Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Tokyo Day 7 – heading for bed

Monday, March 14th, 2011

It’s about time for bed. Not a lot to report today, as once again I spent all of it inside, watching the coverage on tv, most of which I wrote about earlier. There were no more on-screen arguments on NNN, which was a shame. As the day has gone on, the news has alternated between pictures of the destruction in the north, diagrams of how nuclear reactors work, and reports of trains running or not running. Well, and one cardboard model showing how the sea bed had shifted. Where the western media like to use computer models for everything, the Japanese TV prefers to hold up cards or models, or even write things on a whiteboard (which took ages, because Japanese is so complicated to write).

The planned power cuts never did come to this area, but apparently my happen tomorrow. But another insight into the mentality was provided by the fact that Marty had to submit his tax return this morning – the deadline was not extended unless you lived in a town that had been impacted by the tsunami. This may be because the government is now even more desperate for money, but it’s still a bit wierd.

In other news, the Belfast Telegraph were in touch today, and included some of my stuff in this report. BBC Northern Ireland also called for a chat. Don’t know how to follow that, so I won’t. G’night.

Tokyo day 7 – life on tv

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Was awoken by a tremor this morning, as the bed moved around. Got up, had a look around, checked the internet, then went back to bed; there didn’t seem to be anything else more useful to do.

Today was meant to be the day of the power outages, as the power companies tried to deal with their diminished power generation capacity, but it hasn’t happened. The outages were announced late last night, after midnight, so the outages were not well planned, and as each of the outage slots came and went during the day in each of the regions, they didn’t go through with them. At the time, the announcements were apparently very confused, and had the feel of a process where people were working out the impact of the power cuts as they thought of them (for example, how are trains supplied?).

Today the tv coverage has changed; we are seeing advertisements again on one of the news channels, which is a bit of normality. But the tv channels have changed their earthquake notifications – they are now beeping each time there’s an aftershock, which is new. Each channel now has it’s own beep, but none of them had them yesterday.

We’ve also decided on our favourite station – NNN, where the presenters started arguing earlier about how bad the government announcements were. The male presenter started waving his arms around, and shouting. According to Karen, he completely lost his cool and stopped using the polite formal language expected of a news guy, which is unheard of. They then cut the studio feed, and went to an ad break! But unfortunately this channel keep losing their signal, and putting up an apology message, so we keep having to move on. They also seem to have changed their strategy, and they are spending less time with that studio team, which is a shame.

But here, in the apartment, everything is still pretty normal. We watch tv, we read stuff on the internet, and we hope things will get better elsewhere.

Tokyo Day 6 – known knowns and known unknowns

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Things are not going well in Japan unfortunately.
After the earthquake and tsunami, there are some reports of a volcano starting off on one of the southern islands. It’s not being widely covered yet, but I guess we may be waking up to it tomorrow, especially if that creates an ash cloud that disrupts air travel. The only bright side there would be that this volcano has a name that newsreaders should be able to pronounce.
Another problem is that the people are losing confidence in the government – people are complaining that their statements and news conferences aren’t giving clear information, which is making people more worried rather than less.
We’re also now preparing ourselves for rolling power blackouts tomorrow, which may or may not mean that people won’t go to work. If there is no power, there will be train disruption, and that means people will stay put.
No power also means no Internet for me, so I’ll probably go quiet in the afternoon for the duration of the outage.
Off to bed now. G’night all.

Tokyo Day 5 – The day on tv

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

Yesterday (Saturday), I didn’t leave the house, and spent most of the day watching the news on television. The choices were a little tricky – we could watch local television which was in Japanese and therefore really hard to follow, watch BBC World which was in English and easy to follow, but a bit out of date compared to the Japanese, or watch CNN, which made me want to rant about how stupid it was.

So let’s start by getting that off my chest. There’s one quite good guy on CNN, who shows the wind direction around Japan for nuclear fallout – he knows what he is talking about, and he’s quite helpful. But at other times it was completely moronic. They put some quack on who said that recent events had revealed how resilient people were, and how much they could deal with. What kind of recent events? The first world war? The eruption of Krakatoa? The great fire of London? She was a complete muppet. Then we had the surprise news that America had not been asked to lead the relief effort. It really was reported as news that the Japanese government was running the relief and rescue operations. Of course they are!! This isn’t Haiti!! The final straw was last night where the screen banner said “Breaking News: Glued to tv by striking images”. It’s not news that people are watching tv! People watch tv all the time! It’s just pathetic. Anyway, rant over. Suffice to say that CNN doesn’t impress, despite their very slick and glossy presentation, because every so often they make me want to throw things at the television.

Next let’s talk about the BBC. The BBC is of course what I am familiar with, and therefore it brings comfort. I was really surprised to see that it is what was showing in Marty’s building, when he works for an American company. But the BBC has the advantage of being calm, rather than trying to create panic, and was sometimes streaming the Japanese channels, with a translation, so it was up to date. But as time has passed, it has become less useful, as the coverage has become less timely. Also an issue is that BBC World has reverted back to scheduled programming, so yesterday they were showing programmes about tourism in Turkey and safaris in Africa. There’s a certain comfort in knowing that the world news agenda has moved in, and other stories are creeping back, but we still kind of want to know what’s going on here.

So what about the Japanese media. Well, it is different to ours. The news presentation is much, much less slick. Where CNN and the Beeb have fancy computer graphics for maps and diagrams, the Japanese have pictures on bits of card to hold up. And even after 24 hours, the Japanese presenters are much less confident, sometimes even flustered. I know this is probably because people are constantly firing bits of paper at them, and they can’t use the autocue, but sometimes it has looked a bit like the placement students have been put in charge. Especially the guy with the tie hanging off him (I reckoned his wife would kill him when she saw him). And don’t get me started on the experts and managers who were doing live press conferences – some of them were just terrible. One guy had a dozen microphones, but still couldn’t speak clearly enough to be heard. And didn’t realise there was writing on the back of his page. They moved to other speakers at that press conference, one of which just didn’t say anything, and another who mainly said Oooh and Ahh. I know I don’t speak Japanese, but it was fascinatingly unprofessional, and not at all what we would get in the UK.

Another difference in the presentation style was that all of those experts giving press conferences were wearing properly technical looking uniforms, which does inspire confidence that these are people who know what they’re talking about (when they manage to talk), instead of just putting suits in front of the camera like we would.

But the best part was the television presenters wearing helmets in case the studio roof came down.

This was last night. They were still at it today.

This I do find interesting. If BBC newsreaders were wearing safety helmets, viewers would assume the world was ending. In fact, they’d assume the world had already ended. Here, it’s seen as a perfectly reasonable precaution in case the roof comes down. It’s also interesting that some people in the studio are wearing them, while others are not. Maybe people sitting in different places at different levels of risk depending on what’s above their heads.

But ultimately, we had to turn the news off, and watch something else instead. As human beings, we can only take so much relentless bad news, especially when there’s no new information, just an endless re-stating of what has already happened (the earthquake and tsunami), and what might happen (the reactor problems). I have to admit that we watched Glee and the Big Bang Theory, and felt a whole lot better.

Tokyo Day 6 – I’ve been outside

Sunday, March 13th, 2011

After spending all day yesterday watching tv and not leaving the apartment, we went out this morning to get some provisions.

It’s a lovely sunny day, and only a very short walk to the supermarket round the corner, which was closed yesterday but open today.

I guess the definition of panic buying is stocking up on things you don’t need, in an irrational manner. So it is possible we saw panic buying, as the CD and DVD shop was open, and I could see people buying things they didn’t need. Hard to tell if it was irrational or not.

It didn’t look like panic picking-up-the-dry-cleaning. I’m not sure that there is such a thing. But it certainly looked calm enough.

The supermarket was busy. Busier than Marty has ever seen it. But people were still looking at the vegetables to see if they liked the look of them, and comparing prices. I saw people leave with just a couple of things in their basket, and I saw one person stocking up on beer. But other than it being busy, it looked completely normal and sensible. Marty even used his credit card to pay for the groceries.

So things are pretty much as normal as they can be round here at Minami-Senju 4. And thank goodness too.

Postscript – went back out to the shop a bit later to buy butter so Karen could bake a cake. Evidence of people buying shoes and books; but again, hard to find panic. And people giving away free samples in the supermarket, along with fully stocked shelves. So all as normal as normal can be.

Tokyo Day 5 – the day after

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Have done nothing today but sit in front of the tv, and be on the internet.

There is more footage from the tsunami, and it looks horrible.

The current concern is about the nuclear reactor at Fukushima. It’s over 150 miles from here, so we’re not at risk, but it is not good news.

They’re talking about there being power cuts later, so things may change, but for the time being, life has returned to normal, as long as normal is staying indoors.

Tokyo Day 4 – The story with pictures

Saturday, March 12th, 2011

Yesterday’s post told the story of my earthquake day. Now I’ve taken some time to pull the pictures off my camera, and tell it in a bit more detail.

So here’s the walkthrough again.

This is the Tokyo Tower, before we went up it. It’s not well captured, as it’s too big to photograph well once you’re close to it. You can see the big square observation deck (150m up), and the smaller circular observation deck another 100m further up. This was taken at 2:25.

We bought our tickets, went up to the first deck, had a wander around and enjoyed the view, and waited until our ticket numbers were shown on the big sign, so that we could go up to the upper deck.

The quake hit while we were in the lift – we could feel it wobbling around as we went up. But then lifts are often a bit shaky, so I didn’t think much about it. I was much more surprised when the observation deck was moving around. Not being a local, I assumed we were blowing in the wind. But it quickly became clear that this was an earthquake. But there was no panic, despite the shaking – there was no screaming at all, and only one person in tears (who I didn’t notice – Karen told me this). To my shame, I was quite excited, as I didn’t notice the quake on Tuesday, and therefore hadn’t experienced an earthquake before. The other surprise was that it kept going for so long – minutes of it. But of course, we assumed that it was a small quake, magnified by the tall spindly building.

We were the last group of people to come up in the lift, and once the quake happened they were shut down, so we spent quite some time up there. There was an American family, who had left their son on his own on the lower level, because he hadn’t wanted to go higher. Needless to say they were very worried about him, on his own and unable to communicate. But the staff were able to put them in touch with each other on the internal phone, and they felt a bit better. His sister was quite unnerved by it all too.

You can see the Americans on the right are quite concerned looking. But one of the Janapese guys has managed to get a signal, and is looking out the window talking on his phone, while another couple are reading a magazine.

This was during another aftershock. The little girl doesn’t look very happy, but she’s okay. And the guy facing us is clearly enjoying it at least a bit.

But round the other side of the deck were about 25 young children, visiting in a group. There was no, panic, no screaming, tantrums or crying – they were amazing, and full marks to their teachers who kept them calm for over an hour while we were up there. This is a quick sneaky snap of them, all in their cute uniforms.

That’s what was happening inside the Tower. What was happening outside? After all, we had a great view over the city. What could we see? During the main quake, all traffic stopped moving. We noticed that didn’t happen for any of the aftershocks. We could see the rainbow bridge, and apparently it did wobble at some stage, but I missed that. The main thing everyone noticed and worried about was a fire in Odaiba.

The black smoke looks bad, but this fire was out by the time we left.

And the thing I noticed was this building with a huge water tank on the roof. After each shake, the sloshed about. It’s a terrible photo from my small camera, but it was cool to watch.

Meanwhile, the staff were trying to work out what to do with us. The lifts were out of action until they could be safety checked. There were stairs to go down, but there were 600 of them, and they were very reluctant for us to use them. I had visions of us all having to carry 2 children each. The managers came round frequently to apologise, but I think it’s fair to say we weren’t blaming him for the earthquake. And the cleaning lady kept going round and cleaning the windows and polishing the lift doors (I wish I’d got a picture of her). After a while, another manager made it up the stairs (he looked wrecked), with a lift technician. And after not too much longer, they got the lifts working, and started to bring us down. We were in the third group to leave, after having been up there for about an hour and a half.

When we got down to the main observation deck, it had already been evacuated, and was deserted except for the staff who were there to direct us and give us our refund (yes really, they did). We then walked down the many stairs, and reached the ground at last. I have some pictures of the tower afterwards, but it looks the same. Okay, that’s not quite true. I’ve had another look, and you can actually see that the antenna at the top of the tower is leaning afterwards. But I can’t recrop the picture to show it here right now. Just trust me.

Having made it to the safety of the ground, we decided to head for Marty’s office, where we could either seek shelter in his office, or get the train home. The walk back was odd. There were plenty of bikes on stands that hadn’t even fallen over, so it didn’t look serious. We say one pile of cardboard boxes that had fallen, and 2 broken windows, but that was it. But we could see that shops had closed, and the trains weren’t running. The lack of trains was a worry – central Tokyo contains literally millions of people of work there, and commute in and out, so the trains are an essential part of daily life. With no transport, there would soon be a huge population on the move.

So we went to Marty’s office, in the Mori Tower. This is one of those buildings that they make documentaries about – it is as earthquake proof as mankind can make it, and therefore one of the safest places to be in the city. We were able to get into the foyer, and there we waited. There was a good number of people there, employees who were on their way in or out when the lifts were shut down. It was here that we started to make contact with the outside world. There was no television, and we couldn’t make phone calls or send or receive text messages, but Karen was able to get a 3G internet connection on her phone, and so she was quickly able to get a view of what was happening from her friends on twitter. Twitter turned out to be amazing – friends were checking in, letting people know they were okay, reporting what had happened to them, and reporting on the many aftershocks.

Once the lifts starting going again, Marty was able to come down and meet us, and we were able to join him in his office. There we saw news for the first time, and it went from being an adventure to a horror story when we saw the impact of the tsunami in the north. But Marty’s company was excellent, providing food for the many employees who had stayed there, as well as really good emergency packs containing a helmet, water, food, a map, glowsticks, gloves, and lots of other useful stuff.

We stayed there until close to midnight, still feeling aftershocks even in that building. By that time the trains were moving again, so we decided to go home. Fortunately, the line to Karen and Marty’s was running almost all the way, and only stopped a couple of times for aftershocks. So we got as far as Ueno, then joined the crowd walking home.

It was very orderly – lots of people, calmly making their way. The roads were full of cars, with more traffic than usual in the first place, and many major roads closed because they are elevated, and shouldn’t be used until they had been checked out. But as has been widely reported, all the usual traffic rules were being observed, and pedestrians were waiting for the green man. Small shops were still open, including a car rental place, which I though was odd. It took us about an hour to walk home, and although it was cold, it was a pleasant enough night for a walk (I kept thinking that if this was Northern Ireland, we’d have to do it in the rain).l

When we made it home and checked for damage, we found the following: – 1 guitar fallen over, 1 ornament fallen over, some drawers open and 1 card fallen over. The gas was off, but water and power were fine.

So although our day was dramatic and exciting, we were never in any danger, and didn’t even realise that there it had been a serious earthquake until pretty late in the day.