Wednesday, March 23, 2011

things are not normal

Despite that Japan may be already fading from the headlines, despite some reports that I've read that say things are nearly back to normal here, they are not.

Earthquakes are still shaking us every few hours at least. Today I was on the train when another quake struck. Everyone's phone disaster alarms started beeping at once, and at the same time the train ground to a halt between stations for an emergency stop.

Trains are running, but at a reduced rate. My line is going at 50%. Trains are late, and more packed than usual. It takes twice as long to get anywhere. This is a city where hardly anyone drives, and there's still a run on gas. Yesterday I saw queues stretching for blocks at the stations that were open. At least half seem to still be closed.

The city is dark, eerily so. Power saving and rolling blackouts are still in effect, and lights and signage have been dimmed. I went to city hall today, and used the restroom, in the dark. Went to Shinjuku tonight and we thronged with the crowds in Kabukicho in muffled half light.

About half of my friends have left, either to further flung parts of Japan or to other countries. Those of us remaining are varying degrees of nervous, watching the reports roll out and trying to sort through the information and misinformation.

I was talking to my aunt and mom and cousin today, and they're guardedly worried about the radiation. We talked about alternative power, sun and wind and water. Lots of people in Japan already use solar panels, and there are some wind turbines here too. But we could do so much more. We have the technology here, and perhaps now we have the impetus to be a model for alternative energy, to lead the way in making the alternative the mainstream. Thinking about this possibility for the future, about the hopeful implications for the rest of the world, is a small bright spot in all this darkness.

Meanwhile, displaced people up north still lack basics. Many still don't have electricity, or even kerosene to heat the frigid evacuation centers. They don't have enough food or water. Search and rescue efforts continue.

In addition to the package I sent to Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support last week, I've also sent boxes to Second Harvest Japan, where I've volunteered before, and Peace Boat. As well as accepting material donations (domestically) and monetary donations (from anywhere), 2HJ is using volunteers in Tokyo, and Peace Boat is organizing volunteers both in Tokyo and to go to Tohoku. If you can, please find a way to help.


  1. yeah, those aftershocks, and to some extent those disaster alarms, freak the hell out of me. People on the subway looking so gloomy, too.
    On alternative energy... I'm biased, as I have been working on a wind energy project... but it is a fact that Japan has the offshore wind energy resources to 100% cover its energy needs. The technology is basically ready too. But, as always...

  2. Dear Selena

    Thanks for updating all of us on the other side of the ocean as to what is going on. It is very hard to get clear information about what is happening in Japan right now, so your post is very valuable.

    Christa and I were supposed to bring over 20 students over in late May, then we decided to perhaps not visit Tokyo this time and stay more south, but then as of a couple days ago the School simply cancelled the trip outright. I wonder how much longer you will have to deal with the tremblors...

    And thanks too for the donation information - Peace Boat and Second harvest look like great organizations to donate to, so I'll do just that.

    Be taking good care! our thoughts are with you all in Nihon,


  3. alternative power would be great. NZ has a lot of wind farms and at first there was uproar in some places cause they looked 'ugly' but they are very war of the worlds kind of cool and soothing. We have solar panels on our roof and this month sold Kyushu Power 11,000 yen worth of electricity. Hurrah. We used more than that but :(

    Is the Animal rescue thing you sent - did you send dog and cat food and the likes? Going to click on that link now. Thanks xxx

  4. Biggie, thanks. I'm glad you're working on wind power. We need you.

  5. andy-pants,
    Thanks so much, I'm glad that it was helpful. People's attention is being diverted elsewhere, but there is still so much to be done here. I'm so sorry that your trip was canceled - I would have loved to see you. And there's going to be a serious secondary crisis with the economy here, as tourism dips way down and all the people who make a living that way are affected. My aunt and uncle (the designers who got their degrees in Chicago) do design and renovation for a lot of hotels, and 50% of their contracts have been canceled.
    Love to you and Xa.

  6. hi selena, thanks for your comment on my blog. i thought about you after the earthquake and it's good to read that you are well. i'm so sorry for your country and its gigantic loss. our thoughts and love are with you!

  7. Pffft. bring on the soy lattes at doutor. xxx to you and timmy

  8. GW, I already commented over at yours, but yes, JEARS takes things like cat and dog food, towels, kitty litter, kennels, scratch pads, almost any kind of pet related supplies. They're also looking for volunteers. There's a list of needs on their site.

  9. Thanks for doing your auction, Melissa. I love your stuff and am happy that some people get to enjoy it while the proceeds go to a good cause.

  10. JB - looking forward to it! Holler at me when you get back.