Diaries From Japan: Dispatches From People Living in Tokyo and Sendai
Expat Kids Pulling Themselves Together
Yoshie Toriya, Tokyo, March 16
"We are Japanese but have been in the American school in overseas community for the past eight years, and I was amazed how quickly the American community responded to the misfortune that happened in another place, like the 2004 Tsunami, earthquakes in China, the Philippines, Indonesia, 2008 Myanmar Cyclone and 2010 Haiti earthquake. They organized a disaster relief each time and collected tens of thousand dollars to donate. We had been in Singapore so those were disasters in the neighboring countries. This time, we are right here, in Japan. The expat kids here at American school have quickly set up their Earthquake Updates Page on Facebook, sharing tips how to stay safe, calm and helpful, while nurturing the team spirit. With this my 9th grader is on top of the situation and lecture me with the rational views on the hazard of the radiation contamination. Many kids have applied a "pray for Japan" image
The Ground is Trembling
Meri Tanaka, Tokyo, March 16
From Aftershocks and Power Outages to the Nuclear Reactors
Miki Diane Shibata, Yamanashi, March 16
"Yamanashi was lucky. Most of the prefecture felt something close to a Japanese magnitude 5; but it was a sickening horizontal movement, as if the ground turned into water. However, life went on as usual the following Monday. We were far enough from the more heavily affected areas so people still go to work and kids still go to school. It’s a really eerie feeling, trying to live your life as normal when just a little north, thousands of bodies are found each day and those who survived are suffering. And then there is the fear. You can see it in the empty canned food, rice, and bread isles at the grocery store. Flashlights and batteries are nowhere to be seen. There are long lines of cars stocking up on gas, to the point most gas stations imposed a 20 liter limit.
The biggest things on people’s minds right now are aftershocks, power outages, and nuclear reactors (in that order). We had a Japanese magnitude 6 off of Shizoka on March 16th that had me bolting out the door with my backpack filled with valuables. It eventually settled down and though many lost sleep over it, people still went to work the next day. My town was experiencing a rolling blackout (thanks TEPCO!) so I drove through disorganized streets (the traffic lights were dead as well) to my school. Not many people here are concerned about the nuclear reactors in Fukushima; we’re too far from the nuclear reactors to affect us directly. e just pray for the safety of the people nearest to them."
No Reason to Panic in Tokyo
Yoshie Toriya, Tokyo, March 16
"Like everyone else in Tokyo on March 11 I got caught in the city after having to evacuate from the 33rd floor by walk. Phone lines were down but my teenage daughters and I were able to update one another's whereabouts on Facebook on mobile while other friends in other places of the world posted encouragements that made the otherwise desperate trip home till nearly 2am less difficult. Exhausted from the unusual distant walk on high heels, all I cared over the weekend was just stay close with the girls and go secure some food supplies. Stores were with full of people who must have had a day just like mine, but we could just get everything we wanted so I felt no urge of buying up whatever my hand could reach. Then the nuclear power plant broke and scattered the fear of radioactive contamination. Scientists on news assure it is hardly the level to affect our health. Just try to stay in, take a shower if you go out. Luckily some of us who work at western-based companies get to work from home and some schools have closed, so we're staying in. Aftershocks strike every now and then but cease. Days passed and half the shelves at the grocery stores are empty now, but if you can try to go at the earlier time of the day you can still buy just enough for a day or two, not abundantly but enough. Energy being saved by not fully operating trains and stores so we've been able to avoid the blackout. In this catastrophe each of us is doing our part, that is the least thing we can do to get as much supply and help to get to those who need them the most. There is no reason to panic in Tokyo."
The Pattern of Denial
Dave Bartlett, March 16
More Gas Today
Robert Marshall, Tokyo, March 16
Still Food in Nagoyas Convinis
Kira Kira Chou, Tokyo, March 16
In Tokyo, People Are Uneasy
Yasuo Tnakada, Tokyo, March 16
The Situation in Tokyo Is Getting Worse
Michi Okugawa, Tokyo, March 15
"The situation in Tokyo is getting worse. The number of people who is panicking have increased and more and more people are trying to get out of Tokyo or out of the country. Our colleagues from overseas have decided to go back to their countries for a while. I don't know why, but Americans in my office are handling the situation calm and don't plan to evacuate. My friends have packed the big emergency backpack and half of the employees are working from home already. I am only hoping that people would calm down and when necessary, the evacuation process would go smooth. The nuclear plant explosion is affecting largely in our daily lives in Tokyo. The biggest problem is the transportation. Tokyo is very dark now due to power saving. This is good though. You realize how much lights we were using. In my opinion, too much were used before. As I am writing this, more people have decided to evacuate from Tokyo. There was another big shake last night from different point from north, Shizuoka, and probably this pushed more people to decided to do so. This is getting longer so I stop here. Personal opinion, I am living my usual life but the surrounding is in a panic. What's needed is a voice to make people calm down."
The Personal Side of the Tragedy
Chihiro Maekawa, Tokyo, March 15
"I have a close friend who has families and friends living in Fukushima where the earthquake and the tsunami hit pretty hard. The news may be reporting what is happening now, how high the tsunami was, how many people have died, how many are still missing, but I think I could get to the personal side of this tragedy as well. Luckily my friend was able to get contact with his families and friends, but there are voices other than the news of alive/dead that are wanted to be delivered. I have also experienced this earthquake, a bit smaller, but here in Tokyo and if I could, I want turn this experience into something productive than leaving it as an unfortunate disaster."
Experiencing Rolling Blackouts
Miki Diane Shibata, Yamanashi, March 15
"My name is Miki Diane Shibata, and I work with the JET program teaching English at elementary schools in Yamanashi Prefecture. Luckily, we were quite far from the tsunamis in Fukushima, Miyagi, and Iwate we are feeling some strong aftershocks. Currently we are experiencing rolling blackouts and shortages of ready-to-eat food at supermarkets."
Fear of the Radioactivity Attacks People
Satomi Tonari, Tokyo, March 15
"Cousin's parents headed for Sendai with the car in a hurry because it became impossible to contact the cousin. The cousin was fortunately taking shelter. It was able to contact parents from the refuge, and it was possible to meet again. There are a lot of reports of Miyagi, Iwate, and Fukushima. However, Ibaraki is also very awful. There is acquaintance's mother in Ibaraki. Acquaintance's mother slept with the car because the house had broken. Shopping is up to four points or less also in Ibaraki. Fear of the radioactivity attacks people. The commodity disappeared from the shop in Tokyo."
Shinya Komase, Ichikawa, Chiba, March 14
"I went out to purchase some dry-cell batteries for we would have scheduled blackouts from today. However, there was nothing left at drug stores and convenience stores. Even at local stationary stores and small electric stores, I could not find any dry-cell batteries. It seems that people bought most of foods, such as snacks, instant foods, sandwiches and drinks."
Richard Walton, Odawara-shi, Kanagawa, March 13
"I have been reading a lot about how prepared for earthquakes we are in Japan. Japan certainly is filled with ugly iron and concrete structures which have replaced the traditional wooden structures that in the past typically burned to the ground following any disaster. That unappealing architecture is great if it saves lives, but regulations are not always evenly applied. When I visited Kobe shortly after the earthquake there about 15 years ago, it was startling how you would see old houses almost completely leveled and several feel away the neighboring, more recently built house would appear seemingly untouched. The modern housing codes are obviously only for newly built houses."
Brian Ries is tech and social media editor at The Daily Beast. He lives in Brooklyn.