What a strange day.
First, the situation in Shizuoka Prefecture where I live is still totally fine. In fact, the Tsunami warning level on the JMA website has been reduced to “yellow”, which means a height of only 0.5m, if it hits at all.
I’ve had a lot of concerned messages, not just from friends and family, but also from blog readers and fellow bloggers, and total strangers who have come across my blog. Thank you for all your kind messages. I and my friends are all totally fine. To those of you who have contacted me because you’re worried about someone in this area, of course I cannot say anything for sure, but Shizuoka Prefecture seems to be fine. I hope all of your friends and family are safe.
Next, a news update:
The biggest news today seems to have been an explosion at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant. According to the BBC, “It is not yet clear in exactly what part of the plant the explosion occurred or what caused it.” The evacuation zone has been expanded from a 10km radius to 20km. Click on the above link if you would like more information about that. I don’t want to write too much and mis-report something about such a serious topic! (UPDATE: As I am writing this, an aftershock with a magnitude of 6.0 has been reported in Fukushima…)
According to the BBC, the current death toll from yesterday’s disaster is estimated at around 1,300. Many people are still missing. There has been a call for international help and various countries (including Britain) are sending teams of doctors, nurses, etc. to help. The greatest need right now is for food, water, blankets and shelter for the people in Sendai and other parts of the Miyagi Prefecture. “Police say 215,000 people have fled their homes, and there are reports that whole villages have been swept away.“, it says on the BBC website.
More than 50 aftershocks have been felt. Many of them were more than 6.0 in magnitude. Friends nearer to the affected area have reported that things are “still shaking” from time to time.
On a more personal level:
As I said, things here in Hamamatsu are totally fine. I was worried this morning about my friends in coastal areas, but it does look like things may be settling down here in Shizuoka Prefecture. Still, many students had trouble getting to school today, or simply couldn’t come at all. I guess the main reason was that public transport was all messed up.
(Photograph of Yomiuri Shimbun)
One of my students was actually travelling back from Australia yesterday when the disaster happened, got diverted to Osaka (instead of Narita) and then had to make his way back to Hamamatsu from there. Unfortunately the bullet trains weren’t running, so he had to spend the night in Osaka. Amazingly he made it to class on time! Many of my company’s schools north of here have been closed, due to lack of power, or just as a precaution.
Another small but significant problem which affects the whole country is that the TOEIC test scheduled for tomorrow has been cancelled. I can’t find any mention of this online, but my co-worker told me. She also told me that this weekend’s national university entrance exams have been cancelled. While neither of these seem like big problems in the grand scale of things, they will affect many people and no doubt cost a great deal too.
The reaction among people here has been strange – at least, it seems strange to an outsider. My American co-worker and I both agreed that this was a time to be saying things like “Oh my god – earthquake! Tsunami! Nuclear explosion!”, but most people I have spoken to today seem to be acting very normally. I wonder if this is because we haven’t been directly affected here? Or because, despite the size of this disaster, Japan is a country which is well prepared for earthquakes? I don’t know. One surprising thing did happen today, though… One of our students is actually a monk from a temple, and he paid us a visit to deliver a gorgeous dinner for each member of staff! He even had a special veggie one for me!
So, there is such a thing as a free dinner! Of course, I was very grateful and it was delicious, but I couldn’t help feeling a bit guilty eating it when I know people out there in northeastern Japan have lots their homes, families, friends…
On the way home today I stopped at the local convenience store and noticed some big signs in Japanese stuck onto shelves where there were huge spaces. I couldn’t read the signs, but I guessed it was some kind of apology for having no stock. I assume it was a case of delivery vehicles not being able to come, as opposed to “panic buying” which apparently is occurring in parts of Tokyo.
Out of curiosity, I bought a Japanese newspaper this morning for the first time. I chose the Yomiuri Shimbun because I had heard of it before. The front page looked like this:
I can’t read the paper of course, but seeing the photos in print seems somehow more real than watching it on the Internet. I have been glued to the BBC live stream since I got home though, while I am writing this.
Randomly, I just got a phone call from the British Embassy in Tokyo! Apparently my name had come up on some list, meaning that someone had listed me as someone to be worried about! I assured the guy that I was totally fine. It was a brief call, but I was very impressed to be checked on in such a way.
Anyway, I know this isn’t the most beautifully structured blog post – I just wanted to give everyone an update really. My thoughts are still with everyone who has been affected – I wish there was something practical I could do. For now, “ganbatte” Japan (日本がんばって)! And everyone, please take care…