Thursday, March 31, 2011

uSv.net

A guy I work with showed me this site yesterday: microsievert.net 
Best to look at the animation on the live site then use the screenshot below for a basic translation.

A brilliantly simple way to represent all these numbers being thrown at us everywhere we look, even at the end of the weather forecast.

The top row starts with the worldwide normal average on the left, increasing up to RUN AWAY! on the right. The bottom two rows show the actual current readings at main cities in the various prefectures in East Japan including at the exclusion limit around the reactor. I live closer to Shinjuku than Chigasaki, but between those two.

I've checked the data against a few other sources and everything seems to tie up. No need to divide some obscure number by the number of hours in a year any more, or convert micros to millis, just check it's still only pitter-pattering between here and Fukushima... and run to the hills if it starts snowing. 

Currently drier than average though.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Zeros

Last Sunday, Tepco announced that radiation levels at the No. 2 reactor were around ten million times that of a normal reactor core. They later corrected the information, saying the actual level was only a hundred thousand times higher than normal!

The Japanese government immediately came out and slammed Tepco. Why? Because they thought erroneous announcements were unacceptable!

Hang on, isn't being a hundred thousand times over the limit also cause for a bollocking??

It’s like getting pulled over for speeding on a 100km/hr limit stretch of road, and the cops let you off with a warning for claiming you were going at the speed of light,  when you were only really going ten thousand times the speed of sound.

Actually, the additional bollocking was over and above the current standing bollocking that Tepco are under from almost everyone here at the moment, it just grated to see them only slammed for making incorrect announcements.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Tohoku: More Before


 I've been watching this home video quite a lot lately. I put it together after a surf-trip from Tokyo to Tohoku, Northern Japan in September 2004, four months before I moved up here. In fact, this trip played a big part in me making the move up here from Sydney.

Looking back, the choice of the first track, the cheery tone, the opening shot, all seem very inappropriate now, but it is what it is. After all, this was over 6 years ago when no-one had any idea what was coming. 

A lot of memories. Every surfer I met whether it was in Ibaraki, Fukushima, Iwate, Miyagi or Aomori was pleased to see me, there was no locals-only attitude, everyone was really mellow and just stoked. The waves weren't perfect, but man they were fun. It reminded me of why I got into surfing in the first place. Some more stills to follow at some point.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Smokes

A bit flippant perhaps, but I was wondering how many of those who have left Tokyo recently, remembered to stock up on duty-free smokes at the airport on their way out?
Just wondering...
Mild Heaven headstone in Kamakura.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Oxyhydrogen

Despite having learned a lot more than I ever wanted to about radiation levels in microSieverts and now radioactive Iodine (I-131) and Cesium-137 levels in Becquerels per litre or kilo, my favourite scientist is still this guy.

For some this will be a naive post, and the fact that I first saw the Hydrogen Technology Applications guys on this clip from Fox News doesn't help their credibility, but this promotional clip for their HHO gas is a bit less sensationalist.

The News on their website hasn't been updated since 2009 so does that mean they were wrong and the energy required to split the water molecules and create Oxyhydrogen really does exceed the energy recouped by burning it? Or did darker forces intervene?

Maybe I need more sleep but is it really naive to think this won't work? Is using water for fuel as elusive as perpetual motion?  

How many links could I fit into one short blog post?

What does blog stand for anyway?

Just some of the things I was thinking about on my way back from the supermarket carrying two 5-litre bottles of just-in-case drinking water.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Levels

“Interesting” times up here in Tokyo. Power cables have now been connected to all six reactors and Libya is been pushed up to lead-story status on BBC-World. even so though, the radiation levels are still a concern. I have friends who have left and friends who have stayed, but it seems pointless to divide them into two camps like this article tries to do, even if most of his article and particulalry his last paragraph is spot on. Depsite recent rants on the hype put out by the overseas-press, the local press can appear to go the other way and give the devil an easy ride. There’s always going to be a few hear-no-evil types who would stay and go down with the ship, but I hope staying doesn’t become a matter of pride.


For some people, I fully understand that leaving is a no-brainer. Having kids for one thing would certainly change your outlook and everyone has to do what they feel is best for their own and their family’s circumstances. Who was right or wrong to leave or stay is a pointless discussion.


I’ve now got a few websites bookmarked that give information on radiation levels close to where I live, as well as info on the water supply. I never ate much spinach anyway.



If I did want to get out, I’d be heading down to Sydney where we’re lucky enough to have a place to stay. I might lose some of you here but I’ve learned more about microSieverts per hour lately than I ever really wanted to. Anyway, a 10-hour flight to Sydney from here would rack up about 60 microSieverts at what seems to be a universally accepted 6 microSieverts/hour. No-one told me about this amount of exposure to radiation while flying till now though, I wonder if the flight attendants are clearly told about it? I’ve never met one who seemed too concerned.

According to this pdf in Japanese from the NIRS (National Institute of Radiological Sciences) at the bottom of the page  , the average annual exposure worldwide per year is 2,400 microSieverts/year. In Brazil and India, it gets up to 10,000/yr.

Currently the nearest measuring point to me for environmental radiation is in Kawasaki. For water monitoring it’s in Shinjuku but both are close enough.



In Kanagawa the current real-time monitoring reading (bottom #5 above) at 21:30 on March 22 is 0.149uSv/hr and has been rising from 0.1244 earlier today but still below average. I expect it’ll keep rising for a while. At this level I’d get the same radiation fix after 16 days here as I would on the flight to Sydney.



The Iodine I-131 in the Shinjuku water supply is currently reading 5.3 becquerels/kg when the limit is 300. This is the stuff with the half-life of 8 days. The Cesium-137 is nastier as it has a half-life of 30 years but it’s at 0.22 becquerels/kg today when the limit is 200.

Also got the above cross-reference for radiation readings and water readings in Shinjuku from MEXT here (The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology)

 With all these sites bookmarked, after getting up and checking that Libya is still the lead story on BBC, it looks like checking these sites will be the new routine for a while.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Journalist Wall Of Shame


Everyone should read the Journalist Wall of Shame  It was started by a blogger who lives in Yokohama, you can read the original post which started it all here.
It's a great and sadly much-needed site that names-and-shames the sub-human, shameless, lying-bastard, terrorist-with-a-day-job-hacks that give real investigative journalists a bad name.
When you have French TV (FR2) referring to the "Hiroshima Nuclear Plant" instead of the Fukushima Nuclear Plant, German newspapers (Weld) calling the helicopters crews who are dousing the plant with water, "kamikazes", Australian newspapers (Melbourne Age) running headlines like, "NUCLEUR PLANT EXPLODES.MORE THAN 1000 BELEIVED DEAD. 215,000 HOMELESS", in addition to the newstainment CNN puts out, this site needs to be read, especially by anyone overseas with family and friends over here.

Traffic on my blog has gone up about 20-fold since the earthquake, so I'd like to ask everyone to share this link with everyone they can. Maybe put it as a status update on facebook, link to it from your own blog, or send it by direct email it if you have to. Please.


There is also a page highlighting Some Good Journalism and space for Quake Quotations There are only the following two quotes up at the moment, hope we can find more. 


WHO: Hans Sautter, German photographer living in Japan for the past 37 years
WHEN: March 19, 2011
WHERE: In a message posted in response to the over-the-top press coverage of the quake and Fukushima Daiichi, particularly by the German media.

"If you want to write about your feelings, then write poetry, not news."



WHO: Sir John Beddington, UK's Chief Scientific Advisor
WHEN: March 18, 2011; 16:00 hrs
WHERE: Q&A Session during British Embassy briefing for BCCJ members

Q: Why is the French [embassy] giving different advice?
Sir John: Their advice is not based on science.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Italy

Funny how the rumour mill works. I had an innocent facebook message this morning from my nephew who'd heard I was leaving for Italy because of the problems in Japan, he said his Mum might have heard someone mention it.

I went to Italy once when I was 15 with the school on a ski trip, thought it was OK I suppose, but never really thought about going back. Couldn't think where the story had started. Maybe it had spread from an "Interesting" comment I made on a friend's status update recently. Her friend had passed on the following update from the Italian Embassy in Tokyo:
  "a scientific team arrived yesterday from Italy and they measured the radiation level in Narita, along the way from the airport to the city and in Tokyo. They not only confirmed the official Japanese data that stated no significant radiation level in Tokyo, but they also affirmed that the radiation level in Rome is higher than in Tokyo at the moment."

The same friend also told me I'd said I was going to Italy, so I had to go back and check my profile as I'd had quite a few last night before crashing. 

Then it hit me. A week ago on March 12, the first night after the earthquake, I stayed up to watch The Six Nations rugby. Italy, the relative new boys and no-chance underdogs had finally beaten the mighty French. An unbelievable victory and their first ever over France in the tournament. No-one gave them a chance in hell before the match but they pulled it off. It's what sport is all about. Wales beat Ireland 19-13 later the same night, but Italy's 22-21 victory over France was a real landmark. I got on facebook and wrote, "ITALY!!!!! Just what I needed!!!"

Better be more careful.

Anyway, staying with the Italian theme, and to give more of an idea of what these places were really like, here are two pictures. One of them is from Southern Italy and the other is from the coast of Iwate, very close to where the terrifying black river footage was shot in Miyako City.


Friday, March 18, 2011

Fukushima: BEFORE

Just got back from work in Tokyo. The train was just as crowded on the way home as usual, the supermarket had shut early to save power and it's a public holiday on Monday... for those lucky enough to still have jobs and workplaces to go to.

Japan has raised the alert level from 4 to 5, which puts Fukushima on a par with not only Three-Mile-Island, but also a 1957 reactor fire at Windscale in the UK.

I know the coastline up there well from irregular surf-trips since 2004. On the train home tonight I couldn't help thinking about the people I've met up there and further North, some areas which are now famous only for black rivers overflowing and sweeping all before them. Hard to believe they're the same places looking at the news footage.

I might get round to putting up some more "before" pics another time, but wanted to put up these couple tonight to show what this area was really like. The first one above was taken in 2004 at Kumagawa (Bear River) a few miles South of the Fukushima-1 plant which you can see just beyond the red and white chimneys in the distance. A classic wave on it's day (obviously not this day) but not widely known. I'd normally hesitate to mention the exact location but after what's happened, I doubt there'll be a stampede of blow-in surfers crowding the line-up.

I was up there last September, handed over about $150 for some FCS fins to a cool local surfshop owner just up the road having packed in a rush and left mine back in Tokyo. I moaned at the time, but would be happy to give that guy much more now.

It's also hard not to think about the guys who are in the middle of all this trying to bring it under control. They've been called the Fukushima-50 cos it sounds good in the Press but there's more than 100 of them I think. We'll find out all in good time I suppose , but you've got to take your hat of to these guys.


 The one above was taken at sunrise in 2007 at Kidogawa, a beach about 3 miles South of the Fukushima-2 plant. You could camp on the beach with no hassles from anyone, spark up a small fire for cooking, then build it up for some hippy-TV-viewing, then clean up in the morning at the public hot-spring baths just across the river.

Changed forever...

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Should I cool it...

...or should I blow?

I'm being asked by more and more people if I'm going to get out of Tokyo or even Japan for a while. Of course I've thought about it, but want to base a decision on accurate info, which is pretty hard with the glut of mass-media newstainment out there at the moment.

I'm not on holiday or an extended stay in Japan, I live here. I've bought an apartment here where I live with my girlfriend, my job and friends are here, it's not easy to skip out for a bit and leave them all to it.

There was an interesting conference call at the British Embassy in Tokyo ealrier this week. The text of it is here and well worth a read. They may be doing a John Selwyn Gummer, the Agricutural Minister in 1989 who was willing to feed his four-year old daughter a hamburger in front of the news cameras to calm the public at the height of the BSE crisis, when he knew all about the dangers of eating beef, you never really know, but does at least offer an alternative viewpoint.

A lot of foreigners have apparently (and understandably) already left Tokyo according to the BBC and CNN, but no-one's asked me what I'm doing so where do they get the 80%, 90% or 95% ratio they say are leaving. "Show your work!" as they used to say in school. What I can say is that although everyone's worried, you're hard-pushed to find (m)any Japanese leaving Tokyo at the moment.

Having said that, the British Embassy today (March 17) upgraded their advice for Brits saying they should consider leaving Tokyo due to concerns over transport, communications, power etc; basically infrastructure worries. They still say that outside the exclusion zone set up by the Japanese authorities there is no real human health issue that people should be concerned about.

The key thing for me is, if they are asking us to think about leaving because things might get uncomfortable for a while, even for years, then I'm definitely staying! I've lived, loved and laughed with these people for many years and will be happy to dig in, help out and all pull together to get through this, even if it is going to be tough for a while.

If the advice changes to a clear direction that we need to get out of the city due to unsafe radiation levels, that's a very different story. Of course there will be those who'd say, why wait? get out now! I suppose that's a decision we all have to make individually.


The thing is though, this is scary enough without "news" channels like CNN degenerating in reporting tactics verging on terrorism. Seriously. Last Sunday, when no-one knew what was really going on, Cartoon News Network cut to one of their reporters on the street, he was actually 250kms South of the nuclear reactors on a street in Tokyo, I could recognize the buildings in the background, but I suppose being outside made it look like he was close to the action. He said something like "radiation readings have now skyrocketed and are in the range of 300-400 milliSieverts at the reactor, that's an order of magnitude in the thousands higher than the microSieverts we were talking about this morning!" What he didn't say until later was that the milliSievert readings were taken right at the reactor, a place where no-one normally goes and the earlier readings were taken at the gate of the plant which although high, were still in the microSieverts as they were that morning. Drop The Dead Donkey anyone?

Another time they cut away from a live press conference with TEPCO, the owners of the reactor, to go to an ad break for their own upcoming programs with a concerned comment of "hmmm... still many questions unanswered in Japan it seems..." but when I turned it over to NHK (the national broadcaster) there were reporters still asking the questions CNN "wanted" answered, and the TEPCO guy was trying to answer them. How important was it to tell us about the next edition of Beyond Borders, Anderson 360 or some other self-promoting drivel. "Impact Your World"! Yes, but how?

Then there was this article on the CNN Go Asia site titled, "Japan Earthquake: Situation in Tokyo", a story pretty much about.. the situation in Tokyo. Something that perhaps my friends and family would come across if they were searching the web wondering what I was going through. They've now changed the picture heading the story to a more accurate one of people going to work, but for all of Tuesday March 15th it was this one below. The subtitle reads, "Residents spend another night in an evacuation center at Sendai City, Miyagi Prefecture, north of Tokyo."
Hang on, I thought this was the one article that was specifically about life in Tokyo! Why are we showing the centre of the tsunami area again? The thing is that no-one (NO-ONE) is living like that here in Tokyo. Saying North of Tokyo makes it sound like a suburb, when Sendai is actually it's own city with a population of over a million, 300kms away!

There are some bread shortages here and queues for petrol, as there is in the UK when the first flake of snow falls but there is still lots of other food. People have been panic-buying so some shelves are empty which makes great photo opportunities but in most pics of empty shelves you can just see the edge of full shelves next to the empty ones. I was even a bit guilty of this in my first post as it was odd to see any sheleves empty. This is not the norm though. 

Trains and buses are running, offices are open and working life is going on. We've been eating out at local restaurants almost all of which are open and pass people riding their bikes, walking their dogs, going about their daily life. The annual St Patrick's Parade in Tokyo has been cancelled this year due to the horrific earthquake and resulting tsunami, but most folks here including the builders at the construction site opposite me have still carried on working. The new tower block opposite me is still getting built, they just take an occasional break during any aftershocks. I'd been taking photos of their progress for a while now and since the big quake last Friday March 11, you can see they've been pretty busy. Maybe they finish work and go back to their evacuation centre for the night... but maybe not.


Of course I don't want to go too far the other way, we are all worried about the radiation, but this is the country that America dropped two atomic bombs on remember, it's not like people are under-estimating the harm it can do, they know first-hand. To compare people in Tokyo to the poor buggers in the picture who have lost everything is just plain wrong.

To CNN's slight credit, they do say underneath the main title that the nuclear situation seems to be improving, but there was no further info on this anywhere and with more doom and gloom in the main article it didn't cancel out the power of the evacuation-centre picture.

It's not just CNN, although this next example is a bit lighter and might just be a bit of bluffing from the lad in question. On March 13, The Donegal Daily reported DONEGAL EARTHQUAKE VOLUNTEER REFUSED ENTRY TO TOKYO BUT BATTLES ON TO HELP

Now I'm not sure if well-meaning Malachy Shea was having a laugh with his hometown reporter, or the reporter was spicing up the details a bit, but there are definitely no troops in Tokyo turning back travelers trying to get into the city from Osaka. A colleague mine from Tokyo was on a business trip to Osaka when the earhquake hit and had to stay in Osaka overnight. He was able to return the next day on the bullet train, which I still see running past my house every day. Yes, no trains are running to the affected areas up North but trains between Tokyo and Osaka are fine.

 CNN's coverage has once again reminded me of when Lady Di died years ago. After endless coverage of the tunnel in Paris, flowers outside Buck House, and repotrers asking the hard questions like, "how upset is the Queen really?", they CNN cut to one of their (w)anchors back in the studio who turned solemnly to the camera and started his report with, "She was a nun who had nothing, she was a nun who lived in the gutter..." and then with almost a wink he went on, "...but not any more! Mother Teresa died today at the age of 87".

I've tried to watch BBC World since then, and I'm staying for now.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Mobile Warnings

My mobile phone's got this feature which gives you a 5-10 second warning if  there's going to be an earthquake of magnitude 5.0 or over nearby. Doesn't sound like much but can make all the difference.









They don't promise they can always get you the warning before the shaking starts but it's a lot better than nothing. I got this phone in mid-2009 and the first two pics show all thrteen warnings I've had since then. Ten of them have come since last Friday 11th, the last one about six hours ago.
The first characters tell you which prefecture the earthquake's epicentre is expected in, and the last pic shows the message itself which basically says in this case, "An earthquake has started in Nagano-prefecture, prepare for strong tremors".








The thing is that I didn't get anything last Friday at 14:45 when before the building started rolling. The first warning I got on March 11th was at 19:36 when I was halfway home.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Earthquake

I've been in Japan for just over 6 years and earthquakes are usually just a part of life up here. When I moved into my first apartment in Tokyo 6 years ago, a smaller earthquake woke me with a jolt at about 5am. I was hanging onto the bed for dear life for the five seconds or so that it lasted, slowly realizing it wasn't a dream and when it stopped I felt a kind of initiation was over. When I got to work almost no-one knew what I was talking about though. It took me till lunch-time to find someone who also felt it, and then it was only because he was coming back from the toilet at the time. No big deal, everyone slept through it.

Friday March 11 was different. This time on my 24th floor office there was none of the usual laughing at the newbie foreigners getting spooked, everyone knew something was up. You couldn't walk in a straight line and those that weren't holding onto the desks were rushing to the window to see if they could see any damage in the street below, before realizing the window might not be the best place to stand when the whole building's groaning.

Those who could connect were calling family and friends but I couldn't reach my girlfriend Miki who was at home and on the 51st floor. I can see my home from the office in the distance so could at least see the building was still standing and no smoke which was a good sign. I can't imaine what it must have been like 300kms North in Sendai.

Hard to say how long it lasted, it seemed like five minutes but was probably only two, [update: tremors were actually measured for about 5 minutes] but that's two [five] minutes of full-on groaning and creaking walls with stronger and stronger waves. Usually the tremors die down after 5-10 seconds but this was just grind after grind. I didn't find out till later that the Earth's axis was tilted 10 cms, although to be honest I have no point of reference for a statement like that, no idea, but it sounds awesome in the true sense of the word.

Tokyo Midtown Tower is pretty new and currently the tallest building in Tokyo. Anything built after 1995 (the Kobe earthquake) is built to an extremely rigid standard. I can't say I was in fear for my life but certainly glad I was in a new building. I've never been outside for an earthquake, always at home, or in work, or in a bar, but outside you could see people struggling to stay standing on the street below. 
The PA announced there was a fire on the first floor so we were all evacuated. Everything was very orderly but after the first 3 flights down to 21F we had to stop inexplicably for about 10-15 mins as the aftershocks continued. Everyone would just sit down before they fell down as the tremors rolled around and waited it out. There was no real panic and eventually things started moving again, it took about 30 mins to get out.

I managed to connect to home once while waiting on the stairs. On the other end a woman sounded in trouble and really panicking, asking me who was calling before we were cut off. I have a work mobile phone plus a personal mobile phone and I usually use my work one. It's possible Miki hadn't registered my other number as I never use it, but not knowing for sure was just awful.
Thousands gathered in the garden at the rear of the building but with no intention of going back to work I started to think how to get home. I managed to connect to Miki again who was basically fine but pretty scared on her own up on the 51st floor. The previous call was apparently a crossed line so God knows where that woman was and what trouble she was in. There was no real damage at home apart from our big mirror which had fallen over and smashed. I knew the trains wouldn't be running but headed to the station anyway to see what they had to say.

Not surprisingly, the guy laughed when I asked when the trains might start running again. He had no idea. Many others seemed content to wait it out at the station  but I thought it'd be better to hole up in a bar somewhere for a while and see what happened, maybe I could reconnect with some workmates and check the news on my "one-seg" which is a TV broadcasting system to mobile phones which was working fine even though the actual phone network was down. 

As I walked towards one of my locals, Gengetsu, the boozy smell of shochu was thick in the air from about a hundred yards away. As I walked in the owner told me about sixty 1800ml bottles of shochu had smashed to the floor from the shelves above, about three-quarters of his stock. There was an air of resignation about them as they started the clean up, asking me to come back to support their business. I certainly will.

I found a few colleagues in the nearby Havana Cafe and spent a while updating facebook to let friends and family know I was OK. My co-workers were heading back to the office, despite the continuing aftershocks and said they'd stay overnight there if they had to. Bugger that, I realized I'd have to start walking. Getting home is normally a 30-minute train ride so it just seemed way too far to walk the whole way. Initially I just thought I'd walk to a place where it might be easier to get a taxi. I had no idea where that would really be though and about a million other people had the same idea.
 
Just outside the bar, two 12-inch square street lamps had fallen from a billboard on top of a 10-storey building and smashed to the pavement. The area had been cordened off and only one of the four lamps was still in place, the one on the far right was dangling only by it's power cable. Nothing compared to the carnage up in Sendai and the resulting tsunami. Although the phones were still out I'd been able to watch some footage of the tsunami on my mobile TV at the bar. Horrific stuff.
Since I always take the train home I took a few wrong turns at first. I actually  added about 5kms to the whole trip but evetually got back on track. Today's quake was a magnitude of 8.9 but it struck 300kms North of here off-shore near Sendai. Kobe's earthquake in 1995 was a much smaller 6.8, but was a direct hit on the city and so caused much more damage, much like Christchurch's recent 6.3. In Kobe there were more than 6,000 deaths and the overhead elevated highways collapsed. Although Tokyo was never in that much danger it was hard not to think of Kobe and Christchurch as I started the long walk home from underneath the highway.
Many of my fellow-marchers were wearing hard-hats which they got from their companies. Not a bad idea having just walked past the fallen lights. One guy said his company of about 600 people applied "the lifeboat rule". All the women got one first, then the blokes fought over what was left, although it was so calm, I'm not sure "fought" is the right word.

Most of the restaurants, bars and coffee shops on the way home were open for business and doing a roaring trade. At that stage though I just wanted to get home. My work phone was cut off completely and my personal phone was only working for sketchy internet access and the battery was running out.  I stopped in one of the many convenience stores for some grub but all the shelves were bare. In the absence of a healty sandwich and water, I had to make do with a 1/2 bottle of cheap Japanese whisky and a few packs of chocolate. Nothing like getting your supplies in...

By this time it was becoming obvious that walking was the only option. The traffic was getting heavier and heavier, any buses that did eventually pull up to bus-stops were already jammed, the taxi ranks all had long, long lines and all the taxis that crawled by were already taken. Head-down, arse-up.
A camaraderie was also developing among the walkers. Questions about where you'd come from and where you were going, plus of course the obvious, "where were you when it hit?" I walked a fair stretch of the way with a woman in her late 60s who was yomping away with a let's get this done attitude. No self-pity, no complaints, just something that had to be done. Everyone was like that.

It didn't seem unusual to stop at the pedestrian crossings for the green man but that's probably the best way to describe how orderly it was. Everyone had seen or heard about the tsunami footage so a long walk home on a dry and not so cold night wasn't really so bad was it?

I passed a bicycle shop that looked like Cardiff Skateboard Centre at the height of the skateboard craze in the 70s. (Not a good refernce for some I know, sorry) People were jammed in there three-deep at the counter not caring about color or other details, just waving cash and wanting any sort of bike to get them home quicker. I read today that one shop in Aoyama who normally only sold about 2-3 bikes on a normal mid-week day sold over 100 last Friday.

I finally got home after about four or five hours, not sure exactly what time I started, but it was about 11 miles in all. I waved off my fellow walkers who had further to go, some to Hiyoshi another 30 mins or so South, but some to Yokohama which must have been another two hours. 

I was glad to see power back on at home but since the elevators still weren't working it had to be the stairs back up to the 51st floor. Great... don't complain... think of Sendai! The fire escape stairs aren't all painted and tarted up like the rest of the building and a lot of debris had been shaken loose from the ceilings above. All cosmetic damage though.

On about the 10th floor I met a guy who also lives on my floor. He was about 70 and his forehead was sweating a fair bit. I decided to walk with him the rest of the way, although didn't really think I could carry him far if anything happened to him. It was good to have a companion for the final leg of the journey as well as a good excuse to take frequent breaks. I think he helped me as much as I helped him.

Back at home, Miki was fine but the relief was palpable. We slept in the spare room that night as glass was all over the place in the bedroom from the smashed mirror. It was great to be home though but the war-zone scenes on TV made me realise how lucky Tokyo had been.

The next day, none of the fresh food in the supermarket next door was for sale. It had all been ruined by the power outages the night before and staff were working their way through throwing it all out. Plenty of canned food and veggies, for now, but no fresh stuff.
They'd started to make some new fresh stuff but as soon as it was put out on display it was snapped up.  Today (Sunday) there's some more fresh food on the shelves but anything easy to keep and eat without much cooking like boil-in-the-bag curry, and rice-packs have all disappeared from the shelves. My Docomo mobile service is still out but the AU service mobiles seem to be OK. Still unpredictable.

We spent yesterday packing emergency bags and trying to tremor-proof the house: taking pictures down, rearranging furniture and kitchen stuff. Got my Gath hat out ready and the cycling helment for Miki.

They say that there's a danger of another big one any time within a month. It won't be as high as 8.9 but it will be closer and further South, which means near Tokyo. There have been more than 150 aftershocks already. Friday's Big One was just off the prefecture of Miyagi. Next prefecture down is Fukushima where the nuclear reactors are going nuts, then Ibaraki, then Chiba, then Tokyo. My mobile bleeps with an earthquake warning each time and the latest was in Ibaraki so they do seem to be working their way down to Tokyo.

Last summer I was surfing up in Fukushima about 3 kms away from the Fukushima 1 nuclear reactor at a place called Kumogawa, I stayed overnight at Tomioka right next to Fukushima 2. Hard to believe what they're going through with 15 people being reported as being dangerously exposed to raqdiation and the evacuation of everyone within a 20km radius.

Finally the Japanese news is talking more about the issue but no real answer from Tecpo yet, the power company that run the place. The advice is dodgy too. Yesterday they were recommending that people near exposed areas wear those facemasks that surgeons wear, the ones people wear here when they have a cold. Come on man! Today, they've added that in addition to the mask, you should also remove clothes and take a shower as soon as possible after.
From my balcony you can just about see the bay off Yokohama to the South and the Tamagawa river is a few miles off to the North and there's not a whole lot of mountains between. The whole expanse is basically the title photo on this blog. The thought of a massive tsunami hitting Yokohama doesn't bear thinking about. Enough for now anyway, I'm starting to sound like the scaremongers on CNN.

The office is supposed to be open tomorrow and since the trains are running we'll probably all go in. That's 17 hours away though, anything can happen in that time. My thoughts are with everyone in Japan directly affected by this nightmare. There are thousands of them.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Tokyo Design Comp

HIT: The Parachute Camera. Nice simple idea, but you can't buy this prototype yet. Need some sticky-tape and a pair of Val's own knickers.


MISS: Hopefully you can't buy this four-leaf-clover finder either. It's supposed to work similar to cameras with that face-finder and auto-shutter feature when people smile. Don't want to see kids standing in a field impatiently scanning with their iPhones then moaning when they can't. 

Reminds me of when microwaves were first introduced. I think it was Rita Rudner who had a skit about how her husband was really impatient: "He's the kind of guy who'll stand in front of a microwave and shout, Come on, I haven't got all day!"

Imagine that.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Feb 19th 2012

During the summer you don't get to see Mt Fuji very often, just too hazy. Spring and Autumn can be hit-and-miss but Winter is a different story. It can still hide away behind the clouds for days at a time, but for weeks on end it's there to help you out of bed in the morning and give you a reason to charge your glass at night.

After taking a bunch of pics on Jan 9th when Fuji-san wasn't even in the same frame, the sunset started moving pretty quickly to the North and getting much closer to dropping right into the crater, like some kind of solar-pinball jackpot. In February it really started picking up the pace and I took this one on Sunday Feb 13.













It looked like the next weekend was gonna be the direct hit but it was cloudy from Friday morning and everything disappeared behind rain and mist and cloud all weekend. The next half-chance I got was 13 days after the first one on Feb 26th.
Seems I'll have to wait till Sunday Feb 19th 2012 for the High Score.





...although this qualifies as a Match, make mine a double barman.