Saturday, 28 January 2012

Snow Days

(Preview of the panoramic view I'm going to have when S Building falls down and takes my office wall with it.)

Hello and a belated happy new year. For the first time in years I went back to the UK for Christmas. I didn't want to advertise the fact that my apartment was empty so I didn't blog. I don't actually know anyone who has been burgled in Japan, in fact I know many people who leave their doors unlocked when they go out. When I ask why they say that if anyone stops by they don't want them to have to wait outside because that would be bad manners. Still, apologies to those people who wrote and asked where I had gone. (I had gone to the Marks & Spencer sale for new velour trackie bottoms).

Now I am back in Japan and looking forward to a more upbeat 2012 albeit one without peppers, peaches, courgettes, carrots or spinach, all of which are in my supermarket right now but all of which are from Fukushima. And people are buying them. A Japanese colleague - the one who said that Japan was 'not like before' - also said that Japanese people 'feel it's our fault if we don't want to buy' things from the affected areas, like they're letting the side down. If they want to take the risk that is fine - the chances of adults becoming ill are apparently small - but they are also feeding the stuff to their children. You may have read of the Meiji milk incident where the company was forced to admit - after a consumer did their own testing and then made a complaint - that their baby formula contained radioactive Cesium 134 and 137.

And now we hear that there is a 70% chance of a 7 in Tokyo some time in the next 4 years. I think it may be sooner. I had just got into my Lush Vanilla Fountain bath last week - the night of the Chinese New Year as I recall - when all the water began to slosh from side to side and the shampoo bottles fell over but I refused to get out because it is freezing cold outside and the snow is still piled up at the roadsides. We had tremors just about every day last week. At one point I was talking with a student in my 9th floor office when her mobile phone quake warning alarm went off. "We are going to have an earthquake" she said and we waited. Then she dived into her bag and brought out her i-phone which said that the quake was up north again.

Yesterday I arrived at my office to find a brand new hard hat sitting on my desk. I put it on and adjusted it, and then jammed it into my locker. Not two minutes later the floor began to shake, the locker door swung open and the hat fell on the floor. Perhaps I'll keep it closer to my desk. When the next big one hits and I'm on the 9th floor of a 12 story building, that hat's going to be my first line of defence...

'S' building - which stands for Sincerity not shaky or shoddy - is being pulled down in the next couple of months, apparently before it falls down by itself according to office gossip. The word is that it is no longer quake-proof. It has a lot of hairline cracks running along the corridors and it abuts one wall of my office which has a wide crack in it too which seems to be getting wider the longer I stare at it (the crack not noticeably my office). I imagine myself sitting at my desk (with my hard hat on) during a quake and suddenly finding myself with a panaromic view of western Tokyo.

Now to the chores. I was woken up before 8am this morning by a cluster of little quakes so I got up and vowed to get all my errands done before the next Big One. Then I had a cup of tea and went right back to bed.