Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Hidemi's Rambling No.310

Because the earthquake damaged nuclear and thermal power plants alike and caused a serious power shortage, the scheduled blackout has been carried out in the suburbs of Tokyo. The place I currently live is among the targets. The area is divided into groups and the electricity goes out in turn for three hours between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays. Depending on the turn, there are two three-hour blackouts a day. The other day, the power shortage became critical despite of the scheduled blackouts, and the government announced there might be an extensive sudden blackout around Tokyo anytime soon in the evening. The announcement came in the middle of speculation that the exploded nuclear power plant got out of control and that doubled my fear. To me, that night was the most frightening time since the earthquake. Fortunately, a sudden blackout didn’t happen. But the days of scheduled blackouts have been beyond my imagination enough. I had thought I lived in a civilized country until the earthquake and had taken electricity for granted. Hours without the power are horrible. Especially at nighttime, I experience total darkness. Houses, traffic lights and neon signs are all blacked out and the whole town is nothing but darkness. It’s much darker than I imagined. And somehow, the whole neighborhood falls silent as if people held their breath waiting for the electricity back on. I had never thought I would experience these living in Japan. And when the blackout is over and the light comes back on, I feel like I revived, jumping and shouting for joy each time. That’s been a kind of extreme happiness I had never felt before, but just temporary one. Tomorrow is another day for blackouts…

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hidemi's Rambling No.309

Things have been getting even worse since the earthquake itself. Adding to the continual aftershocks, daily blackouts and a shortage of food, now we have a nuclear scare. Right after I saw a roof of the nuclear power plant blown off on TV, I looked up the accident of Chernobyl on the Internet to see how far radiation spread. The most affected areas were shown in deep red on the map and they were spotted not only on the site but also miles away from it. The distance between Chernobyl and the furthest reddened area was about the same as the one between the power plant that exploded this time and my apartment. Of course a type of the accident, the weather, the wind direction and geography were all different, I wasn’t sure whether or not the place I live is far and safe enough. I had to decide if I should evacuate now or going outside was more dangerous. None of this would have happened to me if I had finished moving to my new place sooner without packing so slowly. But now, it’s useless to talk about what I should have done. After all, I decided to stay here because it was far away from the mandatory evacuation area that Japanese government declared. I spent a few days without taking a single step outside my apartment, nor opening the windows, nor turning on the fan. Staying indoors, I learned about the structure and the mechanism of a nuclear power plant. Until the earthquake, I had heard a hundred times the power company say the plant was completely safe even in case of a big earthquake, and I had felt doubtful about it each time. I got furious thinking how they dared build something so dangerous and boast its safety. I know on the other hand, I had enjoyed a convenient life by receiving benefit of the power plant…

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hidemi's Rambling No.308

Aftershocks continued throughout the next day of the earthquake. Because of lack of sleep, I spent the whole day with muddy-headed and of course, with fear. The situation developed on the third day when the power company abruptly began to talk about scheduled blackouts. They said they would make a formal announcement later. As they did so late at night, it was the next morning that I heard about it. They had also announced that the first blackout would start early in the morning and the water supply might stop as well. That sent me in a panic mode. To me, the news and the blackout came almost simultaneously. I rushed to prepare for it in a great hurry, shutting down my computers, securing water in plastic bottles and bundling up to stay in the cold room. I had never imagined a power outage was such a frightening thing. On top of that, the scheduled blackout will be carried out everyday from now on, with each of it three hours long, day and night. The TV news showed empty shelves of food and batteries at stores because people had hoarded them to stock up. Out of the window, I see a lengthy line of cars toward the gas station all day long. The worst time wasn’t in the shaking of the earthquake. Things are getting worse and worse afterward…

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hidemi's Rambling No.307

Right after the earthquake hit Japan, the first worry I had was a fire. I looked around the outside of my apartment and there was no fire or collapsed house except for some damages of the roofs on neighbor houses. The electricity, gas and water didn’t go off. I turned on the TV and the news said the seismic center was 100 miles away from where I lived. Considering the strong shaking I had just experienced and the total mess in my apartment, it was too horrific just to imagine how nearby areas to the seismic center were. Big and small aftershocks kept coming perpetually and it was as if I were on a boat. I lost a sense of the solid ground and felt seasick. Most Japanese metropolitan commuters use the train system, but all the trains stopped running. Suburban commuters couldn’t go home and thousands of them stayed overnight at their offices downtown Tokyo, waiting for the train system to resume service. I was fortunate to have been working at home. I managed to clear the mess of fallen things in my place and secure the space to sleep by night, but couldn’t sleep because continual aftershocks kept coming at least every 10 minutes. I can consider myself lucky I survived the earthquake unscathed, and also unlucky I encountered a massive earthquake that was said to occur in Japan once in a thousand years...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Hidemi's Rambling No.306

Japan experienced the biggest earthquake in its history. When it occurred, I was in the room upstairs of my apartment. At first, I felt faint quivers and went downstairs just in case it grew stronger and I needed to escape outside. As soon as I reached the foot of the stairs, it showed its main force. The building began to shake violently and I held the LCD monitor with my right hand and the toaster with my left hand without thinking. The shaking got even stronger and it was hard to stay standing. As a native of Japan, I was supposed to be accustomed to an earthquake since we have one quite regularly. Nevertheless, this scale was surreal. The room swung right and left fiercely and it lasted long. Two heavy pots on the top of the toaster went flying along with jugs and thermoses, as the toaster I was holding with all my strength kept moving madly. Even things upstairs were tumbling down the stairs. Until the shake finally stopped, I was vaguely thinking Tokyo was being destroyed completely. While I was still in shock trying to comprehend what had just happened, a strong aftershock came. It was as big as the first one. This time, the big tall shelf fell down throwing everything on it to the floor. I had never been so scared in my life. I was actually crying during the shake, shouting ‘Help! Help!’ When it was over, the whole floor of my apartment was covered with things and there was no place to step on. I wondered what I had done so wrong that I should have such a terrifying experience…

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Hidemi's Rambling No.305

By the contract, I have to give a month’s notice to move out the apartment I currently live in. If I move out in the middle of April as I planned, I need to send written notice by mid-March. But I’m not sure if my packing is finished in a month. Actually, there’s no telling when it’s done. I’m busy enough with my daily life and adding packing to it as an extra routine has been almost impossible for me. In fact, my packing has been going at a surprisingly slow pace. My own schedule has gradually backed me into a corner and sometimes I have an urge to cancel a move itself altogether. As I began to sag, I decided to postpone a move for another month until mid-May, to make packing easier with plenty of time. It’s the third postponement from my original plan of a mid-January move. It means to pay more money for the rent, but it can’t be helped…

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hidemi's Rambling No.304

Although I’m not interested in MLB at all, I had a dream of the Mariners’ Ichiro Suzuki the other night. Personally, I don’t like him because he’s exhorting something pompously every time I see him on TV. But in my dream, I won a prize of spending a day with him and unwillingly met him. As the day went on, I began to have fun. Being with him got merrier and happier, and eventually I shouted ‘I’ve never been this happy in my life!’ I wished strongly that this moment would last forever while clinging to his arm. When the day was over and the time to say goodbye came, he said he would get in touch with me on his next visit to Japan. Out of curiosity, I asked him what the chances of his calling me were, feeling sure that he would say 100 percent since he looked happy with me as well all day long. But, his answer was 30 percent. I was surprised at the unexpectedly low odds. I felt so disappointed I had only a 30-percent chance to have such a great time like today. And, I woke up. I sprang to a sitting position on the bed, as I was shocked it was a dream, not a reality. Now that it was a dream, the chance of repeating the wonderful day had dropped from 30 percent to zero. Amid bitter disappointment, I was also disappointed at myself. In the dream, I received VIP treatment everywhere I went with Ichiro. He appeared as a symbol of fame and fortune, and I physically clung to his arm. I boast that I’ve got over the lust for fame and fortune long before. If so, why was I extremely happy in the dream…?

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hidemi's Rambling No.303

The most exciting time of year has come for a lowest-price shopper like me. Apparel stores had done their clearance sales for winter clothing and they started selling what were still left unsold at the incredibly low prices to get rid of them. It’s time for me to shop winter clothing for next winter. The other day, I found fleece jackets which prices were 90% off from the already discounted prices. I bought a couple of those at 40 cents each. Even in my lowest-price hunting life, it was a record low for a jacket. I also got a down coat at $28, marked down from $80. I bought several other clothes at such immensely reduced prices as well and felt so exhilarated. At the end of the day, I’ve got a lot more winter clothes at home although I’m in the middle of moving to my new place. More time for packing and cost for moving has been added…