Sunday, March 27, 2011
Ikebukuro and most of Tokyo commercial centers are operating as usual for a weekend; stores are full of people, long queues on popular places, students getting together on the street, even the usual crew of young people distributing free pocket tissue paper (contains sponsor’s ad).
Although the crowds are small, people seems to be getting back to their normal weekend activities.
Due to the ongoing energy savings, stores are half illuminated. Displays, neon lights, and showcases are off, an uncommon view in Tokyo.
With the strong aftershocks, many people (me included), are feeling dizziness and quake-like effects through the day. I am not sure if the aftershocks are too small for everybody to feel them or the body is getting disorientated after all the continuous shocks and start feeling “phantom” shocks.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
We are on the second week after the earthquake now. There are many signs indicating that we are getting back to normal: People are returning to the normal work routines, with the exception of the areas affected by the rolling blackouts; A large number of people are coming back from the Kanto area, were they took refuge after the initial panic; In addition, TV stations are almost back to regular programs (apart from the ads as sponsors shun away from running the usual cheerful commercials and as a result have to endure the same five ads by the Japan advertisement council, running repeatedly).
Last Saturday, I took a walk from Ichigaya to Akihabara along the Yasukini street, to evaluate the current mood.
There were only a few people on the streets around the Ishigaya station, not uncommon on weekends as this is a business area, but still below to what I expected.
On the Kitanomaru park/ Nihon Budokan area, also there were only a few people, on this area is common to see a large number of people, but most of the events have been cancelled so no much people around
As I get closer to the Jinbocho area, the number of people increased, street lined with sports and music stores and many shoppers walk the area on weekends.
The biggest crowds were at Akihabara, although not as large as habitual, the streets felt alive and busy.
The most worrisome is still the aftershocks; we have several per day of a significant strength.
Friday, March 18, 2011
Tokyo still has been unable to find his normal pace one week after the devastating disaster, shortage of bread, rice, and gasoline continue as producers, understandably, give priority to the affected areas, additionally general public continues panic stocking of these products. Rolling blackouts continue, creating long queues at store doors due to the reduced work hours.
Despite of what is portrayed in the foreign media, people are calm and there is not panic on the street caused by the nuclear plant crisis in Fukushima, despite the obvious incapability of the Tokyo electric power company TEPCO, to hold a proper press conference, the very capable Japan Chief Cabinet Secretary, Mr. Yukio Edano, has explaining the actions being undertaken to deal with the crisis, on the regular basis.
The general mood has improved slightly as things calm down, hindered only by the continuous strong aftershocks that will remind everybody that it is not over yet.
Although the situation has been improving, the real recovery cannot start until the nuclear plant crisis is under control, then we can focus in the critical issue of helping the people affected by the earthquake.
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
After the devastating earthquake, I was expecting that the start of the business week will return some of the normal pace to Tokyo, but with the rolling blackouts, the city is still a long way before coming close to normal.
Due to the blackouts, stores are opening only a few hours a day, feeding the current shopping panic. Gasoline stations are running out of fuel and customers are restricted to only a few liters, if they can stand the long queues. Public transportation have reduced the number of buses/trains running to save energy, causing the large crowds and queues at stations.
People is emotionally tired as the fear of nuclear meltdown in very tangible, adding to this we are still getting strong aftershocks every day, foreigners have the luxury of the option to flee the country and go back home, and many are doing so, for my this is not longer an option, for me this is home now.
Sunday, March 13, 2011
The streets of Tokyo, normally bursting with activity on weekends, were almost empty as people stayed home, watching the quake updates on TV, and take the aftershocks from the relatively security of home.
Tokyo damage was damage was minor, cruising around the city, you will hardly know that we also felt the strength of the quake, in some places there were some damage, like the fallen cross at the St. Ignatius church, or that the Tokyo tower antenna bent with the shock.
Rumors of food shortage have caused panic shopping sprees, supermarkets stocked for the expected large number of shoppers but nevertheless bread, rice, instant food, and beverages sold out in a few hours.
The government has just announced a number of power outages to cope with the energy shortage, generated by the loss of the North area power generators.
Although there will be some inconvenience caused by the outage, we can really complain as it is nothing compared with the hardships of the people in the Miyagi, Fukushima area.
Friday, March 11, 2011
Yesterday we suffered an 8.8 earthquake, the worst in Japanese recorded history, and a subsequent tsunami that causes the lost of a large number of people, estimated in the thousands at this moment.
The readiness of the government will be tested in the next hours, but I have witnessed firsthand the amount of preparation and readiness of the Japanese people and I was surprised by the level of it.
When I felt the first tremors, my reaction was to try to remain calm and stay put as (I though) it will surely will be over quickly, Japanese people on the other hand, first reaction was, to check the TV for an official update on the tremor;
As the tremor lasted more than a couple of seconds and increased in intensity, I was ready to start looking for a good place to hide, to my relief Japanese people were ready to leave, and started to do so immediately, as they know is not safe to stay in a building during a strong earthquake, elevators, gas, and in some areas even electricity stops automatically to prevent other disasters, so we had to go down using the stairs, once on the 1st floor I found a large group of people getting ready to leave to a evacuation area, an area clear of buildings. In front of my building there is a nursery school, the teachers at the start of the quake gathered the children outside the building and cover them with the Japanese disaster headgear, the same used during the war to protect from the flying burning debris on a fire situation, note the kids and teachers at the nursery’s balcony on the photo. At the evacuation center I found that most people on the area have already gather there to wait for the end of the quake, most of the kids walking by from school were wearing the same headgear.
Japanese kids train and prepare for this kind of disaster at school and work, consequently when the quake strike, they react accordingly quickly, although you can never be prepared for a quake of this intensity.
Wednesday, March 9, 2011
The Tokyo Sky Tree currently under construction has reached 604 m, becoming the world’s tallest tower.
The last part of the tower, the digital antenna is being installed, although construction is schedule to finish at the end of this year.
The tower has already become a landmark. At points with a good view of the tower, people will invariably stop to appreciate the sight.
View Tokyo Sky tree in a larger map
Sunday, March 6, 2011
At the Narita san temple complex, the structures testify on the historical opulence and importance of the temple, with the most prominent being the Shinshoji main hall, covered on the previous post. The surrounding structures are of not less importance and stand out on its own by merit of their beauty, and importance.
The Shakado hall (former main hall), standing next to the main hall, is a wooden structure erected in 1858, designated an important cultural property and a truly characteristic structure of the late Edo period.
The Gakudo hall is normally a very small and austere structure, The Naritasan one built in 1861, considering the size and detailed decorations, give evidence on the profound devotion to Buddhism in earlier times. This structure has also been designated an important cultural property.
The Kyomodo hall an earlier main hall built in 1701; the features of the structure are representative of the mid-Edo period.
The great Pagoda of peace was erected quite recently, in 1984, in prayer of world peace, with 58m of height the structure is enormous, note the size of the people walking around the structure.
Other structures are the Seiryu Gongen Dou hall built in 1732, the Kaizandou closed to the public, and the Shussei Inari shrine (this shrine is not part of Naritasan, eventhough is in the same location).
View Naritasan in a larger map