Monday March 21st 2011, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Japan,News
Some photos and general news from Japan:
This set from the New York Times mostly has photos of Yamada, Kessennuma and Rikuzentakata towns. Photos #10, #37 and #45 show just what an impact a disaster can have on food distribution. Here in Vancouver, we’re quite reliant on food that comes to us from far away; we also have fewer roads than Japan, so I wonder how we’ll do when the big earthquake happens here.
Meanwhile, on Miyatojima Island in Miyagi, the Japan Times reports that the islanders, though trapped on their island, were ready for the tsunami and are surviving by helping each other. They also apparently have famous seaweed.
Another Japan Times article examines the plight of the elderly during the tsunami and at local evacuation centres.
The US and Russian governments express some frustration as they try to help Japan. Also, a good round-up of the extent of different countries’ evacuation zones in this Daily Yomiuri article.
Rob Gilhooly reports on the Japan Times website on Sunday about his visits to the communities in the disaster’s aftermath. Also check out his blog.
Comfort woman activist Song Shin Do in Onagawa, Miyagi, survived the disaster.
In Kessennuma, Eriko Ohara, a young mother gets a final gift from her husband – a present he was saving for White Day on March 8. There are also some details about life in the evacuation centre, things like babies sharing bottles and lack of diapers for young children.
News on the situation in Minamisoma:
Minamisoma is a city of 70,000 roughly about 26 km from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station; as reported in this New York Times article. most people are trying to evacuate with some moving to Gunma (near where I used to live) or Yokohoma and some just trapped there, because they are elderly or they have no means of escaping or they are caring for those who cannot escape.
Another story from Minamisoma is on the BBC site: reader Dai Saito tells his story and how hard it is to evacuate, with no gas available for civiians’ cars.
News on the situation in Rikuzentakata:
Both the Mainichi Daily News and the Yomiuri reported on Chiba University professor Hirotaro Iwase initial autopsies in Rikuzentakata that many people had managed to reach what they thought were safe spots or were caught by the tsunami as they tried to escape. Many of the victims had seven or eight layers of clothing on tehm, bags health insurance papers, their hanko seals (people in Japan use these instead of signatures), jewelry photo albums, and emergency food like chocolate.
Two children and their mother search for the father in Rikuzentakata in the BBC video. The surviving family members find a photograph of themselves together in happier times.
There are now more stories about the heroic workers inside the Daiichi plant:
An Asahi Shimbun article says that the workers are on a biscuit and rice diet, and going without sleep. On March 11, after the earthquake, they even tried to jump-start the plant’s emergency core cooling system with a car battery.
One of the Fukushima 50 still in the plant was Michiko Otsuki, a 22-year-old who blogged about what was happening. The blog has since been taken down and Otsuki issued an apology.
Evacuees are streaming into the Kanto area of Japan (the part of Japan around Tokyo):
Miyagi Governor Yoshihiro Murai urged residents to move to other parts of Japan for 6-12 months as there is not enough temporary shelter for them, as reported in a Japan Times article.
Refugees are arriving in Tokyo, Saitama, Chiba, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma and Kanagawa prefectures. A Japan Times article focuses on the Saitama Super Arena: “The arena can accommodate up to 5,000 people through the end of March. The prefecture is providing blankets, towels and facial masks, but evacuees have to figure out on their own where to buy food and bathe”
Another quote from Nancy’s Goldstone’s Four Queens: The Provençal Sisters Who Ruled Europe. This time it’s two translated letters, one from the crusading King Louis IX of France (1214 – 1270) and the other the response from the sultan of Cairo, Ayyub (c. 1205 – 1249).
Here’s Louis’ chivalric letter:
You will be aware that I am the head of the Christian community, as I acknowledge that you are the head of the Moslem community…I have given you sufficient demonstration of our strength and the best advice I can offer…If this country falls into my hands, it will be mine as a gift. If you keep it by victory over me, you may do as you will with me. I have told you about the armies obedient to me, filling the mountains and the plains, numerous as the stones of the earth and poised against you like the sword of destiny. I put you on your guard against them.
Ayyub’s diplomatic response:
Fool! If your eyes had seen the points of our swords and the enormity of our devastations, the forts and shores that we have taken [from you] and the lands that we have sacked in the past and the present, you would gnaw your fingers in repentance! The outcome of the events you are precipitating is inevitable: the day will dawn to our advantage and end in your destruction. Then you will curse yourself.
One of the best parts of the book is the description of the Holy Roman Emperor at the time, Frederick II (1194 – 1250):
Frederick’s was the most interesting personality of the century. He was called Stupor Mundi, the Wonder of the World. Certainly, he was the most educated ruler in Europe. He read widely, spoke seven languages, and had even written a book (on falconry). He was interested in everything: science, alchemy, history, law, architecture, medicine, mathematics. He started the first university in Europe where the teachers were not paid by the students but by the state, and then recruited the respected scholars in his empire to teach at it.
When the Mongol Empire heard of Frederick’s Empire, Goldstone describes the outcome with better words than I could muster:
When a descendant of Ghengis Khan, who was wreaking havoc in the Muslim world, wrote threateningly that the Holy Roman Emperor should surrender his lands and come to his court to become one of his vassals, Frederick replied that he’d think about it and to please hold open the position of falconer.
Friday March 18th 2011, 10:05 pm
Filed under: Japan,News
Here are more stories I’ve been following.
First, some of the general news stories:
These BBC photos include some terrible news, such as the evacuation of Minamisanriku Hospital failed when some of the patients couldn’t move fast enough to escape the tsunami.
The Boston Globe also has some photos: luckily the four-month-old baby in photo #2 survived with her family and photo #13 presents an interesting solution against panicked food buying with a Sendai supermarkets limiting purchases to five items (I don’t think Canadians would be this understanding).
And a video from the BBC showing the tsunami’s power. It’s shocking and makes me worried as we are in an earthquake area here and close to the water.
In this BBC article about the situation in Tokyo, Austria is reported as having moved its consulate to Osaka.
Interesting LA Times article about trusting the Japanese government. When I lived in Japan, the government’s responses to the mad cow disease epidemic were misleading. The last paragraphs about contradictory NHK radio announcements reminds me of 1984.
Not Japan specific, this US Geological Survey website my friend K. recommended documents earthquakes around the world. K. says she checks this whenever she feels a tremor.
In another BBC article, the fifty brave workers who remained at the Fukushima Daiichi plant were evacuated (I need to find some articles on these people). The article has a map of evacuation and no-fly zones around the plant.
Tokyo governor, the ever-tactful Shintaro Ishihara, apologized for his remarks that the disaster was divine retribution.
Now Akita, Aomori, Yamagata and Niigata prefectures will start rationing electricity, according to the Japan Times.
Some sad stories:
One of the saddest stories is about poor Yoshikatsu Hiratsuka in Onagawacho in Miyagi, who survived while his mother and his wife died nearby and his son was swept away. Hiratsuku visits their bodies each day for tearful reunions.
This New York Times article focuses on the plight of the elderly and the increased fatalities in this age group. The beginning of the Yuriage Junior High School story reminds me of what I’ve heard about the Holocaust gas chambers. Hisako Tanno’s father had a great escape that was a relief to read (her description of the wave was as a “mountain of garbage”). From a practical standpoint, this article points out how survivor Yuta Saga “[measured] the wave’s advance by the clouds of dust created by collapsing buildings.” (Also, this is frivolous, but I much admire the furoshiki in the first photo.)
LA Times reporter Mark Magnier talks to the Otomo family from Natori as they try to find their belongings in the rubble. I wish more stories would focus on the individuals and I wish there was some way I could help them personally. It makes me sad that they have no insurance.
Here’s a Mainichi story on the conditions survivors face in one evacuation centre in Ofunato in Iwate. The photo taken from a helicopter of people washing their clothes in a river demonstrates how conditions are.
Another really sad story from the Asahi Shimbun, about a mother, Mika Sato, who finds her kindergartener’s body in the burned school bus in Ishinomaki. It’s especially sad because the kindergarten where little Airi was is on a hill and was spared in the tsunami.
In this other New York Times article, Akiko Sato – who compared the oncoming wave “like almost hundreds of thousands of horses running towards me” – was saved by her down jacket.
Yet another LA Times article by Mark Magnier, who tells some of the incredible survival stories from Minamisanriku (where about 10,000 people out of a pre-earthquake population of 16,000 are missing): Emiko Chiba surviving in her Subaru as it floated on the wave; how later Emiko and her husband Kazahiro managed to salvage their blue pail, a black thermos, an umbrella, a sun visor and a windshield scraper; the escape of two older women, Mitsuko Koshi and Shizuka Hoshi, stranded on a hill up to their waists in the water; and that Japan waived its animal quarantine laws to allow foreign rescue dogs to help with the rescue effort.
An unnamed woman, her child and the child’s classmate had a lucky escape, when the mom backed the car into a back alley in Yamadamachi in Iwate to when they couldn’t outrun the tsunami, as reported in the Daily Yomiuri.
It’s been a while since I read blogs, having had little free time in the last few years. Yet, with the Japan situation, this is when blogs really demonstrate their worth. I wanted something more substantial that Twitter feeds (which are far too repetitive anyhow) and more personal than what we’re getting from journalists who fly in with no knowledge of Japan, snap a couple photos, then board a plane for home. Look at all the amazed editorials about the Japanese not looting – obviously have no clue about Japanese behaviour. The blogs to which I subscribe are almost all by North American white people living in Japan (and specifically in Tokyo): this is when I regret not having been a better language student while in Japan.*
Here’s what the Tokyo residents have to say:
Amy Nakazawa of Blue Lotus reports how responsible stores like her 100 yen shop use only a third of their lights. There is a rumour that pachinko parlours are still guzzling all that electricity. Amy also explains the ubiquitous face masks as seen in all the photos – I thought it was because of fear of airborne pathogens from the dead or the smells or the usual East Asian common-cold/allergy prevention strategy – it’s because “earthquakes can kick up a lot of dust, and power outages can create quite a stink.” Also check out her shopping cart contents: iodine-rich seaweed protects against radiation sickness.
Mari Kanazawa of the Watashi to Tokyo blog wrote about some of the nice things businesses were doing to help stranded Tokyo commuters: vending machine companies made their drinks 0 yen, restaurants let people use their toilets and even gave away free onigiri and some electronic stores helped people charge their cell phones.
*For the record, I was exhausted. I’d just finished eight years of intense Chinese study. My brain needed a break and I moved to Japan right after Taiwan.
Monday March 14th 2011, 1:40 am
Filed under: Japan,News
According to the Japan Times, Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan has asked people to “be creative in protecting yourselves from this blackout,” as nine prefectures will begin having three-hour blackouts on Monday. According to Tepco President Masataka Shimizu, the blackouts will continue until the end of April.
The blackout schedule will be:
6:20 am – 10 am: Group 1: Utsunomiya, Saitama, Matsudo in Chiba Prefecture, Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture and Nishitokyo
9:20 am – 1 pm: Group 2: Kunitachi and part of Yokohama
12:20 pm – 4 pm: Group 3: Kasukabe in Saitama Prefecture and Narita in Chiba Prefecture
1:50 pm – 5:30 pm: Group 4: Mito in Ibaraki Prefecture and Tokyo’s Arakawa Ward
3:20 – 7 pm: Group 5: Machida in Tokyo, Kawasaki, Ito in Shizuoka Prefecture
4:50 pm – 8:30 pm: Group 1: Utsunomiya, Saitama, Matsudo in Chiba Prefecture, Yokosuka in Kanagawa Prefecture and Nishitokyo
6:20 pm – 10 pm: Group 2: Kunitachi and part of Yokohama
Also on BBC, Minami-Soma resident 60-year-old Hiromitsu Shinkawa was rescued 15 km out at sea from the floating wreckage of his house. His wife was swept away.
Sendai resident Natsuko Komura tells how she lost her horse after the earthquake, while reporter Damian Grammaticas accompanies a rescue team. (BBC again.)
The LA Times has a series of photos of Natori (photos #68 and #69 are doubly frightening), Otsuchi in Iwate, Minamisanriku in Miyagi, Hachinohe (picture #26 is startling), Kisenuma in Miyago prefecture (picture #28 just makes me sad for everyone there), Rikuzentakata (photo #34 is depressing – if I didn’t know how resilient people and places are – having had a friend who survived the Kobe earthquake – I would despair in those circumstances), and other areas.
Saturday March 12th 2011, 9:29 pm
Filed under: Japan,News
This blog started in Japan, my home for a few years, and I have been very worried as I watch footage from Japan. Most of my friends are in the Tokyo and Saitama areas, and I hope they are ok (I’ve only heard back from one friend so far). I knew one woman from the affected prefectures so I am very sad for her and her family.
Someone posted a video from inside Sendai Airport just as the tsunami swept by.
I am relieved for those people as they seemed to be ok.
Sunday March 06th 2011, 10:22 pm
Filed under: Film
One more thing, I watched the American remake of Let the Right One In last night. Was I horrified with Let Me In?
Not really. It wasn’t as painful as the remake of [REC].
The little girl and boy were good, though the Swedish kid was more believable as a budding serial killer. Maybe it was the injection of the persistent American right-wing religiosity that took out some of the oomph from this Hollywood version. Matt and I agreed that the hospital-bursting into flames bit was a smidge more exciting in this version since the accessory dog chick took a nurse with her when she combusted.
Now there are some things I wish American filmmakers would smarten up about. Like shoving information down our throats. Why so many shots of Abby’s bare feet? We get it. She doesn’t feel the cold. Why drill that in?
Then there was her “dad.” Did he really have to share that much of his feelings about how disillusioned he’s become? It just made that bit of dialogue sound like sitcom dad and it didn’t sit well with his words later in the hospital. Why not let the audience just see a pained look on his face and let us guess what he was feeling? Certainly it would have cut out some weak dialogue.
Overall, I would show this to my friends, but only after they see the original Swedish version.
One of the byproducts of my reading of The Great Cat Massacre‘s Chapter One: Peasants Tell Tales: The Meaning of Mother Goose, is that I ordered the latest translation of Charles Perrault’s fairy tales, by a Christopher Betts. I’ll add this book to my 73-book list I whipped up in preparation for my trip to France.
Perrault’s fairy tales were the original Mother Goose stories. They are not the nursery rhymes we know by that name. In fact, many of the nursery rhymes we know don’t have the meanings we were taught: I learned Ring Around the Rosie originally as a rhyme; then an elementary school teacher told me it was about the plague; now it isn’t about the plague anymore. Perrault’s stories, published in 1697 in a book called Les contes de ma mère l’oie. The stories reappeared in Germanized form as written down by the Brothers Grimm, who got their stories from Jeannette Hassenpflug, who got them in turn from her French Huguenot refugee mother.