I don’t know if you heard but we had a big aftershock on Thursday evening. I was about to go to bed, brushing my teeth when things started shaking, more heavily than before. It took me a few seconds to realise that this wasn’t just a little one. I walked into the bedroom (I’m currently camped out in a 4-person dorm, 2 bunk beds but 2 of the roommates weren’t there) and my roommate and I both noted how big it was. 10 seconds passed, and the shaking didn’t stop. We turned on the tv and the newscaster was in her hardhat, reporting that an earthquake was happening. 10 more seconds passed and we were slowly considering to grab our bags and head out. Finally the shaking went faint, and there was silence. I’d turned off the tv, ready to go out, but eventually we turned it back on and it said shindo strong 6 (this refers to the japanese measurement system from 1 to 7). I went for the internet and saw that it was a 7.4. It took us a while to get back to bed because my roommate said this heavy shaking was how the 1st one started before it got worse.
Today is 4 weeks after the earthquake, and the cherry blossoms are in beautiful full bloom.
It seems most people are ignoring Ishihara’s request NOT to do hanami (cherry blossom ‘flower watching’ – literal meaning), otherwise also known as the gathering of big groups of people drinking in broad daylight in the park. I’ve been to 3 different Sakura spots – all beautiful (actually, one of them, yoyogi park, is one I run in in the morning). In contrast to the beauty these gianormous blooms provide, I’ve been chosen to go volunteer in Ishinomaki city, which lies in miyagi prefecture north of Sendai, and is the worst hit prefecture. I’m going up with an organization called peaceboat. In the aftermath of the hanshin earthquake in 1995, too many volunteers showed up causing a bigger burden than help because they used up alm the supplies for the affected families, so this time around you MUST be registered with a group, and there aren’t many. Apparently there’s about 30 foreigners being sent up with this shipment – they have week-long sessions that have been in place for about 3 weeks now, and to prevent mental and physical strain you can only stay a week at a time. Most of the work consists of heavily lifting, soup-kitchen style provisions, or cleaning up the sludge, though the tasks are arranged by priority on a daily basis, as new requests keep coming in. as exhausting as it will be, I’m really looking forward to it. I think partly because I can finally help, and my desire to help isnt just talk, but also action.
Speaking of the earthquake, because let’s face it, that pretty much dictates conversation these days, I was asked to give an interview last week on japanese breakfast tv. The director stayed in touch (and decided I could do the interview in Japanese) and when I told him I wanted to go to the Dutch embassy to pick up a free iodine tablet, he was very interested. To make a long story short, on Wednesday the TV crew from 日テレ, nitere, filmed me walking into the embassy, picking up the tablet, followed by an interview in Japanese by a lady apparent famous. It was weird and I completely messed up my Japanese!! But they were nice, and when I told them I’d just received a phonecall to go to the area to volunteer they were interested, again, and now they’re filming at the orientation meeting (I have to wear the same clothes and hairdo haha!). Interesting experience, I’d say!
The current situation with the nuclear seems to have stabilised, meaning that there are no new disasters that need to be fought off. They are now slowly injecting nitrogen into reactor 1 to prevent another hydrogen explosion – their choice of reactor 1 being that the estimated number of damaged spent fuel rods is the highest, possibly as much as 70% have damaged outer zirconium casings, meaning that if an explosion were to occur, this reactor more than the other would release the largest amount of dangerous chemicals into the air. Reactor 2 seems to have a more accurate estimate of 35% damaged spent fuel rods, reactor 3 it’s not well known and apparently 4 didnt have any, though don’t quote me on that. The recent aftershock had no big effect on the state of recovery at the plant. TEPCO is continuing dumping lightly-radioactive water into the sea to make room for more harmful water, much to korea’s anger, as they weren’t informed of this move before they started executing it. The latest aftershock has killed 4 people so far. Air radiation levels seem to be very low at the moment.
That’s all from Tokyo for now. Off to see some more cherry blossoms. (I’ve already uploaded photos).