Monday, 28 March 2011

Back in Japan

Well, it appears I am now back in Tokyo! I arrived back, rather crumpled and stunned on saturday afternoon, after a marathon flight that stopped via Nagoya. Virgin have been basing their crew there as a safety measure. Neil met me at the bus and it was wonderful to be reunited with him after the stresses of the last few weeks. He cooked me a gorgeous dish of spag bol and we spent the weekend mooching around together. It's cold here, but the sun is still shining and the sky is blue. Apart from slightly quieter streets and less lights on at night time (to conserve energy) life appears to carry on as normal. The supermarkets are stocked full of food (apart from toilet paper which seems to have vanished after a mass panic-buying session......) and the wine shop was heaving on saturday night!

Apart from the "normality" of life in Tokyo, there is the obvious underlying fact that thousands of poor people's lives have been devastated in the North, a mere few hundred miles from where we are and it's so hard to fathom. It brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it and all the people who have lost everything. For many people this includes whole families.

I went to the Tokyo American Club yesterday and donated some items for the relief effort. They are delivering items to three villages that have been affected, a lot of which have many old people that need help. My offerings felt pathetic in the scheme of things, but anything is good at this point. If you live in Tokyo, you can donate items to the club until the end of the month on floor B1. They have a list of required items on their website. They are also accepting money donations through their website.

I have a friend, Caroline Pover, who lives in Japan but is currently travelling around England, giving talks on Japan as well as collecting items to be sent to Japan for the tsunami victims. You can check out her website to see what things are needed here. She is also asking school children to write letters to children who have survived the tsunami. As well as needing physical items, the people who have lost literally everything need emotional support and friendship too. To donate money, you can go to the Japanese Red Cross Society.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Going home

This is just a quick note to say that I am heading back to England for a while until things in Tokyo die down a bit. At the moment it feels very difficult to be rational about anything that is going on here and I am quite confused about all the different things I am hearing. Last night I booked a flight to England, leaving tomorrow, wednesday. I have found it quite hard getting my head around what is going on here and most foreigners I know have now left the country. I know that friends and family at home are worried about me and I have decided to head back there and spend some time with them until we have a better idea of what is happening here. I really, really don't want to leave, but think I might go crazy if I don't, not to mention driving Neil crazy too! My trip is booked for a week, and I guess I will play it by ear once I'm home and know what's going on.

Sayonnara Tokyo x

Monday, 14 March 2011

Monday Morning

I haven't written my blog for the past few days as it's been difficult to know what to write. Needless to say, it's been a very confusing time for everyone, with the nightmares of the earthquake on friday and then the threat of a nuclear explosion. We have been monitoring the news and keeping an eye on updates, but it's difficult to know what to do at this point. A lot of English and Americans that we know have decided to leave the country and yesterday there was a sense of mass panic among the foreigners I know here, who were all heading to the airport as quickly as possible. Needless to say, this was quite unnerving. Neil and I decided to go for a walk to clear our heads and get out of the apartment. It was a gorgeously hot and sunny day and the thought that a major earthquake happened only two days earlier, seemed very far away and quite surreal. People were out enjoying the sun, lying on the grass and playing games. It was a stunning day and so hard to imagine that the threat of a nuclear explosion was at all possible. See the photos below.

At this point, we are staying put. Neil has gone into work this morning, and we will be keeping in constant contact with each other. We've been informed that there could be rolling power cuts over the next few days to relieve the power stations, but it all seems very organised and there is a local website giving updates of when and where these could happen and for how long. We are stocked up with candles, as well as a little gas stove and provisions, so think we will be fine!

Saturday, 12 March 2011

What a quake!

Most of you will now know that a major earthquake happened here yesterday afternoon at 2.45pm. What an experience! We are all fine, if a tad shaken up - sorry about the pun. It's funny how helpess you feel when something like that happens as there is nowhere to run. I can only imagine the horrors of what people are going through nearer the epicentre and my heart goes out to all of them.
This was the biggest and most intense earthquake we've experienced and when it started my immediate reaction was to hide under the table - I probably looked rather like these blokes. It felt like being on a boat in very rough sea. All I can say is, I'm really glad I wasn't home alone. I was doing an art class at the Tokyo American Club at the time and apparently the pool (which is on the roof) had a mini tsunami and flooded out into the corridor and down the elevator shaft!
The whole club was evacuated once the first tremor had stopped and we all filed out into the forecourt, not sure what to do with ourselves. I left the club after it happened but couldn't get hold of anyone as all the phones were down, and the after shocks were still happening. It was weird being on the street and not being able to walk in a straight line because of the tremors - rather like being drunk without the buzz! I looked up around me and could see windows rattling and pylons shaking and realised there was nowhere to go that didn't have sharp heavy objects above me. A lot of people were carrying hardhats - a requirement for most offices and a good idea in hindsight! I loved this footage of some TV presenters I found.
Eventually I walked to Neil's office and luckily he was safe and sound. He is on the 13th floor, so his experience was also reminiscent of being seasick due to the rolling feeling. He could hear girders grinding and the antennae on the rooftops opposite pinging from side to side. We walked home together from there - it took about an hour and a half as none of the trains were working and the traffic was at a complete standstill. There were hoards of poor people all walking in the same direction as us, trying to get home. Some people live so far out, I don't know how they did it.
Anyway, we got home safely last night - the mirror in the hall was smashed and vases had fallen off shelves, but luckily nothing too awful had happened to our apartment. We didn't sleep well as there were tremors throughout the night, but at least we're safe. The tremors are still happening - I have felt two since writing this - and I'm not sure how long they will go on for.....
This has made me realise that we definitely need to invest in the essential package that most Japanese people have in their home - a little bag filled with earthquake essentials such as torch, hardhat, bandages, water etc. I couldn't resist also putting a photo of this doggy donning his own special earthquake gear - only in Japan!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Build up to Blossom Season

Well, I am now safely back in Tokyo and have been greeted by the mayhem of the build up to sakura season. Sakura means cherry blossom and the sakura trees truly come alive with soft cotton wool balls of blossom all over the city. This usually occurs at the end of March/beginning of April, but my local supermarket (as well as many other shops and restaurants) has decided to get into the spirit of the season and decorated every possible space available with plastic blossom in anticipation for the real thing.