Sunday 27 March 2011

Day Fifteen

Dear Friends
There was a covering of snow this morning but it soon cleared giving way to a sunny, but cold, day. The local Seven Eleven, my barometer for the distribution system, had more on the shelves this morning: o-nigiri (rice balls), curry rice meals, even some sandwiches. Still rationed, still lots of empty shelves but things are definitely picking up.

Now we have petrol there are cars on the roads again. But very few pedestrians. Some of them are dressed like me: hood, mask, gloves; others just wear a mask though that's not unusual here. Usui, the local department store, is open and had a reassuring range of food. I bought a cabbage from Aichi prefecture (Nagoya). Very sad that there are no Fukushima veggies on sale. The Louis Vuitton and Tiffany outlets in the store are closed, as was the upmarket yoghurt shop (no milk). The clock at the station, which stopped ten minutes after the earthquake,  has been reset. Yes, life is getting back to normal. Some of those who fled last week when there were explosions at the reactors are trickling back. Life goes on, people have things to do. The radioactive fallout is a worry, but you try not to watch the TV too much, and carry on as best you can.

Meanwhile the governor of Fukushima prefecture has refused to meet the boss of Tokyo Electric who wants to apologise. Quite right too. The people of Fukushima are very angry. For forty years the Fukushima Nuclear Plant has supplied Tokyo with electricity; none has been used here for we are supplied by a different company. But after this, is any community going to be prepared to have a nuclear power plant on their doorstep? This is NIMBYism writ large.

With the Fukushima plant out of action, Tokyo Electric has been rolling out power cuts. Thanks to people cutting back and a reduction in commercial activity as a result of the quake, many of these planned power cuts have not taken place. The mood here is one of restraint, they call it 'jishuku mudo' (自粛ムード)and people have rallied round, trying to save power so that it can go where it's needed. So we can cut back if we have to. Naochika (my late husband) was a nuclear chemist and he said 30 years ago that without nuclear power people would have to take a cut in their standard of living and people weren't prepared to do that. We made that choice then. Perhaps we need to make a different choice now: until alternative energy really gets going to cut our consumption drastically. It would combat global warming too.

Or maybe nuclear can be safe? I'll be looking at that another time.

On a lighter note, let me answer some of your questions. Am I taking iodine tablets? No, because I haven't seen any chemist shops open. However in the early days, right after the quake, I did spot a big packet of 'konbu' (kelp) in a local store and I've been eating lots, in my brown rice and soups so I should have some natural protection.

And another question, from my mother (who else), how do you manage sanitation when the water was cut off? Well, we were caught out on this one. The evening after the quake the apartment had running water. What we didn't realise was that it was from a tank so the next morning we woke up to no water. If we'd realised we would have filled up the bath and any other containers. I had drinking water. I've been in this country long enough to heed government warnings to stock up. But I have to admit I peed into a bucket that first morning. Thankfully the water board soon got a pump working in the nearby park and we assembled with motley containers to collect water (no shops were open to buy proper water carriers). A trick I learnt here was to line your container (bucket, rubbish bin, anything) with a large plastic bag which you tie up. This way you can carry the water without it slopping everywhere. Another standby was cling-film. If you line your plates with cling-film you don't have to use precious water to wash them up. So plastic bags and cling film - add to your list of survival items! The other item I've used constantly is a primitive AM radio (with extra batteries - you can't get them for love or money in an emergency). Information is the thing you want most in a crisis. My godson Martin told me of friends who were stuck in Egypt with mobile communication down and they relied on landline phones and regular TV (not computer). We had the same experience here with mobile phones and routers down.

So things are getting back to normal. Don't worry about me. I'm fine.
We stay calm, reassured as the old routines return, and supported by each other.
Love to you all


  1. Dear Anne

    Stephen McEnally put me on to your blog. You are a master of descriptive writing.

    It is good to know that things are recovering. Our thoughts are with you.

    Reiko and I were in Tokyo for the earthquake and returned on 18th.

    I havae one specific question for you - no need to rush to reply. Did you log on to any of the teleconferences organised by the British embassy in Tokyo, with our chief scientist, Sir John Beddington? I mean - did you read the transcripts on the embassy web site?

    If so, I would be really interested to know your opinion of them - did you find them reassuring, etc.

  2. If you're interested in an objective about whether we can extract enough energy out of sustainable energy, then "Sustainable Energy without the hot air" is a must read. You can also download the PDF for free from:

    It does back of the envelope calculations to estimate things like if you covered 10% of Britain with windmills (and that'll be quite a challenge), you'll generate about half of the energy needed if you drive your fossil fuel car for 50km each day. Stacking it all up to look at the question of can we live off renewables without lowering our standard of living?

    On nuclear, there are some interesting nuggets like: According to one research for the US, you receive more radiation from living near a coal power station than if you lived near a nuclear power station. It's a compelling read (especially for science geeks).