Archives for category: Japan

Spring

Spring has finally set in. This last week the leaves in the mountains have come and everything is green again. It is spectacular that it can change so fast. The cheery blossoms have come and gone around here, but they can still be seen up in the mountains. The birds have come back and everything is growing again.

Earthquakes

The situation here has settled down. We have not had a blackout for a very long time and are no longer checking the schedules. Everyone still seems to be still conserving power, but things are returning to “normal”. I was back at soccer the two week ago and went to kyudo for the first time last week.

We have a handful of students at our primary school from the affected area (Fukushima). I believe they are staying in permanent accommodation around the town. When they first came they were in the community center.

We are still getting earthquake aftershocks. It is not so frequent now, but there are still large ones every now and then.

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There have not been many blackout recently. No power plants have become operational again since the quake (that I know of), so they must be managing the power out better and / or people must be doing well with power saving.

The power out a couple of nights ago gave me the opportunity to see what my village was like without the lights. It was a clear sky, with no super-moons around. I got a good gimps of the stars and managed to take a few photos. The most interesting of those are when a bike rider came past and left a gleam of head and tail lights on the picture (30 second exposure). After that the police car came around, lights flashing and I managed to catch that as well.

I found a great image on the web comparing different radiation sources: found on boing boing.

The past week has seen rolling blackouts. I am not sure why they are rolling. I don’t know how a blackout rolls, but that is what everyone has been saying they was doing. A blackout usually rolls for about three hours a day around this area. A couple of days had six hours (not all in one go though). On the weekend, the blackouts take a rest I assume. It must be because most businesses are closed and there is enough power.

Currently we are getting about a day or two of notice for the power outs, but it changes regularly. If you are interested to see which areas are out and when, check out Google’s excellent summary page. It gives you a feel for how big this really is (when you think Japan’s population is about 125 million people).

The electricity in the business heart of Tokyo is not affected. This is because (I assume) Tokyo is the capital of Japan, the biggest city in the world and so reliant on technology to run that it would be chaos if the power went out. This is fair i think, as it would cause much more trouble for the people in Tokyo, than it does for the people in the country.

I have been surprised by a number of things since the earthquake;

  1. How much we rely on electricity in our society. Thing fall apart really quickly without it.
  2. How easy it is to reduce the amount of energy we use. It is really as easy as just putting on an extra jumper. (Though the worst of winter is already behind me).
  3. I am sure there are other things that I have learned, but I can’t remember. I guess I have learnt them so well that they have now entered subconscious knowledge…

Even without the heaters on this past week, it has not been too cold. That is thanks mostly to the promise of spring. Some of the plum trees are starting to bloom, which would have been pretty, but was something I did not take much notice of. It did snow a few times though. It would have been really bad up north for those people who have no homes now and have to stay in school gyms. Those school gyms are really cold. It is ridiculous actually. We have assembly there and sometime students faint because of the cold. The snow must have been bad for those people in shelters.

Today the two power outs were canceled. We will have to see how it goes, but it seems to be getting better. I think because people are using less. I hope people can continue to save power, as they are saying the ‘situation’ might last until next winter (which would be cold).

Shopping today and there was food on the shelves again. Food is an important part of my life, so I was very happy. Over the past week we had to bring our own food to school – usually we eat the same food as the students (for a small fee).

Yesterday saw the return of bread and milk to the school lunch, but that is it. No rice. No miso soup. I don’t know why we are only getting bread and milk, because bread and milk is the only thing that we can’t get at the shops still.

It was interesting to see what the kids packed in their lunch. There mothers really go all out. There is so much variety in that little box. All the little bits of meat and salad and other things I don’t know how to categorize. Those kids have it good.

It seems petrol is still low at the petrol stations as they are mostly closed. We have not been using the car much so we still have an almost full tank. Safe for now.

6:20 to 10:00 and 16:50 to 20:30. That is when the power will go out in our village tomorrow. This is expected to last for a month. Hospitals and individuals with medical conditions will get generators. I am not sure what this will mean for public transport. I guess most businesses will have to close.

Nine at night on Saturday, most of the lights were out as we looked around the neighbourhood. Tonight too. It seems that  everyone is taking the request to save power seriously.

On Friday all the teachers at my school left early due to the earthquake. But Yoshi was still working her usual hours until 7:30, though only two kids from nearby showed up for the classes. It seems pointless to have the study school open. Our test is cancelled tomorrow and we have heard that some private and public university tests have been postponed. In Tokyo they have closed department stores early.

They are calling for volunteer medical staff. Though for the worst hit areas they are saying not to come yet. Perhaps because the situations is so bad that adding another mouth to feed will not offset the good they will do. These are the places where buildings have been washed away.  

We have been thinking that in a situation like this, where power is scarce, non essential services do not need to remain open. It would be hard to close all such services down (all the restaurants for example), but maybe they would be able to coordinate partial shut-down, so thirty percent (or some number) close, while customers who need he service can still get it. maybe three neighbouring restaurants would be able to group together and stage their shut down, redireting customers to the other restaurant when they close for the day. 

They have started talking about planned blackouts for our region. Starting from tomorrow. Maybe in three hour blocks. They say that this has never happened before. The prime minister of japan was just on tv and was saying that this looks like the worst thing since the war. I am afraid it might be. If it is, then it will pass the 1995 Kobe earthquake of over six thousand people. That earthquake lasted 15 seconds. The one on Friday was recorded for five minutes.

The earthquake was recently upgraded to 9.0. In the city 20min from us, they recorded 5.9. For us, the aftershocks have been lessening. Last night was less active than the night before. Now whenever the train rumbles by, our first reaction is always to think earthquake. 

What to do? Work will start again tomorrow (Monday). Back to normal? Today we have just been sitting around feeling strange about doing anything. So we are just glued to the TV.