Tokyo Update 20/3/11

*Again-This update is mainly for friends outside Japan – apologies to followers of the blog in Japan – nothing new here*

Tokyo is gradually returning to normal, or as normal as it ever was.

Much like the picture that heads this post, if you don’t live here, it looks surprisingly normal.(The supermoon shinning down aside)
If you do live here however, it doesn’t feel quite right, theres (unsurprisingly) something a little different about it, difficult to put your finger on but palpably there.(the crazily small number of neon lights and video screens NOT-lighting up this part of Shinjuku like a christmas tree in this photo for example)

Twitter, which served us so well during this trying time is showing some disturbing trends where some of those who left and some of those who have stayed are berating each other for their stupidity on the one hand and cowardice on the other.
A very unpleasant thing to see.

The media and Tokyoites themselves have also picked up on the “foreigners fleeing” non-story.
Everything from tales of bankers chartering jets from Tokyo to Hong Kong for $160,000 (U.S.) to foreigners being (playfully?) teased about leaving after every aftershock (yep there are STILL aftershocks-262 of greater than magnitude 5.0 since the big one on the 11th)
But reports are that of the approximately 7000 Britons in Tokyo only 100 turned up for the Foreign Office flights out of the country.
It hardly needs pointing out that many Japanese also fled Tokyo to head south or abroad too.
This is not a time for casting aspersions on those who stayed or those who left, each of us had to make (and continues to make) their own decisions about what is best for them and those close to them in this situation.
This has to be one of the more unpleasant aspects of the way people are treating each other in Tokyo at the moment.

I have even heard (unsubstantiated) reports that some companies were forbidding their employees to leave Tokyo under threat of being fired, telling them to use their standard holiday days or just plain pressure/shame them into staying.

The Sheraton Tokyo close to Disneyland was apparently charging people without water 500Y($6 U.S.) for a shower.

All this against a background of continuing problems at the Fukushima reactors and reports that this could well be TEPCO’s BP moment.
Even more disturbingly there are reports that TEPCO delayed the pumping of seawater into the damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power plant to protect their assets, making the last week of nerve-racking days watching NHK’s live stream and twitter feed so much stressful than it needed to have been.
The Fukushima situation is far from over, though thankfully is seeming to at least be under some kind of control now thanks to the brave men and women who stayed at the plant risking their lives to bring it under control and no thanks at all it seems to TEPCO’s management.
The effects on Tokyo will be lasting for sometime though, rolling blackouts inevitable this summer for example.

Foreign media has been strongly criticised for sensationalising and exaggerating stories about the quake/tsunami/reactors, so much so that a “Journalists Wall of shame” has been set up to highlight the worst of the alleged offenders.
Stories on these discrepancies between the Japanese media and the foreign media have also been surfacing.
These discrepancies are a very real problem diverting the world’s attention away from the real issues of those survivors in the freezing north without electricity or adequate food.

Photographer friends and acquaintances have ventured up into the tsunami hit areas to document the situation still occurring there as have several famous photojournalists, amid discussions of their roles in such situations.

On a lighter note? Media artist Kazuhiko Hachiya created a cartoon “Nuclear Boy” to explain the situation to Japanese children and it can be seen here with english subtitles.

And some people in Tokyo still have other priorities, stopping to check their hair for example.

Personally despite offers of work crawling out of the woodwork I have decided not to go north or any closer to the reactors, a frustrating decision that has left me sitting around at home with way too much time on my hands by turns worried, depressed and just plain bored out of my mind.

Heres hoping the trend towards normalisation continues.

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  • Normal? I was about to say that if the SUPER-moon (howl!) is the brightest thing in a picture of Shibuya then that is atypically abnormal, but it’s good that the lights are off and people are still at home, so to speak. Stay tough and keep reporting here.