Over a week has passed since the big event, the one that changed a nation, and things are far from normal for almost everyone in Japan, myself included. I feel I should apologize to everyone for the lack of gunpla related content on the site lately, and I do know that the success of a website depends on consistent content, and that I might be dooming gainjin-gunpla.com by not posting, but I must be honest when I say that it’s not a priority for me right now.
With the highways and gas stations closed the only way I am able to get to work is by train. Last monday morning I awoke bright and early, put on my layers of clothes, and trudged off to the train station. When I got there everyone was standing around talking on cell phones because the station shutters were closed and on the wall was a sign stating that because of rolling blackouts initiated by the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) the trains in my area would not be running that day.
Doing some calculations in my head I figured I had enough gas left in the tank to drive to work on the backroads providing I didn’t get stuck in traffic. Well, because I lacked foresight in this instance I failed to realize that everyone had the same situation to deal with as I and all the roads were completely packed. I turned around and went home then contacted the office and told them I wouldn’t be coming in that day.
Being unable to get to work I figured I could use the time and stock up on supplies that we would need to deal with the power outages. Nope. Every store, everywhere, was sold out of basic food supplies, water, candles, batteries, flashlights, you name it.
With no gasoline I had to come up with a plan that would allow me to be able to get to work so I figured the easiest way would be to stay at co-workers’ homes or even the office itself and so I loaded up my car with clothes, bedding, and even my bicycle because I didn’t know when I would be coming home. I would have to leave at a time when no cars were on the road, even the middle of the night if need be, in order to be sure to make it there on my remaining gas.
Not being able to go home when there is a crisis going on is unsettling to say the least. Continuing issues with the Fukushima Nuclear Plant has the nation on edge. I will write more about this later in this post. Add to that the continuous stream of aftershocks, and even a warning about a big earthquake that was expected soon had me very concerned about my family. Discussing it the day before I was able to convince my wife to take our daughter and cat and go stay with her family who live quite far away until things settled down somewhat or at least until the haphazardly scheduled power outages (thanks TEPCO) were over, six weeks away or more.
Not being able to see my family for six weeks is a hard pill to swallow but knowing they would be safe and that I could focus more on what needed to be done is far more important than any feelings of loneliness I would have.
Tuesday I set off for work, leaving at about noon to avoid any morning traffic, only to find myself stuck in traffic. I thought it was a regular traffic jam, but I was wrong. There was actually a gas station that had some gasoline and the line of cars waiting to get in there stretched for five or six kilometers. I was worried I would run out of gas right there on the road, but fortunately, once past the gas station it was smooth sailing.
There have been some bright spots, though. Tuesday night I got gas. I was driving to the supermarket to stock up on some food to eat while sleeping on someone’s floor when I noticed a line of cars at the gas station across the street. The gas station must have just opened as the line wasn’t actually that long so I lined up and, after waiting 30 minutes, was able to put 3000 yen worth of gas, the limit they were allowing each vehicle, into my tank.
I can’t relate the joy I felt when I got that gas. In the line I was praying/hoping that there would be gas left when it came to be my turn and when I put the gas cap back on after fueling the first thought in my head was, “I can go home”.
The wife had decided to head to Tokyo on Friday, spend a night at a friend’s place that night, before getting on the ferry Saturday morning. I wanted to accompany them to Tokyo and see them off and was determined to do so even if it meant I had to bicycle from work to home, a distance of roughly 50 kilometers. Having gas meant I wouldn’t have to bicycle. I would however, have to sit in traffic, but that’s a small price to pay.
So Thursday night I drove home. It took over two hours. More traffic jams due to people lined up at the one gas station on the strip that actually had fuel. Just like we planned we were in Tokyo the next day. Tokyo, even though it is even farther from the affected areas, is having its problems too. Not only due to the rolling blackouts (I saw a sight I thought I would never see; Akihabara with no neon. Chilling.), but also because people there are worried and are stocking up. None of the convenience stores I went to had any food aside from some bags of potato chips, chocolate bars, and soft drinks.
The next morning we went to the port where I kissed Gai-Gun Jr. goodbye and wiped some tears from my eyes as I made my way back home to prepare for a life of sleeping on different peoples’ floors. I went out to buy groceries but there isn’t much of anything. No bread. I never thought I would see a day where I couldn’t just go somewhere and buy bread. That night I was watching the news, of course. Television is starting to get back to normal but news programs that used to be half an hour are now three hours long. Mostly numbers. The death toll has surpassed that of the Hanshin earthquake and will still rise. There are still over 12,000 people unaccounted for and that number will go up, too. While watching the news the emergency earthquake announcement came up on the screen. This system automatically kicks in when the slight tremors preceding a quake start. The announcement read “Big earthquake coming for those in Ibaraki, Tochigi, Fukushima”. Not five seconds later, the earth started shaking violently. While the shaking was going on the announcement popped up again and indicated that Saitama would also be hit, but of course I already knew that because I was in the middle of dealing with it. Earthquakes scare me now.
I had one day off (yesterday) to relax and prepare. I slept in. How heavenly. How long has it been since I was able to sleep in until whatever time I wanted? I got up and went for a long walk to the highway interchange just to read the flashing signs which indicate the status of the roads and much to my amazement, the section of highway from home to work has been reopened. My commute is back down to 30 minutes. Now if only I could find some gas.
I could write a lot about the issues at the plant but most everyone has heard about them. I will only say that TEPCO doesn’t have a good track record when it comes to revealing the facts to the public or government so most everyone is skeptical about what is really going on. There’s a palpable tension in the air. Everyone’s thinking the same things though no one is saying it. Many embassies are advising their citizens to leave Japan. I have a French friend whom I mailed right after the quake friday to see if she was okay. She replied that there was no damage to her area. I messaged her again Saturday and received no reply for a few days. When the reply did come it read “I am back in France.” That kind of shocked me. Then I received some communication from my Canadian friends who live in Kanto. They had all booked their plane tickets and were flying out. A lot of people will say this is an over reaction and, although not stable, things aren’t at a crisis point. That’s if you trust TEPCO. Now we are starting to hear about elevated radiation in milk, spinach, and now drinking water. If things go south quickly, I will be going south quickly to stay with ASM in Osaka until things are under control or until we succumb to radiation sickness, whichever comes first.
I did build something last night, though. The Macross kit is finished. The show, and life, must go on!