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.

Monday, March 14, 2011

how you can help

Edit, 4/16: 
I've updated the link to Sarajean's page, as she's made a more organized and comprehensive website. The current news reports are saying they still lack food, medicine, diapers, formula for kids, socks, underwear, gas, and more up north, with almost half a million people displaced.

We are mostly fine here in Tokyo, but the horrifying pictures and reports keep pouring in from the north. At present, the confirmed death toll is over 1800, with an additional 15,000 people missing and 450,000 people displaced from their homes.

The Japanese Red Cross is already on the ground working, and it seems to me to make sense to give to a group that is local and already has a system in place. Here's a link where you can donate to them.

There has been a coalition formed between three animal rescue groups (Animal Friend Niigata, Japan Cat Net, and Heart Tokushima) to care for abandoned, lost, and displaced pets, until their owners or new homes can be found. I've been in touch with Japan Cat Net before about volunteering, and they do good work. They have a page on facebook, here.

Finally, I have been taking classes about NGOs in Japan, and my professor, Sarajean Rossitto, is very connected to the NGO scene and knows a lot about who does what. She's set up a useful page about volunteering and donating, with lots of different suggestions about how you can help. Please check it out here.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

veggie japan hacks #3: yakisoba

Lourdes, who wrote the Little Vegan Monsters cookbook with my friend Amp, started a vegan cooking blog. It's new, but already chock-full of tantalizing recipes. Amp's gluten intolerant and their son has a host of allergies, so you'll find a lot of delicious and creative recipes from a handful of contributors including my dear friend Birch, whose recipes are signed bbbbb.
I was messing around trying to make vegetarian yakisoba (bottled yakisoba sauce has animal extract in it) and after a failure, came up with a recipe that pleases. It's my first post over at Green Zebras, but I hope to put up more recipes as I figure out how to vegify some of the things I want to eat.

Edit: Awhile ago Jen shared her secret for low-calorie frozen creamy goodness that is a frozen pureed banana. She also fed it to me, lucky girl I am. I passed the tip on to Birch, who wrote a version of it on the blog! He gives me props for it but it came from JB!

Friday, March 04, 2011


click through for picture source
The crazy people linked in this article collected wild acorns, shelled them, extracted the tannins, ground them into flour, and made bread and pancakes from them. I love it. I love this quote:

"Another way to leach out tannins from acorns is to put them in a mesh sack and leave them in a running stream for a week or so."

Reading this, I wanna go all Walden and just do botanical drawings and make fucking acorn muffins all day.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

the cold bitter north

I heard it's snowing again in Sapporo, and though I started to write something about spring sidling in, here we are under another bout of sleet and other shittiness.
We went to our sister city a few weeks ago in time for the beginning of the festival, and spent some quality time dallying in kissaten, and bonding with snow, ice, crampons, hokkairo, hot beverages, and, most importantly, parfaits.
Penguin was, sadly, closed, so we had to hit up another spot recommended by my friend Prince. We traipsed around in flurries for a good long while, enlisting the help of a friendly koban policeman, and passed it twice before finally finding this spot, unassuming in the middle of a quiet block. Look for the pie-cake block letters on pressed aluminum, as the shop's name, People Peape, doesn't stand out. Cozy, grotty, indie, spectacular.
We went to Otaru on Sarah's recommendation, and while it was a pretty place, I think the best part may have been the algae boner photo op.

Though the music box emporium, recommended by Ben, was pretty magical. I love that this entire place is dedicated to increasingly esoteric analog technology. It reminded me of one of my favorite places, the Museé Mecanique in San Francisco.
We also stumbled on this cool café with Sarah, Sophia, and Nomu while freezing our booties off in downtown Sapps: The Cinema Café. It's underground (B1F!), with woody booths and lots of movie posters and trailers projected onto the wall. I don't know if they ever show full length movies, but it was a chill hangout. 
Sapporo, you do not disappoint. Though your weather is frigid, your people are hip and friendly and I really enjoy visiting. I hear Hokkaido is beautiful in the summer and I promise to visit in warmer weather, someday.