All that has followed Friday’s earthquake has now merged in a continuous blur. My mind feels strained, fractured by recent events. Continuously, I flick between several local and foreign media sources, while listening to streaming audio updates. It is difficult to sleep, even to rest, knowing the speed with which change can (and has) come.
Following Friday afternoon’s earthquake, the majority of our community descended upon the local supermarket. Unsure of what would occur next, people swiftly purchased essential items such as packaged food, cup noodles and bottled water. In the long check-out queue, it was interesting to observe that also within the baskets lay quality cuts of sashimi, beer and Swiss ice-cream. It seems we connect to food not only for survival but also for comfort and pleasure when faced with trauma.
Despite many stores placing restrictions upon bulk-buying, the sheer weight of demand saw shelves upon shelves licked clean of basic food items. Now, as supplies are increasingly being diverted to the areas in the north-east heavily affected by the earthquake and tsunami, many stores are struggling to replenish many staples. In response to this, and with consideration of the wider community, people appear to have slowed their purchasing and reverted to their food reserves at home.
Several of my work shifts scheduled for this week have been cancelled. One of my employers has closed the office for the past few days, with fears for the safety of employees and customers in the event of another large magnitude earthquake. Other meetings were cancelled, as train services were disrupted by the power blackouts that have now started in greater Tokyo. Although many parts of central Tokyo have been excluded from the blackout schedule, the widespread energy conservation by homes and businesses has meant that only a portion of proposed outages may occur.
With several European embassies having strongly advised their citizens to depart Tokyo, many foreign people have left swiftly. Some have temporarily relocated to western Japan or nearby countries, while others have returned to their native countries.
Recently, the collective focus seems to be shifting away from the next earthquake, and onto the aftermath, both in terms of the damage to the Fukushima Power Plant, and the recovery effort in Sendai and surrounds.
To date, only limited information about the state of the power plants in Fukushima has been issued. While much of the foreign media are highlighting the potential severity of a radioactive event, the Japanese media have been comparatively conservative on the issue; which has led to concern, and confusion, for foreign people in particular.
The feelings of local Japanese people towards the nuclear situation has been difficult to gauge, however having observed my neighbourhood the past two afternoons, some members of the community seem confident that the chances of exposure to radiation are low, if street activity is any indication.
In the park, boys played baseball, watched quietly by elderly men upon worn benches; children climbed about play equipment and mothers walked pairs of tiny dogs. Although some people chose to wear face masks, also, perhaps due to hay fever, most happily enjoyed the weather in light summer clothes.
Talking to friends or simply passing people in the street, I can see the weight of sadness and loss within them. Even as I write this, the room trembles and shakes softly as another tremor passes by. A lot of uncertainties still remain, it is a very difficult time.