I had another blog completely prepared and about to be published, but considering all the news surrounding this earthquake, I thought I might write about it, for you, my dear readership, and for my own memory.

First, thank you to everyone who called, or tried to call, or left a message. Thank you for checking up on me. I’m fine, and nothing serious has happened in this part of the prefecture. Although Aomori prefecture is lumped into the earthquake origin disaster zone, it’s no different than saying Wyoming and Montana are close. The land area of each prefecture in the region of Tohoku (lit. east north) is quite large, and though we may be bordering, not that many people live here to begin with. However, though we might have escaped the direct effects of the earthquake, that doesn’t lessen the damage caused by the tsunami which hit the eastern side of the prefecture hard.

Following is a map that helps explain things. Also the resulting waves from the earthquake:

I was playing piano at the time, namely the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21. For those of you familiar with the piece, it’s basically a giant exercise in scales, chromatic scales, chromatic octave scales, arpeggios, and tricky but fun intervals. As I concentrated hard on hitting the right notes, I swayed my body to the music and really enjoyed the rise and fall of the melody. Not surprisingly, at a place with opposing arpeggios in both hands, I was really moved and felt like I was floating.

Man, this is awesome.

I continued to play and flow, and was surprised at how in touch I was with the music. It normally takes me much more practice to get so into the music, but hey, I’ll take it.

Chromatic octave scale passage!

As the lights suddenly cut off and I was plunged into darkness, but still moving, I finally realized it wasn’t the music that was moving me; it was the floor.

I was always the smart one.

So I sat in darkness at the piano, considered playing more, but since I didn’t have it memorized, I went out to check what was up. Apparently there was a giant earthquake.

Some other students and I all evacuated outside. It really is an interesting feeling. The earth that we all take for granted to be stable was trembling underneath, and I don’t believe we as humans are used to it. Even after it stopped, I felt like I was still shifting around, as if I were on a ship at sea, despite it all being my imagination.

After the initial tremors stopped, I rushed back inside to grab my stuff I left near the piano. Luckily, I normally wander around the area in darkness so getting back wasn’t an issue. I quickly grabbed my stuff and sheet music and started to close the piano lid, when I quickly pushed it back up, sat back down, and played Clair De Lune from memory.

Playing in darkness is fun. I should consider it more often.

As the aftershocks started hitting, I decided to pack up for real and got my ass out of there.

I work at the board of education, which has its own fuel powered generator. The rest of the town had no electricity, and from what I could gather, all of northern Japan had no power. Having the electricity off was good for a couple of reasons. First was to prevent further damage when the tsunamis came. And the other reason is just that there simply wasn’t enough power to supply the country with the nuclear power plants shut down.

It was Friday, and Friday is always hot spring / sushi day. Regardless of the national disaster, I wanted to get my fresh fish on and decided to drive to the nearby bigger town (Goshogawara) for their 100 yen sushi plates. With the stoplights out, traffic rules were reduced to dashing out into the intersection and hoping the other side would stop. I originally approached each stoplight as if it were a stop sign, but when I noticed no one else gave a shit, I took advantage of the police being busy with everything else and sped / overtook my way into Goshogawara in record time.

All was for naught however, when the mall, hot spring, and sushi place were closed. I death raced back home and resigned myself to a night of darkness.

To be frank, my evening was nothing more than a glorified camping trip with aftershocks. My house still had running water and gas, and since I never bought a flashlight, I decided to resort to candles.

I wish they were scented.

I luckily bought groceries earlier in the day before the earthquake, and made chicken soup and a green salad and ate it in candlelight. It was actually quite pleasant and the mood was romantic.

At this point, it was 7PM, completely dark, and I had two very tall and unstable candles as my only source of light and heat. I tried to read a little, but couldn’t make out half the words. With nothing else to do, I decided to go to bed early and see what I could do the next day to help out. Of course it was only 7 and I had trouble falling asleep, so I tried something I had always wanted to do, but never had the chance to.

Bending over and looking at the lit candles, I pulled my pants down and tried to light my farts on fire. My no-carb diet has more than enough fiber for an evening filled with fun.

Unfortunately, it never worked, although I did manage to blow a candle over and spill hot wax all over the place.

I blew out the candles (with my mouth thank you very much) and decided to sleep.

Of course, without heating, the night turned out to one of the longest ever. My house is large and frozen, and being bundled up in layers and blankets still couldn’t keep the chill away. I opened a couple packages of hand warmers (normally used for skiing) and it got a little better.

The next day, I went to see if I could help and went to the board of education. The generator electricity only serves a couple rooms, and the ventilation system for the building wasn’t working, and when I entered, it smelled as if the people who had kept vigil tried to light their farts on fire through the night as well.

I took the chance to charge all of my electronics. Getting used to the stench, I noticed many of the elderly decided to spend the night to escape the chill. As the supermarkets were closed, food was scarce, so I was sent to go make onigiri, or rice balls for everyone.

In the kitchen with other housewives and government workers, we spent the day making salt flavored rice balls for the evacuees. Throughout the day there were updates as power was being restored to all the larger cities in the prefecture. In the afternoon, they said there wasn’t enough power to spread around, so the majority of my town got shafted, and was to spend another night in the non-heated dark.

My luck is amazing.

However! I guess the energy fairy decided to pull some overtime or something, because by early evening our town was back online and I was able to get on facebook and send emails to everyone. Which also means everyone can cook and basically my whole day making rice balls was for naught. However, it has been a long time since I actually felt something. My life here seemed to be in stasis, and the rush was something I haven’t experienced in a while.

Now that the boring part of the post is over, I’d like to expand the scope of this post to encompass the crisis facing the country as a whole.

From this link, you can see before and after of the places that were most damaged by the quake:

I feel the media everywhere is reporting on it at length so you can get the pictures from everyone else. To get a comparison of the different approaches of the media, between Japan and the USA and other countries, you can read this link.

While the American news may be sensationalist and have a tendency of overinflating numbers and saying the next Chernobyl will be tomorrow; coming from Japan, we’re all trying to keep our heads up. Understanding the damage and hoping for the best.

All things considered, I am proud of Japan. Even though it has suffered one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded, the damage has been relatively limited. Despite the mounting death toll and missing persons, if the infrastructure and earthquake building reinforcements were any less, we would be in a much worse situation than we are in now. The reduced strength of the earthquake also hit Tokyo and the surrounding areas, but the capital is safe from most damage it would appear. No high rises have fallen, and the bullet trains were still running last I heard.

You can read more about Japanese buildings and structural integrity and tsunami preparation here:

Buildings can be protected from vibrations, but the tsunamis are a whole other issue. The devastation, I believe, judging from preliminary reports, has been mostly caused by the waves, with coastal towns and prefectures being hit the hardest. The news plays footage nonstop of whole houses being ripped away from their foundations, giant tankers capsized and lying in a field of debris a kilometer inland, survivors picking through the wreckage and families being reunited.

While I sit here and ignite my flatulence, a prefecture south of me has for the most part been annihilated. I do feel a little shameful. I offered to help, but all trains and transportation for the most part has come to a standstill. The rescues are all being conducted by helicopter as I’m typing this.

I’m going to sound like an asshole for saying this, but I am glad Sapporo, Tokyo, Osaka and Kansai were spared. The north, northeastern part of Japan where I live and where the damage hit hardest is mostly agricultural and relies on farming and fishing for its livelihood. Food and other resources can be provided by aid. However, the foundations of the government, and Japan’s powerful business and manufacturing sectors (and in my selfishness, the culture) all lie in Tokyo and to the west. If those cities were destroyed, Japan would have a much harder time coordinating relief efforts and rebuilding itself after.

Undoubtedly, the crisis is going to cost a huge sum of money to clean up. I was reading articles by analysts suggesting that Japan cannot burden the cost of it, considering the state of its economy and the massive public debt before the events.

I take a different view. The Japanese are a hardy people that recover quickly. They are level-headed and efficient. After the atomic bombings of WWII, they immediately gathered their resources and set to rebuild. Within 40 years they were at the top of the electronics and car manufacturing divisions, and that was before they had a stable government, in between the Occupation and the reclamation or relinquishing of different territories.

However, ever since the 90’s bubble burst, Japan’s economic decline has been the norm. The stagnating economy, borne from a lack of consumer spending, a government hesitant to increase tax rates and an aging consumer base has led to a massive national debt (though largely financed by the country itself). In addition, the young population is lost and not knowing what to do, burdened by the social welfare system that they increasingly need to pay into to support the ailing elderly.

It has always been my belief that trauma is the fastest way to maturation. People who go through a lot, whether it’s through the circumstances they were born into, or after suffering an event like the earthquake and tsunami, realize, whether they want to or not, the important things in life. That the things we all considered so important the day before pales in comparison to what really matters when we are faced with our own mortality.

Snookie eat your heart out. And that bitch on My Sweet 15 who complained / broke down after receiving a Lexus SC430 3 days before her birthday instead of the day of.

It is my sincere hope that within 1-5 years, the Japanese government will use the tragedy to unite the nation and justify a raise in taxes to not only fund the relief and cleanup effort but also to rectify the economic situation before the earthquake.

Also for the young people to realize how short life is and go at it like rabbits so we can lower the average population age.

Any disaster is horrible, but if we can take the positive from it, in one way Japan was jolted awake.

No pun intended.

The populace is united in grief, shock and rebuilding, and the question of deciding between the Hello Kitty or Doraemon cell phone strap has been replaced with being thankful that we have working cell phones to begin with.

I would never get a Hello Kitty phone strap. How tacky. Maybe Totoro.

Of course, this is still far off into the future. For the time being, all the roads leading into Aomori have for the most part been decimated, so people are running low on gas, both for their cars and the kerosene used to heat their homes and water. Luckily Spring seems to have finally come so I’ll bundle up and tough through what I can. We don’t know when we’ll get fresh supplies, but hopefully the people here will be ok until then.

When I went to the supermarket yesterday, much of the premade food was gone, including the bread and rice balls. Naturally, the salad was untouched, and because that’s what I live off of, I basically cleaned them out of leafy vegetables and cherry tomatoes.

All this wishful talk is only important if Japan survives. The nuclear reactors are looking to be a problem, with a second explosion, but from what I’ve seen and read, the explosions aren’t nuclear in nature, but caused by waste hydrogen buildup. If anything does happen, be assured I will be in my fridge a la Indiana Jones. Hopefully the blast will propel me to Taiwan.

Knowing my luck, it’ll probably be North Korea

I have faith in Japan, and believe that we can come out of this even stronger than we were before this all happened.


1 comment:

  1. The ground beneath shook
    Beware of the aftershock
    The ground beneath shook