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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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Mar 16 – The waiting game

Posted by Madbot on Mar 16, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

Catch up blog 14:

Wifey’s company said they will close the office with all staff working from home with full pay for 2 days. Not so lucky at my office. However, to avoid spending extra time outdoors by walking to the office, I opted to ride the bicycle in.

A 40 minutes walk becomes a 13 minutes ride. And yes, I’ve finally gone completely native. Riding the bicycle wearing my business suit – plus a face mask. I am turning Japanese.

Marin Muirwoods. I adore my little red bicycle. A bit too small for me (initially bought it for the wife) but I love you nevertheless.

Things continue to become more nervous and stressful everyday. Relatives continue to make contacts suggesting, or some asking, us to evacuate. Really appreciate everyone thinking of us. Australian embassy continues its travel warning saying to stay out of the 80km zone around the Fukushima reactors, but be very cautious around Tokyo.

More work people snap – some got a bit crazy on Facebook. Not a good sign.

Water we ordered off Amazon a few days ago got delivered – virtually all water is gone from Amazon. Bought what’s left – boy, are they expensive. Prepared our emergency backpacks – just in case the embassy sends through the evac notice. Also dug up the emergency disaster survival “bucket” – friends passed them to us when they left Tokyo some 5 years ago. The bucket is filled with emergency rations, medical kit, flashlight, etc. Hope we will never need it.

 
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Mar 15, 2011 – Nuclear boy poop problem

Posted by Madbot on Mar 15, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

Catch up blog 13:

To help people (focused on kids?) understand the nuclear situation, some creative folk made this video to explain the situation at Fukushima. Some good soul then added in the translation.

Entertaining although for me and the crowd at the office, it’s just a bit too “casual”. The video author says the poop problem should go away after a couple of days, and gawd we all hope it would. I now know, 2 weeks later, the nuclear boy poop problem persists and has in fact gotten worse.

Come on Nuclear boy! Clean up your act!

 
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Mar 15, 2011 – miscommunication and sensationalists

Posted by Madbot on Mar 15, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

Catch up blog 12:

Sometimes you just don’t know who or what to trust.

The big news today is the French embassy tweeting that a massive nuclear cloud is drifting from the Fukushima nuclear power plant towards Tokyo and is expected to arrive in 8-10 hours.

20110330-120227.jpg

Our response “huh”? There has been nothing on the up to the minute NHK news and nothing about needing to take shelter for those of us in Tokyo. The French embassy tweet then got picked up by the major new sources and suddenly became real news. French embassy starts to evacuate their nationals and French companies in Tokyo activate their BCP plan shifting key functions out of Tokyo.

This piece of news stirred up all sorts of shit outside of Japan. Suddenly I received emails, messenger chats from all relatives and friends asking us to evacuate Tokyo. Messages from Australia, Canada, Taiwan, and Hong Kong. Most appreciated to everyone caring so much for us. This piece of news really gave all of us a major scare.

From uncle in Taiwan:

=============

聽說幅射塵將往東京飄 有無想回臺灣避難 若無請做好防範措失 保重身體
若是請回覆抵臺班機時間 很擔心

=============

In the end, the French embassy withdrew the announcement.

20110330-120249.jpg

 
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Mar 15, 2011 – Free X-ray day at Tokyo

Posted by Madbot on Mar 15, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

Catch up blog 11:

Given all the traffic havoc that has been happening with the confusion from the scheduled power blackout (although often skipped), decided to walk to work with the wifey today. Usually a 40 minute walk and usually relatively enjoyable. It turned out today that between 8am to 9am, the radiation in Tokyo was at it’s highest. Duh!

Nothing risky to health – according to the government (/sigh) – one hour of exposure at this level is about the same as one chest x-ray. So looks life wifey and I got our free dose, but without the funny picture of our inside for us to make fun at.

instead, I came across of this awesome photo that brought a big smile to me and everyone I shared it with.

20110330-121539.jpg

The Japanese school kids are wearing these hats while playing out in the school yards after the quake. At first look, I thought these were to protect them from the radiation. Oh no, says the wife. Those are the Earthquake protection hats..! So if something fall on the kids, their head will be safely protected by these futon-made hats. Apparently the wifey also had them when she was little. How cute, LOL!

 
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Mar 14, 2011 – what else can go wrong?

Posted by Madbot on Mar 14, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

Catch up blog 10:

Good morning..! Do you love the smell of a hydrogen explosion in the morning?

That is the second explosion at the Fukushima number one nuclear power plant. Not a great start to the day. People at work become much more concerned. Staff begin to talk about plans to leave Tokyo. Some have already left.

Australian embassy has been sending emails to those of us registered with the embassy. For now, the travel advice is:

==================
From: Crisis.Centre@
Date: March 14, 2011 5:17:38 PM GMT+09:00
Subject: Update to travel advice [SEC=UNCLASSIFIED]

We now advise Australians not to travel to Miyagi Prefecture due to the
ongoing relief and recovery operation and severe damage caused to key
infrastructure.

We continue to advise Australians to avoid all travel within the 20
kilometre evacuation zone around the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in
Okumacho.

The level for Chiba, Fukushima, Aomori, Iwate and Ibaraki Prefectures and
surrounding districts remains at “Reconsider your need to travel”.

 
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Tokyo power down schedule – 5 groups

Posted by Madbot on Mar 13, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan

In Japanese only..

tokyo_powerdown20110313

 
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Mar 13, 2011 – Tokyo Blackout

Posted by Madbot on Mar 13, 2011 in 2011 Japan Earthquake Tsunami Nuclear Diary, Japan, Madbot Madness

Catch up blog 9:

Tepco starts powerdown schedule – and surprised everyone.

Silly thing – they announced it at around 9:30pm, released the information at a press conference ON PAPER. No one has an electronic copy of the schedule. Panic spreads. Frantic calls on what to do with servers at the office. 3 hour rolling power black out..? Surely it can’t be hitting all areas of Tokyo. Tepco web site down due to the high volume of traffic. There are 5 groups? Who is in which group..?? What about us and the office..?? Eventually information start to come out. Reporters fax & scan the paper out to their distribution channels. Some TV stations jump on it straight away by reading the paper with the camera pointing to the paper. Some stations type it out.

Oh wait, some suburbs are duplicated in the different groups? What? What does that mean..? Wifey calls her dad who has no idea there’s even going to be a power out. When is it going to start? 6am tomorrow morning..!?!?! Less than 10 hours??

Wifey managed to filter through the geek sites to find the scanned PDF document. Added it to the blog and linked it around to share the information with friends and colleagues via Facebook. Lucky central Tokyo isn’t included in the blackout areas.

Hope for the best.

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