Friday, 1 April 2011

3 weeks ago today

(Photo: Local maps give locations of emergency shelters, mass evacuation sites and places to get emergency water. I live near all three!)
I can`t believe it was three weeks ago today. So much has happened and Tokyoites have very quickly got used to a new way of living. For example, in exactly 5 minutes I must go downstairs to my local supermarket and get in the queue for water. I will shop in semi-darkness but not only have I grown accustomed to this, I actually prefer it. Later I will go in to work for a meeting but I must leave a little earlier because there are fewer trains (though it is still a VASTLY superior system to any of the rail networks in Britain). And I`ll take my own bottle of water. And I`ll make sure I come home before the blackout.

Going outside in Japan use to be like walking around in a giant video game. Now it has become much quieter and rather peaceful. The vending machines don`t glow at night. Those backlit advertising posters have been switched off. Most shops shut early. My supermarket closes at 8 now instead of 11. I was walking past a pachinko parlour a couple of days ago and it was so quiet that I went in to see how many punters were playing. There were only two or three (and they were obviously professionals). Then I realised that the sounds of the pachinko parlour that you can hear from outside are not actually people playing, it`s all sound effects, piped pachinko music. Which has now been turned off along with all the neon lights. It has made pachinko seem a rather dull game. (Which reminds me that there used to be a channel on Yuusen Housou – subscription cable radio – that was the sound of a pachinko parlour so if you were somewhere you weren`t supposed to be, you could put it on in the background and phone home saying, “I`m just at the pachinko” when in fact you were in a hostess club or a soapland. I can`t really see how being in a pachinko parlour gambling would be that much better but anyway ...)

It`s also surprising how quickly we seem to have forgotten all the hints, tips and resolutions that seemed so important right after the quake. I can barely remember any. I should have written them down.


Always wear decent clothes, even if I am staying home and have no plans to go out. This particularly applies to brown velour tracky bottoms (and matching velour zip-up jacket, now forever immortalised in my quake video and the reason I didn`t evacuate the building until 2 minutes after everyone else).

*That little resolution lasted a week – I am wearing them right now. I would put them in a clothing bag to send to the people up north but I don`t want to add to their suffering.

Always have easy-to-eat high energy snacks such as biscuits and chocolate in my grab bag. In an emergency you don`t have the time nor inclination to cook. You just spend long periods standing around the TV or the radio or outside or under the table.

*Bought `em, ate `em.

Always have a quick getaway grab bag. Most Japanese have a grab bag in their porches. These contain everything they need for a few days in an evacuation shelter. I have an evacuation wheelie trolley, containing toilet roll, moist towelettes and all my recording equipment. Now minus snacks. It weighs about 10 kg.

Always have a week`s supply of bottled water. Speaking of which, it`s 9.58am – gotta dash ...

10.07am Got water and Kansai strawberries. I left my apartment at 9.58 and was instantly overtaken by several middle-aged women running in the direction of the supermarket queue. Once inside we all went straight to the water shelf. Nothing. Not a drop. Some people took bottled tea instead. I headed off to look for oatmeal (which I haven`t seen since the quake). Just as I turned down the next aisle there was a tap on my shoulder (which would be very handy in the circumstances) and one of the running women said to me, “Pet bottle?” and guided me back to where there were several boxes of 2 litre bottles on an aisle end under a sign which said one bottle per person. So they`re making us search for it now. I thanked the woman and then I was going to thank her again at the checkouts which is Japanese custom but when I got there I realised that I couldn`t recognise her. Every woman in the queue was wearing a black hat and a face mask. They can`t all have colds. It IS hayfever season but I suspect it is anti-radiation protection. I came home and looked out my black cap, but it says “Forensics” on the front and I don`t think that is an appropriate message right now.

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