Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Wednesday 23rd March 2011


Freezing cold last night. This March weather is very strange. It should be warmer by now. I planned to have a nice lie-in this morning and just get up seconds before my local supermarket opened at 10am. But here in Japan we start the day the earthquake way, with a 6 at 7.12am (in Fukushima, not as strong in Tokyo) and several more until 8am when I gave up and got up. The tremors/quakes can last 2-3 minutes so I suspect it`s not just the one quake. Apparently the big one last Friday was three quakes, with one setting the others off all down the tectonic plate.

I put my glass bottles on the floor and headed out the the supermarket at 10.03am. It is 30 seconds from my apartment but I passed two people coming away with packets of toilet roll. Was I too late?! Apparently I was. When I got in there, all the loo roll had gone. There was no tofu, Pot Noodles or rice. The only cereal they had was All Bran. There were some meats but I think most people are being careful with food that must be chilled or frozen because of the power outages. There were a few yoghurts but I couldn`t understand why they hadn`t been snapped up so I didn`t touch them. There was no soya milk but I got a soya drink called, `Nice Soya, like Milk` or `Milk-like Nice Soya`. Water and milk were limited to one bottle per household per supermarket visit. I guess Japanese families can send family members in one at a time but I`m too conspicuous to get away with that. The last time I saw another foreigner - a middle-aged couple - in my local supermarket was last summer and I stared and stared. They were lily white and flabby, with real bottoms and muscles in their upper arms. I got one 2 litre bottle of water from the southern Japanese Alps because the supermarket own brand didn`t specify the region of origin. I think there`s going to be a lot of that in the future. If manufacturers could just write "Not from Fukushima, Ibaraki or Miyagi" in large letters on the front of packets that would be a great help. I also got egg biscuits with a shelf-life of six months and Kanpan which are Japan`s traditional `disaster` biscuits with a shelf-life of a year (no, I don`t know why the packet has a Scotsman playing bagpipes on the front). When I got to the checkout my hands were frozen. There is no heating in the store and people shop in semi-darkness.

I was back home in ten minutes and straight on my bike to the Summit supermarket further up the road, slightly more upmarket. They had no flat water at all but I got some sparkling. They had Scottie toilet paper only. No yoghurts at all, some Pot Noodles, some soya milk. There were plenty of vegetables, fruit and some milk but I noticed that everyone spent a lot of time reading the backs of packets. I bought a mango from Peru, a papaya from the Philippines, and a pumpkin from New Zealand. I was back home by 11.10am. I think I am now pretty well set up for the next few days as long as I can get bread from somewhere. As long as you aren`t too fussy about what you eat (but are strict about where it comes from), you can get by.

What I didn`t buy: I didn`t buy any mixed vegetable or fruit juices because I couldn`t know where each item came from. I was going to buy a piece of hot, spicy chicken from the deli counter but I noticed that no-one else was touching it and I thought a ready-cooked chicken might be a good way to hide the evidence.

The city tannoy system keeps coming on and announcing something. Surely no-one in my neighbourhood can hear the words. For the first week it was a man`s voice which didn`t carry at all. Now it has been downgraded to a woman`s job we can at least hear a high-pitched `Arigatou gozaimasu` (Thank you) at the end of the mysterious announcements. It`s probably about the blackouts.

After lunch I got back on my bike and cycled to the station bakery. They had a couple of varieties of white bread,`Royal` and `English`,(since when has anaemic white bread been English?) but no wholemeal, so I didn`t buy anything. On the way back I paid my Tepco electricity bill, grudgingly.

I got back home at 3. Same drill again tomorrow.

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