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3 weeks after the M9 earthquake – riding through the streets of Tokyo

Posted by Madbot on Apr 1, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

Madbot says:

With all the concerns from family and friends outside of Japan, I wanted to make a little video to show that Tokyo is fine.

Here is my joyride to the office taken yesterday morning.

There are still aftershocks (a couple of decent ones just this very evening), lots of victim who lost families and everything they owned, nuclear situation remains extremely serious. But for now, Tokyo is doing fine and everyone is working hard to restore life and help those up north.

 
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Mar 29 – Numb, and back at the local with my crownie

Posted by Madbot on Mar 29, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

Catch up blog 22,

  • Appreciating my home more than ever.
  • Aftershocks continue but not as bad as last week.
  • Back at the office.
  • Nuclear situation seems worse.
  • Radiation in Tokyo is lower than last week.
  • Water is now safe to drink. No water in any vending machines, and mineral water is rationed at supermarkets.
  • Some vegetables are confirmed to have too much radiation. Bound be more.
  • I feel more like a frog in a slowly boiling pot.
  • New dramas at Fukushima EVERYDAY.
  • Ignorance sets in with people, clients and generally everyone except those affected.
  • The word to describe the situation is: “NUMB“.
  • Back at the local. I have my crownie.

     
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    Mar 26 – time for home

    Posted by Madbot on Mar 26, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

    Catch up blog 21,

    After some 8 days in Osaka, it’s time to head home.

    Wifey and I are both tired and getting very home sick. The nuclear situation has NOT gotten better and probably got worse. Travel warning from Australian embassy continues to be at “Do Not Travel” – unless for essential reasons.

    I guess work and home can be considered essential. Have to be at the office on Sunday, so have to go home. We may be very worried about what’s happening at Fukushima, but we miss our homes even more. Can’t bear to think what the people who lost their loved ones and home must feel right now.

    Found a spanish restaurant in Osaka on Thursday night and was again pleasantly surprised. Polished off another bottle of wine. Apparently water is not getting quite scarce in Tokyo. Water vs Wine – guess I will drink them both.

    Went back to the “deep-fried” restaurant on Friday evening to enjoy our last night in Osaka. Took note of the little fish the chef behind the bar took out from the tank at the entrance, places a stick through the fish, (step x), (step y), and places the deep fried fish on my plate.


    Thank you little fish. I am very grateful.

    Polished off another beer and 2 or 3 refills of sake.

     
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    Flyjins

    Posted by Madbot on Mar 24, 2011 in Japan

    There’s a new word to describe those ‘foreigners’, also known as gaijins in Japanese, who left Tokyo during the recent crisis. A new article calls them flyjins. “Jin” means people, so flyjin = flying people.

    Wall Street Journal

    The same topic has been discussed constantly in the past days between me and wifey. Some ex-colleagues of hers are disgusted at these gaijins who left Japan and left their staff behind. Conveniently, many forget to look at that also some Japanese also left Tokyo for Osaka and other southern cities (apparently all hotels south of Tokyo are fully booked). Interestingly, the ones who complain the most have been singles whose focus on work have been extreme.

    I offered the following counter scenario. When Christchurch in NZ had its major quake just 2 months ago and many Japanese students were trapped in the collapsed building and many parts of the city in ruins, have any Japanese workers left town? If some 200km out of Christchurch was 6 nuclear reactors that had been damaged by the quake and following tsunami, and is letting out radiation and steam, how many Japanese would continue to stay in Christchurch?

    I find it hard that believe that none will leave. Some will always stay just as some will always leave. The foreigners are called foreigners because they are not “locals”. They don’t have the same emotional investment as the locals.

    What happened was terrible. Wish we can all become more caring and less spiteful.

     
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    Mar 23 – Global Hawk

    Posted by Madbot on Mar 23, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

    Catch up blog 20,

    Have been wondering with the fellas at work on why Fukushima is not already surrounded by drones, robots and satellites to check the situation out and not leave us in the dark. Apparently some have been visiting..!!

    There are debates on when the global hawk arrived. Some said the long reach drone was flying as early as Mar 12, the day after the quake that put the nuclear reactors in trouble. Some say as late as Mar 16 or later. Who knows? Who cares? Please just solve the situation and let everyone get on with the rescue and recovery.

    There are reports today that radiation was found in Tokyo water and the level is too high and is considered dangerous for babies. FFS, what will it take to get the situation under control..? Constantly scanning all news sources for any signs of good news – sure is scarce.

     
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    Mar 22 – Osaka Castle

    Posted by Madbot on Mar 22, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

    Catch up blog 19,

    Finally, first day where we don’t have to unpack and pack. First 24 hours where we don’t have to rush out and plant ourselves at the next hotel. After finishing the work meeting Skype call in the morning and catch up on emails, we headed out to Osaka castle in the afternoon to see what’s out there in this large Japanese city called Osaka.

    It’s a good looking castle – although the inside has been ‘modernized’ into a museum of sorts. Learned lots about the history of the castle and the different generations of characters involved in building the castle. Definitely worth the visit if you’re at Osaka.

    Started to rain in the afternoon. Apparently it was also raining in the afternoon – bringing extra fear of radiation rain.

    Headed back to the hotel room to catch up on emails. Wifey seems to have a never-ending strings of emails that she must reply and handle. I settled down to watch South Park – the whole season 14. Went to a wine restaurant a few blocks away from the hotel and polished off a bottle of wine. Hmmm… seems I’ve been drinking a bottle every night.

     
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    Mar 21 – On the move

    Posted by Madbot on Mar 21, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

    Catch up blog 18,

    We continue to watch development of the nuclear situation on the news, and change hotels.

    Osaka sunset.

    5th day in Osaka and we’ve stayed at 4 different rooms in 3 hotels so far. In all hotels, except the Ritz, there have been posters saying that the hotel Internet connection are affected by the recent disasters. Not in the sense that any undersea cable were disconnected, but that all hotels are so packed with travelers (mainly from Tokyo) that their infrastructure cannot handle the volume.

    Sure enough, the Internet connection has been patchy. My laptop got setup and turned into the wifi access point. Plugged into the hotel LAN port and shares its Internet connection with wifey’s laptop, my iPhone and iPad. Wifey doesn’t care for wifi connection on her iPhone.

    Latest development? Australian embassy flagged Tokyo as “Do not travel”. The department of Foreign affairs also rang my sister in Sydney asking if she has heard from us and what our plans are in terms of leaving Tokyo. For a while my sister was confused and thought they were “A current affairs” department. Funny, yes but not too far fetched. Apparently the A Current Affairs “journalist” was at Narita airport shadowing the lines of foreigners waiting for a flight out of Tokyo for some exciting stories of fear and sensation from the nuclear situation.

    Adding on top, a mail from the department of foreign affairs also sent me an email directly:

    > From: DFAT_Crisis_Centre@dfat.gov.au
    > Date: March 20, 2011 6:20:14 PM GMT+09:00
    > Subject: Updated Travel Advice: JAPAN [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]
    > Reply-To: centre.conops@dfat.gov.au
    >
    >
    > The travel advice for Japan has been reviewed and reissued.
    >
    > It contains new information under Health Issues (advice on sheltering and
    > decontamination provided by the Department of Health and Ageing and advice
    > on food and water safety provided by Food Standards Australia New Zealand).
    > It also contains latest advice from the Australian Radiation Protection and
    > Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) on new International Atomic Energy Agency’s
    > International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) rating and
    > changed weather conditions. A link to the ARPANSA website is also contained
    > in the lastest advice.
    >
    > The level of the advice for northern Honshu (including Tokyo and
    > surrounding districts) remains at Do not travelh. The overall level of the
    > advice for Japan remains at Exercise a high degree of caution.
    >
    > http://www.smartraveller.gov.au
    >
    > Please refer to the website for the most up-to-date issue of the travel
    > advice.
    >
    > DFAT Crisis Centre
    > Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

    After hearing all the news, plus more family members contact to threaten worse, we opted to stay in Osaka for the week. Wifey believes she can continue to “work” from remote while I explained to the bosses and the team the situation.

    Luckily, wifey was able to find a business hotel down the road where we can stay until Saturday.

     
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    Mar 20 – Settling in

    Posted by Madbot on Mar 20, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

    Catch up blog 17,

    They weren’t joking when we were told that all the hotels in Osaka are booked. After the gorgeous experience at the Ritz, we moved to the hotel across the road – for one day. After that, wifey rang around and I clicked and clicked on the web sites looking for accommodation for the next few evenings. Luckily, we found accommodation for 2 nights at another hotel close-by. But since they’re also very booked out, we will have to move from 1 room to the other.

    Once the accommodation had been settled, we took some time out to walk around the city. Osaka is known for its good food and we were keen to experience some of that. First lunch – a mega-cute styled cafe. This place opens at 11:30am and we got there 5 minutes before opening time to meet a queue of girls waiting outside.

    Oh yes, this is a cafe loved by girls for its cutey theme. Here’s “dessert” donut.

    It wasn’t bad.

    For dinner, we ventured out further. Apparently the streets near the station are also where the hostess bars are. Where there are hostess bars, there are usually plenty of decent eating places for the “clients” to take the girls to for dinner before starting a wild night on the town.

    We ended up at a what I called “deep-fried” place. Basically everything is deep fried. We’ve been to similar places in Tokyo and while interesting for the first couple of times, it’s not something I’d go back unless I plan for an evening with sake. So I didn’t expect a lot – and was pleasantly surprised. There was creativity in the food, cooked and presented in styles I had not seen or imagined before. Wished I had taken some photos as memory.

    However, I did see this cute sign as we walked around the Osaka streets. Japanese love seafood, so lots of seafood places.

     
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    Mar 18 – I visit Osaka for all the wrong reasons

    Posted by Madbot on Mar 18, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

    Catch up blog 16:

    This is my second visit to Osaka. Last time I was here was because of a plane crash. When we were coming back from Sydney, while waiting for the plane to take off (literally sitting on the runway), the pilot told us there had just been a plane crash at Narita. After an hour of waiting, we were told the plane will be diverted to Osaka where we will then make our way back to Tokyo. That was the first visit.

    Now, the second visit – triggered by the earthquake, tsunami and the nuclear problems.

    We got away last night and I was treated to a Shinkansen bento (lunch box) on the train. It was the absolute best Japanese bento I had ever eaten in my life. Reading the box description, it contained some 40+ items each with its own flavor. Hell yes, it was nice. I never liked eating plum with my rice – but here, I actually found it made a curiously interesting combination with the other items. Each item is famous and popular at different parts of Japan. I wondered if some were from the tsunami affected areas and may not be available for a long time after this.

    It was late when we finally arrived at Osaka. Made our way to the Ritz Carlton and thanked our lucky stars for being in a place like this after all the stress all week. After a few phone calls and emails to let everyone know our whereabouts and that we are fine, enjoyed the complimentary juice (no champaign), we headed down to the bar.

    It was a smoky place. Normally I would’ve hated it but for this evening it felt comforting. I was dying for a smoke myself but held the urge. There was a gentleman providing entertainment playing piano and singing. A few sentimental tunes for the mood as we picked at the cheese platter, downed a few glasses of an aussie red, and think back what had transpired in the past 7 days. We then headed back to the room and fell asleep.

    It wasn’t until the morning we had a full appreciation of the “suite” we found ourselves in. This was no “room”. This was a suite on the top (37th) floor completely with separate living room, bed room, bathroom with separate bath tub and shower, and a wardrobe the size of my office.

    This is a corner suite – the bedroom had a glass corner with view looking out to 2 sides of the building. This is a VERY comfortable space. Lied there with my glass of juice looking out the night view.

    The Osaka view is not as stunning say Sydney, which I’d describe as the most beautiful city in the world. This does not mean I am any less appreciative of the view here.

    Sadly, we only had the room for one night at Osaka. I was convinced that we should stay here for a few more nights to relax ourselves a bit and, since we had gone through the efforts to get here, to treat this as a small holiday. When we double checked with the desk, all rooms were booked all weekend. No amount of money (that I can afford anyway) or charm could get us a room. So off we go to our second hotel.

    Maybe next time we should come back to Osaka for a real, and planned, holiday.

     
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    Mar 17 – The great escape

    Posted by Madbot on Mar 17, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

    Catch up blog 15:

    Morning – business as usual. Off I go to work on the bicycle. What an enjoyable ride.

    Mid-morning – Colleague goes off to immigration center to get Japanese re-entry pass. Apparently the great gaijin exodus of 2011 is underway. Many foreigners are fleeing Tokyo and the airport and immigration office are flooded with people trying to leave – with or without their re-entry pass. Colleague goes to get his – reports back that the queue is not just out the floor in the immigration building, but out of the BUILDING. In fact, the queue so long that it’s gone to blocks away from the immigration office building. Don’t expect him back for the rest of the day.

    More family make contacts. You MUST leave Tokyo. Ignore what the news say, get out or we come to get you.

    An alternative suggestion comes through from a friend. Go to Osaka. It’s a long weekend, take Friday off work and stay at Osaka for the long weekend. With some luck, the nuclear situation may just settle down. Wife starts to check seats on the Shinkansen to Osaka. There are still seats left – but no hotel available in Osaka. Apparently everything is booked out in Osaka – and apparently we are not the first people to think of that idea.

    Lunch – news come through. Russia has evacuated their embassy staff along with the ambassador.

    Another colleague drives his wife and kids to Narita airport so they’re out of harm’s way. Reports back that there is a 1.5 hour traffic jam to Narita. Note to self – avoid Narita. Hanedai or Shinkansen are the only viable choices.

    Wife receive words that her colleagues are also leaving town.

    Mid Afternoon – words come through that Australian foreign minister via BBC – why can’t the Australian press do this? Kevin Rudd, asks all Australians to evacuate Tokyo. However, the Australian embassy in Tokyo does NOT say that. The embassy notice is still to remain on high alert. Which report is right, and which one do we listen to?

    Wife sends words that TV is now reporting the nuclear situation is getting worse. They can no longer drop water in via helicopters to cool the reactors. Things look “grim”.

    Decided with wife that it’s time to get us out of Tokyo and head down to Osaka. Told the bosses and they’re ok with it and understand the situation. Told the staff and advised that office can shut or open depending on the individual’s feelings. If you have family and want to stay with them, stay. We will close the office. If you’re single and want to come in and be with other staff plus the food, the office will open for you.

    Wife then rings up with the alarming news that electricity supply in Tokyo is running dangerously low and demand is about to exceed supply. Emergency power shutdown through out Tokyo may start from 5pm, in less than 10 minutes! Send staff home to catch the train before the blackout starts (train lines have their own power generator) and told engineering staff that I will be reachable on cellphone – if any servers get powered down due to the UPS running out of power. Rushes out, jumps on the bike and cycles like mad towards home.

    Got home and quickly got changed. Grabbed the backpacks and headed out the door towards the train station. No signs of power blackout – WTF? Anyway, got to the station and managed to get Shinkansen tickets to Osaka. Can’t sit together – but close enough.

    So off we go on the “Shink”. While on the train, we hear there were some power blackout in Tokyo but none in the business districts. The later trains were powered down a notch traveling at a slower speed to conserve power on the line. Sounds like Tepco just wanted to scare people in order to drop their power usage?? Wife reports that her colleague helped out and got us a room for one night only at – the Ritz Carlton. Wow. It’s going to cost an arm but it will be better than the streets of Osaka.

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