitchen.  As you can see, stuff was thrown around, but apart from that not unlike the state of my kitchen on a Saturday morning - though I am less prone to hurling the microwave around.  The picture on the left is my friend's apartment.  He lives on the 4th floor and came home to find all his bookcases tossed about.  He didn't go home for 2 days, as he couldn't face dealing with the mess, only for it be tossed about again if another big one hit.

So, continuing from yesterday, reports in the Kansai region say that there are 90% more foreigners around than usual. Being the most conspicuous, it's an easy observation to make, but there are a fair few Japanese escapees too.  Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe hostels and hostels are fully booked for this weekend, and restaurants are packed out.  I was walking through Shinsaibashi yesterday with a friend, who spotted a group of people she knows vaguely from Tokyo, and I'm fairly certain I've seen a few familiar faces.

There have been some comments made by people in Tokyo saying that it the behaviour of people who left Tokyo is shameful.  I recall watching people leaving messages on Facebook last weekend saying they were moving to Osaka, and thinking that it was a bit of an over-reaction.  I can only say for myself that I waited until it became obvious I was going to get sick if I didn't leave. I admit to feeling a little ashamed of the idea of leaving, and certainly felt it when I was taking the train to Tokyo station on Friday morning, but the masses of (mostly Japanese) people at the shinkansen gates reassured me that this behaviour is not confined to just the foreign community.  So far as I can tell, and this is purely form observation, but the majority of people who left the country fall into two categories - those who are in their early 20s, and those with young families.  For both, I can appreciate their reasons.  Something hugely stressful like this is bound to have you heading home if you have responsibilites to your family, or a family who are desperate about your safety.  I certainly received a lot of messages from people asking me if I'm leaving, and some even offering to buy me a place ticket out.  A friend, who lives out here with his brother, posted a message saying he didn't want to leave Tokyo but was heading to Osaka purely for the peace of mind of his family.

The family pressure comes from the overblown coverage provided by the British press.  The Sun and the The Daily (hate)Mail are most guilty of this, but even the BBC seems to me to be over-egging things.  I appreciate they need the ratings, but the news they were providing was out of date, sometimes inaccurate, and came in such a bombardment that it was difficult for people not to get hysterical. I also felt that the focus on the nuclear plant was way out of proportion when there were thousands of people elsewhere in Tohoku who need that media attention more.

OK.  Dinner time. 

Here's a picture of an octopus.

 








blacklilly: (Default)
I am currently in Osaka.  I came down yesterday, after realizing that my nerves had got the better of me.  Despite the first two or three days after the earthquake being pretty constant for aftershocks, I thought I was handling it OK, but by Tuesday I realized that I was starting to go down hill. My head felt as though I was viewing everything through a haze, I couldn't sleep, and throughout the days I was constantly experiencing fake earthquakes - it was either in my head, or my heart beating so strongly that I the rest of my body was shaking.  By Thursday evening, I found myself in my friend's bar with my legs and hands shaking almost non-stop after having two strong aftershocks inside 10 minutes.  I had also taken to sleeping fully-clothed, with the light on, too scared to even take a shower for fear of another shock. 

My boss very graciously gave me yesterday off work, so I could have 4 days rest - this being a long weekend anyway.  My two other jobs have cancelled everything until next week at the very earliest.  The Omotesando job is bravely toiling ahead - they say they have no choice but to carry on - they have no where else to go, and a business to run.  

Since coming to Osaka, I've met up with quite a lot of other people who have also left Tokyo - and the reasons are a mixture.  Some, like me, cannot deal with the constant aftershocks and the fear of another big quake, whilst others are much more concerned with the nuclear situation in Fukushima,  I've spent a lot of time researching the reactors, and trying to find out as much as possible about the likelihood of a meltdown and it's possible effects.  Most information seems to point to things being unlikely to get as far as the need to shelter indoors whilst a radioactive cloud passes overhead, but as the days go on and the British Embassy edits its advice (they have now started distributing iodine to British citizens), one can't help but start to feel a little anxious about what we are not being told by the Japanese authorities.  Despite people doing their best to carry on as normal, there is a palpable tension to daily life.

On Monday I went down to the station as I had heard it was crazy busy.  There were people queuing out of the building to get on a train.  Allegedly it took a friend an hour to get from the entrance onto a train.  The supermarkets were also bare by Sunday night - no rice, no water, no bread, no noodles.  I would like to show you pictures but my friend took them and I am unable to snatch them off of Facebook for you.  Anyway, I'm sure you've seen plenty of that on TV already. Despite the state of the the supermarkets, the smaller stores  were and are still operating extremely well.  Local bakeries are making a killing as they don't rely on a supply chain for bread, and the vegetable stores are still selling produce.  In fact, one supermarket in town managed to restock on Wednesday morning, though it was almost empty again by the early afternoon.

I'll continue more tomorrow.  I've got to go out!

Osaka

May. 5th, 2007 07:18 pm
blacklilly: (Default)
I`m in Osaka. I`m very tired. I want beer. I don`t want to leave the hostel to get any. I want to go out. I want to go to bed.

Instead, I`m going to hang around until 9.45 until I can go have a soak in the public baths (sounds dirty, but hopefully won`t be) then get a video and go to sleep.

Tomorrow, a castle, a museum and then shopping (and maybe a tattoo).

I can smell my feet.

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