Life plods along here with no slowdown in aftershocks and TEPCO still battling its own Nuclear plant and the populace just sitting around waiting for an end to one or both of these things yet knowing that it’s a long way off. The government asked TEPCO for a timeline in shutting down the plant and TEPCO came up with a timetable stating six to nine months but they are fooling no one. They need to have the reactor under control to achieve that goal and they are far from it. They finally have an idea what it looks like inside a couple of the reactors after deciding to send in robots. One month after this disaster and now they’re sending in robots? I imagine the readers out there can sense my frustration.
People can cope with problems if they have a goal or an obstacle to overcome. For the people who are now being forcibly evacuated from Fukushima there is no idea when they can return to their homes, if ever. What do they do? Do they stay in shelters until it’s safe to go back or do they decide that there’s no future for them in their old area and move on with life? Hundreds of thousands of Japanese are in limbo. And yet, for those of us not directly affected, life is back to routine. The electricity power cuts have been stopped, at least until summer, and businesses are picking up where they left off, and yet.. nothing seems the same. This is probably moreso because I have become a bachelor again and only have contact with my family through the internet or telephone. This is difficult for me. I have noticed that I have become somewhat reclusive (even more so than normal). I don’t participate on internet forums or social networking sites as much as I used to and I have become slower to reply to texts or emails. To be honest it’s tiring to have to answer many emails stating essentially the same bad news. To anyone out there corresponding with me through email, I can only ask for your patience.
The continuous aftershocks are interfering with my sleep and I am reluctant to get out of bed in the mornings quite often. I will feel tired and go to bed early only to be awoken twice during the night by big quakes. This is Japan and there are quakes all the time but the difference in frequency and size is noticeable. Speaking of aftershocks, I was shown a very fascinating website which shows the quake activity around Japan since that fateful day. To date there have been 1061 quakes since March 11, 2011. The site has a drop down menu so you can sort by day.
Drag down to March 11, 2011 and wait. You’ll know it when you see it.
One thing I’ve found myself doing is watching more and more video of the tsunami. The ocean has always fascinated me, and horrified me at the same time, and the amount of tsunami video, filmed by those who experienced it is tremendous. It’s one thing to look at pictures of devastation, but a whole different experience altogether to watch it in real time. These videos are awe inspiring a lot of the time, and incredibly sad every time. People ran to high ground, an evacuation zone they felt was safe, and so pulled out their phones and cameras. Many of the videos show how the people who thought they were safe suddenly realize they are not. The panic is palpable, the fear something that comes through the screen and grips you. This seems kind of dark, and why would I spend my time watching such destruction? I think the answer is that these videos show the humanity of the situation and because of my experience in the same event I am connected with these people somehow. Living as a foreigner in Japan is not always easy. Despite what you do, how you act, and how well you speak you’ll never fit in and many people give up on that and spring the other way. Many come to despise Japan even while they live here and others become apathetic and just throw up their hands or scratch their heads when they come across another example of what would be illogical in their own country. I am that way sometimes. Yet, since the quake I find myself feeling closer to the Japanese people even if Japan has not become closer to me.
Getting back to the tsunami and the videos, I am sure many people have seen a lot of the footage, maybe enough to last you a lifetime, and I’m not going to list a whole lot of videos but I want to show you one.
I want to ask you to watch the whole thing from start to finish in one sitting. It’s 5 minutes of your life, but for some people in the video it’s an eternity. You’ll strain to see the wave and then you will see it. It will keep coming for the 5 minute duration of the video. Water upon water upon water. In just over 5 minutes an entire community is obliterated. It takes decades to build a city and less than 10 minutes to tear it back down. And probably the part of the video that intrigues me the most happens around the 5 minute mark. There are people. People fleeing the wave even as it sweeps away everything behind them. When I watched the video the first time, once it was finished, I promptly closed the window put my head in my hands and sobbed, stifling some tears, for the first time since that day. The release lasted a few seconds and then was done. For me, anyway. I’m not trying to sensationalize peoples’ suffering. In fact, I don’t really know what purpose showing videos or writing these blog posts really serves. But there are thousands of people still missing, washed away by the water you see in that video. Maybe I just don’t want people to forget them.