March 26th, 2011

Photography: Sakura

Yeah, Tokyo, it's a lot like that.

Hi everyone,

Sorry I haven't replied to all the comments. It's a lot easier to write back on my own PC rather than my phone, which is what I'm using now. I just want to save electricity, that's all. I think I'm capable of answering now.

Since the last post, things have got better. The radiation in the water decreased and the power plant is progressing slowly. We've been told not to eat leafy green vegetables, but overall radiation levels in Tokyo are going down. I check my online Geiger counter every morning before deciding to go to work. It's worth noting that, no matter how severe that sounds, radiation levels never got much higher than the natural background radiation in my university town of Aberdeen. Obviously, I'm still concerned about the lack of vegetables though, but I take multivitamins every day -- they're from Sainsburys. Thanks, mum!

I went to the (quite) new convenience store in town yesterday and was surprised to find it had a large grocery section. The only time I went before was during a blackout when it was populated entirely by staff wielding torches. They didn't sell cat litter though. Anyway, their produce section was filled with leafy greens from Ibaraki and Chiba! Some of them were up to 30% off. Now, I presume these are safe and were shipped before the disaster, but I've no guarantee of that! Do not want! And neither did anyone else, it seems, because these fresh vegetables remained while the rest of the shelves were more or less stripped.

I went out to something other than work yesterday for the first time -- Tokyo Comedy Store. They were having a benefit for Second Harvest, which distributes food to the homeless and, yes, emergency shelters. There were lots of fairly close-to-the-bone quake jokes -- two crossed the line for me, and that's saying something since I have a pretty tasteless sense of humour. But I do believe that comedians should tell the best jokes they can and deal with potential line-crossing, because that is how you get cutting-edge humour. But everyone's mind was on the quake, which was obvious in the second half, based around improv theatre. All the suggestions called out by the audience were quake-related. Chris asked for suggestions for "sponsors" so they could do fake commercials and the first suggestion was radiation (they refused) and the second was TEPCO, at which point they realised they pretty much had to.

Lots of hate for the so-called "flyjin" though. I'd say I don't get it, but I totally do, I just don't agree. It's a way to recast yourself as the 'hero' of the situation and boosts camaraderie -- does that sound too analytical? There was a distinct feeling last night of "We're foreign, we're still here and we're awesome. YAY TOKYO!" and while it strikes me as pretentious, it's just what's needed right now.

I must admit to being surprised by how many people seemed to know me though! From the minute I walked in, everyone shouted 'hey, Will!' Which is nice. I'm feeling a lot better today, I think. I must admit I've stayed in bed most of the day reading ("Artemis Fowl and the Arctic Incident"), but I don't have to go to work for once.

Yesterday was the last day of work. Emotions in Japanese schools always run high at the end if the school year (More than the UK? YES.), but this time it was palpable. I found a teacher crying in the changing rooms, just sobbing her eyes out. "Kodomo mitai!" she said angrily. "Watashi mo onaji..." I replied. Then silence. It's a lot like that. We cancelled the end-of-year nomikai and had snacks and speeches in the staffroom instead. The highlight was coffee/green tea/tea made with mineral water, as Saitama's supply was also recently declared radioactive too.

But, unlike the other day(?), I'm okay. Don't worry.