Tuesday 15 March 2011

Day Four

Dear dear friends
Thank you for all your messages of support. It's at times like this that I wish I had a blog or even Twitter to pass on the news, as things are happening  so fast.  Excuse the round robin. It's the best I can do at the moment.

I have evacuated the apartment block I was in.  We have had many aftershocks, nothing was being done about reassuring us that the building was safe so Toshiaki (my nephew who lodges with his parents in the same building)   independently came to the conclusion to leave. He has taken his parents to his younger brother and I have moved back to our old house in Sakuragaoka which I have been renting out to a friend.  It is the house Naochika and I built in 1981, not a crack in the structure and safe as - well  houses (or as houses should be). I am very happy to be here. Reiko got a hint of what it was like as she Skyped me and witnessed me diving under the table when the TV announced a new shock. I am safe here and my nerves are in a better state. In fact it seems like paradise.

Today was the first day back in the office. All our staff are safe. One guy came in but left straightaway: his house is in a bad state. I have frequently lamented the state of our buildings and machinery as being old and in need of investment, one of the reasons for the sale of the business currently in progress, but I have to say the facilities have stood up well. Out of 6 corrugating plants in the prefecture we are one of the three working today. We have paper, glue and heavy oil  for one week.

The sales team began ringing round the customers. Yesterday the phones (optic fibre phones) were dead but thank god they were working today. Gradually we worked out which customers were in business and needed our boxes. No point in making stuff we can't deliver. The main problem is petrol. Meeting with the transport company in the afternoon, they said they could deliver on Tuesday and Wednesday and within a 20km radius on Thursday and Friday. So our priority is to deliver within the local area and especially to food producers. Having determined that we can keep production going this week the next thing was the staff. Do they have enough petrol to get in? Those who can't are to come in by bus (the trains are down) except for one cheeky bugger who said he wasn't coming in after Wednesday as he'd never ridden on a bus! (I think he'll be getting some inhouse training on that topic soon!) 

Telephone call from a customer: they can't send us the note for payment tomorrow, the 15th. We had to tell them to hang on until the post and distribution services get going again but as we are heavily dependent on invoice factoring, this is a blow. Ordered a review of cash flow. Seasonally this is a difficult period for us cash-wise and if the payments are not coming in and sales are down we're going to be short.

News in the afternoon that after the second explosion at No 3 nuclear plant, our salesman who lives out that way and is in charge of sales in that area has been ordered to evacuate.

Toshiaki has got the plane to Tokyo today from Fukushima to Haneda. He wants to see his family (they are worried sick about him) and also make sure they are set up for whatever may happen next.

The weather was milder today for which I was grateful as I cycled back to Sakuragaoka. It took me 45 minutes. Maybe as I get fitter I can cut this time!

The aftershocks continue. We evacuated the building twice today and there were many other milder shocks.  Back at Sakuragaoka and watching TV our worries pale in insignificance compared to what others are suffering.  On the way home I stopped at the wysteria shrine, where Basho wrote a poem, and offered up a prayer.  I'm not religious but these are trying times. It's survival, back to basics, food, water, even prayer.

Incidentally, the sight of the international relief teams on TV is wonderfully reasuring. They seem so organised in all this chaos. Very grateful.

Love to you all

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