Last weekend I moved to a new apartment 7 minutes from Ebisu station in Shibuya-ku. This is the view from my balcony--very urban. But there is room for a couple of chairs and table on the balcony. The picture below is the front side of the building, my apartment in on the 8th floor.
Inside the apartment, it's a one room plus kitchen 43 square meters (13 square metters bigger than the last place).
You can see that he kitchen has a space saving washing machine under the burner. Shower and toilet in separate rooms on the left.
In the main room a new dresser and new desk/chair set. On the left is a big closet and flat screen TV to the right.
Here's the right side of the room with lamp, reading chair, and double bed.
I guess I should continue the updates as family members have been asking about the conditions on the ground here recently. I suppose there's been a lot of fuss about traces of radiation found in the water and foods like spinach and milk. The amount is not enough to cause significant damage. They have been cautioning the consumption with small children and pregnant women because children's cell divide faster. Here's a link to the WHO explanation of the situation.
Things continue to be touch and go at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima, but largely under control. The evacuation zone suggested by the Japanese government was not as large as suggested by the U.S. government and they have recently extended it, but it remains very far from Tokyo. I feel no danger.
There's a new term being bandied about the fleeing foreigners (known as gaijin in Japanese) in Japan "flygin." When the earthquake happened and the ensuing problems with nuclear reactor sin Fukushima many foreigners fled to south or out of the country to their home countries or places like Singapore. A lot of Japanese people have mentioned that they were disappointed by this. I heard the buzz on discussion sites like 2-Channel and Twitter question the validity of giving foreigners voting rights if this is how they react in a crisis. The German and French embassies suggested that their nationals evacuate Tokyo. So they were among the first to go. Wealthy expats in industries like banking were among the first wave to leave as well. Most of the people I know stayed, but some left and some went south to places like Osaka and Kyoto. Many "flygin" seem to be returning this week.
I work at several universities and many have cancelled or scaled down graduation ceremonies and postponed opening ceremonies, guidance and orientation. Meiji University has cancelled all ceremonies and will start two weeks late, Chuo university will proceed as planned, and Musashi University has delayed the opening of classes for 10 days. I'm still waiting to hear from another. But with all the free time I might try to sneak away for a few days in April using mileage accumulated over the year.
Things are slowly starting to return to normal. I think the nuclear reactors will soon be stable according to news reports. I got an email from my university that said they were going to cancel the graduation ceremonies. They are considering postponing the opening ceremony, guidance, and orientation. They have also decided to allow foreign students to return by May (we have a large number of foreign students in our department: The School of Global Japanese Studies). I think I'll stop by the campus and check out my office and do some research at the library if it's open and assess any damage done on campus-I heard there was minor damage.
Last night I went to a "Tokyo Survivors" home party since today is "Vernal Equinox Day" in Japan (I know, anything to get them to take a holiday and spend money). More stories about where people were when it hit and the mass foreigner exodus. It seems the French and Germans were largely the first to leave, but it sounds like you won't be able to swing a cat and hit an investment banker in Heartland this week as usual either, either. Some people are returning to Tokyo this week after fleeing sound to Osaka, Kyoto, and other areas.
The big scare are the trace amounts of radiation found in the water supply and milk and spinach. I think the media needs to do a better job of putting this in perspective so that people know that the levels of radiation are less thane you get flying or taking an x-ray. The levels in the food and water are also reasonable and not a worry. I suspect there are some who will never return-last night we were joking there will be some job opening coming up in the near future-career opportunities.
The British embassy in Tokyo says even in the worst case of a meltdown and explosion its only serious for people living within 30 km of the power station.
This is what it says below:
Let me now talk about what would be a reasonable worst case scenario. If the Japanese fail to keep the reactors cool and fail to keep the pressure in the containment vessels at an appropriate level, you can get this, you know, the dramatic word “meltdown”. But what does that actually mean? What a meltdown involves is the basic reactor core melts, and as it melts, nuclear material will fall through to the floor of the container. There it will react with concrete and other materials … that is likely… remember this is the reasonable worst case, we don’t think anything worse is going to happen. In this reasonable worst case you get an explosion. You get some radioactive material going up to about 500 metres up into the air. Now, that’s really serious, but it’s serious again for the local area. It’s not serious for elsewhere even if you get a combination of that explosion it would only have nuclear material going in to the air up to about 500 metres. If you then couple that with the worst possible weather situation i.e. prevailing weather taking radioactive material in the direction of Greater Tokyo and you had maybe rainfall which would bring the radioactive material down do we have a problem? The answer is unequivocally no. Absolutely no issue. The problems are within 30 km of the reactor. And to give you a flavour for that, when Chernobyl had a massive fire at the graphite core, material was going up not just 500 metres but to 30,000 feet. It was lasting not for the odd hour or so but lasted months, and that was putting nuclear radioactive material up into the upper atmosphere for a very long period of time. But even in the case of Chernobyl, the exclusion zone that they had was about 30 kilometres. And in that exclusion zone, outside that, there is no evidence whatsoever to indicate people had problems from the radiation. The problems with Chernobyl were people were continuing to drink the water, continuing to eat vegetables and so on and that was where the problems came from. That’s not going to be the case here. So what I would really re-emphasise is that this is very problematic for the area and the immediate vicinity and one has to have concerns for the people working there. Beyond that 20 or 30 kilometres, it’s really not an issue for health.
The biggest stress and challenge of this crisis for me has been dealing with the fact that the event of a large earthquake aftershock off the coast of Tokyo is quite probable this week and the ongoing crisis at the nuclear reactors in Fukushima.
The second biggest challenge is dealing with the mass hysteria surrounding the situation that has people hording food and supplies (see the photo above of the eggs section at the local supermarket and the water section below), making ignorant and uninformed statements that lead to fear mongering, and the fact there has been a great exodus of people out of the country or out of the Kanto area. This is mostly due to the prospects of radiation clouds being blown into the area from the nuclear reactors. Radiation poisoning is something that really sends people in a panic since it's something they don't understand. A friend who is in the medical profession had to talk someone out of iodine pills for radiation poisoning in Seattle, Washington yesterday.
There is great distrust with the Japanese government on informing people of what is going on at the reactors-which can not be helped since they cannot get close enough to inspect them yet and are doing their best. The French government has suggested that French citizens evacuate Kanto just in case and western expats are making a huge exodus out of the city. I must know of a dozen. My contact at the US Embassy is following the Japanese line on the crisis-so I can't believe that they are going to put millions of people at risk for fear of setting off a stampede with evacuation-it is 120 miles away and is being somewhat contained-remember people survived Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think Japanese are easily the most pussyfooted nation in the world and they are largely staying put in this crisis and THAT tells you something. I am not evacuating until I am TOLD to do so.
So how am I passing my time in this crisis?
Spending much too much time monitoring the fear mongering from emails, social media, and mainstream media.
Finishing up a correspondence course that will allow me to renew my teacher certification in Washington state (just in case-you never know what the future will bring). It's fairly involved, History 137 "Reconstruction to Present." 12 2-4 page essay assignments (which includes a significant amount of reading), a midterm, a final, and a 8-12 page research paper with 3 book length sources. I already completed the first, HIST 136: "Columbus to Reconstruction," and another course HUM 105: "Interpersonal Communication." However, I enjoy studying history so it's been interesting doing so from an adult and informed perspective. So far I've completed 8 assignments and have started planning for my research paper.
Recently I have been reading a book on Kindle via my iPhone application and sometimes using the actual Kindle machine, in addition to reading a "physical" paperback book. My current Kindle book is Hitch 22 a memoir by Christopher Hitchens and my current paperback book is I'm Staying With My Boys: The Heroic Life of Sgt. John Basilone, USMC by Jim Proser that was one of the sources used in the HBO miniseries The Pacific.
I am also re-watching The Pacific on DVD (I had hoped there would be lots of extras in the box set and sadly there are precious few).
Studying Japanese-I'm using a workbook that is called "Idioms: Basic/Intermediate Level."
Making my way through Sergio Leone's "Dollars Trilogy." I've already watched A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More. Today I plan to watch The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.