Friday, July 1, 2011

Tokyo after the Earthquake

View of the Shinjuku Area in Tokyo
March 11, 2011....

I Still remember this day, as probably many people do, as the day of the severe earthquake and following disastrous tsunami.

I remember I was working behind my computer when suddenly I got a Skype message from one of my Japanese colleagues.

He told me that shortly before a huge earthquake had taken place. Like many Japanese, he had experienced many earthquakes before, but he told me that this one was unlike any other.

The whole company office was shaking, shelves came off the wall, equipment fell down, and people were taking shelter where possible. The huge magnitude of 8.9 brought down the normally so earthquake-prepared city Tokyo "offline". Public transport didn't work and traffic lights were offline, resulting in huge traffic jams throughout the whole city. My colleague told me he was kind of stuck at the office, as it made no sense to try to get home by car. Eventually he walked back home, like half of the city's population was doing.

The earthquake also brought the devastating tsunami that killed tens of thousands of people, and destroyed the cooling system of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, resulting in unacceptable radiation exposure to the Japanese people.

Now, almost 4 months after the earthquake I am back in Tokyo again for my work, and I was wondering how this country and it's people are recovering from this major disaster.

On the surface everything looks fine. There is no real visible damage to buildings except some cracks here and there and business seems to go as usual. But when you take a closer look, you still can feel the impact that this huge earthquake and its related tsunami had on the people of Japan.

This sign you saw a lot near
elevators: Not in use due to electricity
First of all, Japan still faces electricity problems. I saw in the train that tepco (the electricity company) can only provide 79% of all energy needs. Therefore the government has urged everybody to save electricity.

There are suggestions to only turn on the airconditioning above 26 degrees, elevators and lifts are shut down and most of the (so typically Japanese) neon lights are shut off at night.

Besides that there are still fears about the ongoing disaster at the Fukushima nuclear reactors and the radiation leakage. People are very cautious about the origin of food. I also noticed that all bottled water you can buy in the supermarkets is imported. No local sourced water is for sale, which I expect has to do with the fear of radiation.

Everywhere you see
commercials for water filters.
Perhaps people don't trust
unfiltered water anymore? 
The city feels much more quiet too. I have been in Tokyo several times, and it always felt as an active, vibrant and busy city. However this time, it feels like it is much more quiet. Even the hotel I was staying lowered it's price and lures guests with free gift coupons, while before it usually was always fully booked.

On the television you see a lot of programs about the tsunami and the recovery of Japan and it's people. Although I do not understand any Japanese, I can see that the whole country is working united to deal with rebuilding the nation after this disaster. Also when talking to most of the Japanese people, I can feel that they are determined to get their country back on track, and help the people that are in most need.

I admire their strength and attitude, and I wish all of them good luck in the recovery!
If you want, please donate to the Japanese red cross. They have an emergency relief fund which helps the ones in most need after the tsunami.

You can find the link here.

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