A Run on Natto

I’m still alive.

That’s always good. The impression that I get from folks back in America is that the news says the whole of Japan is near death. The total destruction of all of us due to radiation is near and there’s nothing we can do. Far from that, radiation levels, while requiring vigilance, are far from deadly. It’s only in Fukushima that the levels are worrisome. The current level of radiation in the air in Fukushima is equal to the level of radiation you receive during a flight from Tokyo to New York. The farther you get away from the reactors, the radiation levels decrease significantly. And by the time you get down to my area in the Tokai region, the radiation levels are no higher than they were at this time last year. That is to say, the same levels that you encounter just being alive and walking around on Earth.

I say these things not to dismiss concern over the reactor problem. Japanese specialists (along with help from South Korea and the US) are working around the clock to try to cool the nuclear fuel. I have the utmost faith in the Japanese (and my own country’s) abilities. I would urge others reading this to keep a level head on their shoulders and don’t let sensationalist media reports about impending doom get them all out of sorts.

The local grocery store is out of bottled water. They’re sending it up north to help out evacuees. They’ve also sent microwaveable rice and packs of dried noodles. I’m assuming they’ve donated these goods, and it’s quite admirable of them. I donated a little bit of money to the Japanese Red Cross. I would encourage those of you who’d like to help to do the same and donate some money.

I haven’t noticed much of a run on supplies around me like some of the reports in Hiroshima. Probably due to their history with nuclear material, people in Hiroshima have been buying up all the natto (and probaby lots of other types of food). Nagoya has remained level-headed. Life is continuing on as normal. The newscasters on TV keep everyone apprised of the situation in Fukushima and they probably have no idea that scum bags like Glenn Beck are saying that the death and destruction in Tohoku was a “message from God”.

Don’t You Think You’re Over Reactoring?

I woke up this morning and the news was telling me that I’m okay. That’s comforting. The situation in Fukushima and nearby areas remains the same. People within a 20km radius have been evacuated, and people living between 20km and 30km of the nuclear power plant have been instructed to stay indoors. Tokyo is receiving small amounts of radiation, but nothing that will affect the human body. My area (Tokai) has had no change in the amount of radiation present compared to readings taken at this time last year. So at present conditions, I’m in no danger. Sure, things could always get worse, but for now, I’m A-OK.

Although…my apartment shook for about ten seconds last night. There was a magnitude 6.0 earthquake in Shizuoka at 10:31 (I think) last night. It was closer than last Friday’s quake, so it felt a bit stronger in Aichi than the previous one that I felt. It was however much shorter. The giant quake on Friday was weaker here, but lasted for a couple minutes. Thankfully, there was no tsunami and no damage.

It does feel like this shit is never going to end. I haven’t been adversely affected, but it’s still a nagging reminder that my life continues at Earth’s whim. In Ohio, I always wondered if a tornado would kill me. I figured, at least I could hide underground, but when the ground itself wants to fuck with you, there’s not much you can do short of sprouting wings and learning to fly.

I’m confident that the authorities here will figure out how to contain the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, but until that’s fully contained, I don’t think anybody will be able to rest completely.

But What About the Children!?

So one of the Japanese teachers I work with opens class by saying, “So, there was an earthquake the other day. Many people’s homes were swept away by the tsunami.”

The kids responded by asking, “When is the tsunami going to be over? I want to watch variety shows. Every time I turn on the TV, it’s just earthquakes and tsunamis.”

I don’t think kids in Gifu get the severity of the problems in Tohoku. Maybe it’s too much for me to expect 14 year olds to grasp what kind of damage this earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) did to Eastern Japan. I also know college-aged kids who have been pretty blase about the whole thing as well. And the most the working adults I know can muster up about it is, “Oh that’s scary.” So I’m gonna imagine the kids who aren’t too concerned with the well-being of their countrymen to the East are getting their disposition from their parents, who probably also just want to watch variety TV shows and go back to life as it was last week. So I don’t blame the kids. Nurture beats nature in this instance. If your parents are dicks, you’ll probably be a dick too.

Life Goes On


It felt a little like 9/11 on Friday.

Don’t get your American flags in a bunch. I know a terrorist attack and a natural disaster aren’t the same thing. But the “what’s gonna happen next” feeling that I had on 9/11 was a lot like the earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku on Friday afternoon. The aftershocks went on forever and the tsunami washed away thousands of homes. Trains stopped, the Sendai airport was submerged in sea water and all the while, the birds were chirping outside my window. It was the same way with 9/11. You turn on the TV, and ten hours away people were trapped under debris and dying, but in my neck of the woods, the sun was shining and everything was peachy keen.

Aichi (where I live) got just a small 3.0 earthquake that caused no damage, no power outages and the tsunami was only half my height and had no chance of coming in far enough inland to reach my apartment. Now it’s Monday morning and life goes on. There’s no residual affect here. People commuted like always. The teacher in my first period class only briefly talked about the earthquake with the students. The kids have no idea (or don’t care) about the magnitude of the destruction in Tohoku.

What strikes me as damn weird is that foreigners that haven’t been affected by this tsunami (in and out of Japan) are reacting way more strongly than Japanese people who haven’t been affected. My Japanese friends and co-workers don’t seem to need to talk about it constantly. They aren’t letting what happened in Tohoku affect their activities. I went shopping and on a date on Saturday (how awful and insensitive, I know) and guess what? So was everyone else! The feeling I get from non-Japanese I talked to is that we should all be huddled up at home praying for everyone or drinking ourselves into oblivion as a way to escape the sadness. What shocked me was that the people in affected areas bought up everything at the convenience stores except the beer. I figured that at a time like this, you’d wanna be hammered and just ride your way through it.

I caught slack for a comment I made on Twitter last night and I don’t think I was being insensitive to anyone. If anything, I was pointing out that the compassion the Internet likes to show at the time of disaster is superficial and short-lived. I was told that I don’t understand people and that everyone is showing “overwhelming support”. If you’re not lending a helping hand (literally or financially), you’re not helping anyone. Praying for displaced people in Tohoku isn’t gonna help them find their lost loved ones or get their houses back. The coastal areas have been wiped out in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima prefectures. There’s radiation leakage in Fukushima and more than a handful of people have been exposed to it. Tweeting #prayforjapan isn’t showing support. It’s jumping on the sympathy bandwagon. It’s a bandwagon that makes frequent stops and people only ride it for as long as they think other people are paying attention to the fact that they’re riding it.