Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Shaking coming ....

(View from my office ... again. Can`t get enough of it ... the view not my office.)

Around this time last year I took my seminar students to the uni library to look for English books for their graduation theses. English books were pretty thin on the ground although, like most uni libraries I have visited in Japan, it has a plentiful stocks of German literature from around the late 1930`s. Before we went in, I told my students to set their phones to manner mode (silent mode) in order not to disturb others but about 10 minutes in, several students` phones begin to ring, not just mine but other students` phones in the study areas.

"I TOLD you to TURN your phones to MANNER MODE. You are being RUDE and THOUGHTLESS to other people. If you DON`T turn off your phones RIGHT NOW I am going to TAKE THEM AWAY from you and you will have to get the from me AFTER 5PM ...." Etc etc. I was on form that day.

The students let me finish then one guy said, "Erm, sensei, that`s the earthquake alarm. We are about to have an earthquake".

"Is that right?" I said, from underneath the table. "So, um, what do we have to do?"

Well, we didn`t do anything and luckily the quake struck up north. I have been teaching for over a decade in Japan and at no school or university have I ever been told what to do with my students when a quake happens. I have since told them that evacuation point is the Starbucks at Tokyo University.

What the students had on their phones was a quake warning app (which overrode the manner mode setting). Yure Kure - (shaking coming) is the most popular. You are supposed to get a minimum of about 3 seconds warning but sometimes a lot more before a quake strikes. Apparently they worked well before the big one in March, giving around 10 seconds warning. Much good it did people because 90% of those killed drowned in the tsunami afterwards.

Some colleagues asked me if I was going to get Yure Kure but I don`t see the need. I am surrounded by students who have it. Also when all those phones did go off in the library we didn`t do anything. We just waited.

Monday, 9 May 2011

The lights are going out ...

After Golden Week, I went in to uni on the Friday to find that the bulbs had been removed from one of the two sets of lights in my office, and a sticker placed above the light switch urging me to save electricity. Since they are those nasty neon strip lights I do not use them much except after 5pm when it goes dark. (Being near the equator it gets dark around 7 in the summer and 5 in the winter. When I tell students that in England it sometimes stays light until 10pm in the summer they think it is some kind of Harry Potter magic.) My office is L-shaped, the other part of the square being taken up by the men`s room from which eminates a constant dripping and sometimes a flushing noise. So I tend to work elsewhere whenever possible. Sometimes I am there in the evening however and with one set of lights now gone, I need a torch to find books on the shelves in the L. Luckily I always carry a small torch in my bag. That`s fine.

In my pigeon hole there was a notice featuring a graph of power usage last July. This summer it seems the university must limit power usage to 955kw per hour. However last year university usuage exceeded this from 10am to 5pm. On the other side of the sheet was a list of instructions detailing how to save that power. For example, some large auditoriums will be closed and the dining hall will only be air-conditioned at lunch-time. That`s fine too. In fact at this rate Japan might meet its Kyoto Accord promises.

And today it was announced that the Hamaoka nuclear power station is to be shut down. The Hamaoka power station is on the coast to the west of Tokyo in Shizuoka prefecture. It supplies the power for the chubu or central area of Japan. It was the plant that the woman in my yoga class was petitioning two weeks ago to get closed. But why now? The Hamaoka power station has always been on the coast and in a region that had been designated (before the recent big one) as the most likely region for the next big one. So much so that in that prefecture. elementary school kids have to wear hard hats to and from school and keep them hanging on their coat pegs. I know the Hamaoka plant well as I used to live and work in nearby Hamamatsu and the place was a running joke even then regarding safety. So why are Chubu Power agreeing to Kan`s request to close it now? Kan has no legal power to order it closed. That decision rests with the shareholders who are going to lose money. Is the danger of another quake so great right now that the station must be closed immediately? Or is it that Kan`s position as PM is so precarious that he must bow to popular opinion on this one? I think it might just be the Japanese cultural trait of panicking well after the event. Japan has over 50 nuclear reactors. How many are going to be closed down?

So I think we are in for a really tough summer. Coolbiz (see my post last year) has already started and I have been sweating buckets teaching in classes with temperatures in the upper 20`s. And it`s not even humid yet.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Weight Loss Japanese-style

No-one calls me a chubster and gets away with it, least of all my students. But look what I`m up against. These before and after photos are from flyers for local `aesthetic` salons. They seem to claim that you can lose weight with counselling and special massage techniques (as opposed to the usual Japanese methods of starvation or sticking your fingers down your throat).

The woman in the top photo is 60 years old and has lost 10kg in 3.5 months, down from a super hefty 58.8kg to a more acceptable 45.5kg.

In the bottom photo the before caption reads "Me when my husband looked at me with a cold glance". And the after photo, "Now my body is slim, my husband is very affectionate".

This is what passes for attractive in Japan these days, bow legs you could drive a truck through.

Me, I`ve spent the week walking, jogging and shopping, my personal weight loss methods. Today is the last day of Golden Week and it was been very quiet and peaceful, by which I mean no big quakes. Although we have had some vicious storms, one of which removed next door`s roof and deposited it in bits on ours.