Friday, 18 March 2011

Why Play Russian Roulette to Boil Water? This is Technological Insanity!

I guess I first saw this video in April or May last year within the Japanese version of :Democracy Now!, and found it in YouTube later. I wonder if most of my friends in North America still do not yet realize what people like Ralf Nader, et al are clearly saying here. I wonder how many things we lost because of one nuclear plant out of 54, and they are holding more or less the similar risks.

We really felt us completely idiot to learn that "nuclear" technology is used for nothing more than boiling water to inefficiently create energy (more primitive than James Watt technology if for the same purpose).

For those who can't spare less than 10 minutes, I quote the transcript from the English version.

 "Why Are We Playing Russian Roulette With the American People?": Longtime Nuclear Critic Ralph Nader Advocates Phasing Out Nuclear Power Industry

Former presidential candidate and longtime consumer advocate and nuclear critic Ralph Nader strongly advocates phasing out nuclear power in the United States by calling for public hearings on the status of every single nuclear power plant. "What we’re seeing here is 110 or so operating nuclear plants in the United States, many of them aging, many of them infected with corrosion, faulty pipes, leaky pumps and combustible materials... Why are we playing Russian roulette with the American people for nuclear plants whose principal objective is simply to boil water and produce steam? ... This is institutional insanity, and I urge the people in this country to wake up before they experience what is now going on in northern Japan." [includes rush transcript]
Filed under  Japan, Environment, Japan Disaster
Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate. His latest book is Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!


JUAN GONZALEZ: We’re discussing the continuing nuclear crisis in Japan, and we’re joined by Philip White from the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo, Dr. Ira Helfand from Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Ralph Nader joins us from Washington, longtime consumer advocate, corporate critic and former presidential candidate. His latest book is Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us!
Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ralph.

RALPH NADER: Thank you, Juan.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Your assessment not only what’s happening in Japan, but what the impact will be here in the United States, and especially with the Obama administration and Congress trying to move forward with a renaissance of development of nuclear plants here in the United States?

RALPH NADER: The Japanese disaster has ended whatever nuclear renaissance is being considered here in the United States. The problem is that people have got to get more involved, because the government and the industry will defend nuclear power in the United States to the last mutation. They are representing a closed, monetized mind that does not have options for revision, which true science should provide for. Secretary Chu, Energy Secretary, has refused for two years to meet with the leading critics of nuclear power, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, Friends of the Earth and other groups. He has met with nuclear business interests regularly, and he has written articles touting nuclear power.

What we’re seeing here is 110 or so operating nuclear plants in the United States, many of them aging, many of them infected with corrosion, faulty pipes, leaky pumps and combustible materials. These have been documented by data from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission assembled by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Indian Point, for example, is a plant that presents undue risks, in the opinion of the Union of Concerned Scientists, to millions of people in the New York City greater area. And it is unevacuable if there’s an accident. You’re never going to evacuate a population of millions of people, whether it’s around San Onofre or Diablo Canyon in Southern California or Indian Point or Davis-Besse near Toledo and Detroit or any of the other endangered nuclear plants.

Why are we playing Russian roulette with the American people for nuclear plants whose principal objective is simply to boil water and produce steam? This is technological insanity. It presents national security problems, for every nuclear plant is a prime target. It affects our civil liberties. It endangers our workers. It is an industry that cannot be financed by Wall Street because it’s too risky. Wall Street demands 100 percent taxpayer guarantees for any nuclear plant.

So I suggest that people listening and watching this program to pick up the phone and dial the White House comment number, which is (202) 456-1111, (202) 456-1111, and demand the following: that there be public hearings in every area where there’s a nuclear plant, so the people can see for themselves what the hazards are, what the risks are, how farcical the evacuation plans are, how costly nuclear power is, and how it can be replaced by energy efficiency, by solar energy, different kinds of solar energy, by cogeneration, as Amory Lovins and many others, Peter Bradford, have pointed out.

We must no longer license any new nuclear plants. We should shut down the ones like Indian Point. How many people know that Hillary Clinton, as senator, and Andrew Cuomo, as attorney general, demanded that Indian Point be shut down? That doesn’t matter to the monetized minds in Washington, D.C. We also should prepare a plan where, apart from the aging plants, which should be shut down, and apart from the earthquake-risk plants — should be shut down — for the phase-out of the entire industry. We’re going to be left with radioactive waste for hundreds of thousands of years, for which there is no permanent repository. This is institutional insanity, and I urge the people in this country to wake up before they experience what is now going on in northern Japan: uninhabitable territory, thousands dead, hundreds of thousands at risk of cancer, enormous economic loss. And for what?

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Ira Helfand, this statement by President Obama, of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, that they’re going to do a comprehensive review of the safety of U.S. nuclear plants, do you have much expectation for that review?

IRA HELFAND: I don’t, unfortunately. I’m most troubled by — in this regard, by President Obama’s rush to defend nuclear power last Sunday, even as this crisis was just beginning to unfold. I think the mindset is strongly in support of nuclear power within the administration. And obviously the Nuclear Regulatory Commission has functioned primarily as a cheerleader for the industry since its inception, which is really, you know, a tragic situation.

But I would agree exactly with what Ralph Nader just said. What we need to do instead is to have a real review of our energy policy here and to figure out how we can move as quickly as we possibly can away from nuclear, and away coal, for that matter, which also has huge health risks associated with it, and to seriously begin to build a green energy system based on energy efficiency, conservation and the development of renewable sources of power generation like wind and solar. This is an urgent national security task for the United States, and it’s something we have been ignoring and failing to address for decades at this point. The events in Japan have clearly shown that nuclear power is not reliable and contrary to the claims of the industry and the administration, and we need to move away from it.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Philip White, your group, Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center, have been especially involved in efforts to prevent the development of a new plant in South Texas that the Japanese are directly involved in. Could you talk about that?

PHILIP WHITE: The Japanese government has been falling over backwards to support Toshiba, in particular, which made a very, very bad investment when it paid double what Westinghouse was worth to buy that company, and Toshiba is one of the investors in the proposed South Texas project, along with this very — would the Americans like this Tokyo Electric Power Company to come over and help them with their energy plants and advise them? This is the very Tokyo Electric Power Company which is now responsible for this reactor here.

Anyway, sort of irony aside, just recently, the Japan Bank [for] International Cooperation listed on its website that it was considering providing finance for this project. We believe that it would be in the order of four billion U.S. dollars, and that would be about one-third of the total capital worth of JBIC. So it would be — JBIC being Japan Bank for International Cooperation. So it would be an absolutely unprecedented loan for JBIC. And we have been lobbying, along with United States groups, as well as people from around the world, against the — on the grounds of the financial risk. I mean, we, of course, are very concerned about all these other risks, but somehow or other it always seems to fall on a deaf ear. We thought maybe the financial risk would resonate. And it has resonated with many people, even within the bureaucracy here. But there’s this incredibly powerful organization called the Ministry for Economy, Trade and Industry here, METI, which really has had a stranglehold on energy policy and nuclear policy for many years in Japan, and shifting them is a very, very difficult process. So, I think this has basically blown that away.

But actually, something really quite remarkable has begun to happen, something I never thought I would see. Yesterday, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party in Japan, the more or less permanent government until a few years ago, 'til a couple of years ago, came out and said that it would be very difficult to maintain the nuclear policy as it currently exists. Fairly noncommittal words, you might say, but that in itself was an amazing statement. And then, the following day, the chief cabinet secretary in the current government, the Democratic Party of Japan, said that this was absolutely right. It was completely obvious that it would be difficult to maintain this policy now. That, in itself, to get that from both sides of the political spectrum, is extraordinary. But without public pressure, we won't make that to actually come through, I don’t think.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Well, Philip White, I want to thank you, from the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo, Dr. Ira Helfand from Physicians for Social Responsibility, and Ralph Nader, longtime consumer advocate. Ralph will be returning in another segment later on in the show to talk about his involvement in protests against the anniversary of the Iraq invasion. Thank you all for joining us.

Since there are so many people in Japan who believe other countries are better and the US might help us out, I had to show this video to make them understand that the nuclear power industry is connected with the same greed globally, and in fact, the "boss" is rather in the US.

Over months, especially the cease-fire season in mid summer, we viewed so many old and new videos to prove the cruelty of the US government and the guys in the Japanese army who sold their people for human experiments, which not yet most of the Japanese do not even realize. 

Monday, 14 March 2011

Leaging Tokyo for Kobe without knowing what was going on in Fukushima Daiichi Reactor #3

Cindy was killing time to visit Ueno and Ginza while I was still asleep - not just for Twitter, I was tired of checking travelling options.  Since it turned out that Cindy forgot to buy Japan Rail Pass in Singapore, and I didn't think buses (coaches) were good idea, I thought of buying seasonal coupon tickets called "Seishun Juhachi (i.e.18) Kippu".  However, it requires several transits taking some 10 hours of the route which Shinkansen, the bullet train would take only three hours, though the cost was about 15-20% (or 80-85% saving).

Because the tuner of FTTH line for the TV was still broken, I couldn't see any news other than Japanese channels.  And probably, I hardly switched on the TV, as I don't even remember the TV - all the free domestic channels kept broadcasting the chaos in Tokyo for the malicious rolling blackouts to deliberately trouble passengers of the subway and other private railroads.

I didn't know what was going on after 11am of this day.  Anyway, we left my flat around 3pm to get the train coupon tickets in Monzen-Nakacho, but for some reasons, we decided to make the final decision after arriving at Tokyo Station, which turned out to be good.  Local trains up to Atami were closed due to "blackout" with no forecast of resuming.

So, we decided to buy Shinkansen tickets and left Tokyo about 16 minutes before 4pm to get to Kobe early enough to have dinner my mother cooked right in time.

Cindy stayed with us for two nights and then continued travelling to Kyushu with the coupon + night buses.  She posted the final piece of the 5-series coupon and the Suica prepaid card from Narita.  The stamps with place names and dates, I learned she spent the final three nights in the night buses, spending just half day in Tokyo and depart from Narita in the 20th afternoon.

I had not decided yet how long to stay with my parents.  I wanted to go back to Tokyo as early as possible, but at the same time, I was tired and more scared of non-stop earthquakes.  In any event, I could do my job with my mother's pc as long as the Internet was available.

I eventually left Kobe back to Tokyo on 24th.

Till later, I didn't know how lucky I was for not being able to stay in Tokyo during these days.


Sunday, 13 March 2011

Cindy arrived in Monzen-Nakacho via Narita

Cindy finally arrived in Narita late afternoon on 13th, and we got together at Monzen Nakacho.  Since my flat was still a big mess, and dangerous (kept shaking), we booked her into Tokyu Stay Monzen Nakacho near the station.

The Japanese food lover was desperate for raw fish, but many shops and restaurants were closed partly because of cooperation for energy savings.  It is also because Sushi bars couldn't get good materials at Tsukiji.

Then, I found Watami open despite though the neon sign of the building was dark and the elevator was suspended.  Cindy (with the whole luggage on her back) endured the climbing up to 7th floor by stairs, and the foods and drinks were good enough not to regret.  I still didn't know how we would be evaluating Watami a year later, and really appreciated the quality of food and reasonable prices.

After the dinner, we went to the hotel, and I took a shower in the bathroom of Cindy's room.  It had been cold for a couple of days, and I was out of gas home.  So, I was extremely thankful for getting hot water.

The TV kept showing Tsunami images and earthquake forecast, but I found it irritating that most of the information was only in Japanese whereas many hotels including Tokyu Stay Monzen-Nakacho also had non-Japanese speaking guests. (Later, I heard Cindy found CNN with the signs in the remo, etc. - the international "language" which we Japanese do not recognize.)

On my way back to my flat some three minutes away from the hotel, as I crossed the river, I saw a red heavy-looking moon over the water.

During the dinner, Cindy told me how much trouble she had to tackle before leaving Singapore.  First of all, she didn't want to take any off in March as she was extremely busy, but her boss, who had not given enough days off in December, had to force her to take the annual leave by the end  of the month.

Cindy was working till the last minute in the office, and because of calculation errors, she was late to arrive at Changi Airport.  While almost missing the flight, one of the airline staff found her and let her get onboard.  Cindy was saying she'd thought of cancelling the trip many times in these hours.

I said, "It's like your ancestors were desperate to stop you so that you wouldn't be able to get to Japan.  You were planning to go to Tohoku region at the beginning."

I didn't realize yet that her sudden visit was going to save my life too in a way, and my ancestors might have joined bringing Cindy to Tokyo before the cherry blossom season.

Cindy felt no fear from the earthquake (I felt at least reasonably big shaking twice that night), but because of the complication from the "Planned Blackout" (later turned out to be TEPCO's abuse to threaten consumers for shortage of nuke powers), she decided to go to the west without procrastinating around Tokyo.

Though I had still been thinking of taking her to Nikko where Carmen and I enjoyed a good antique kimono shop (Cindy is another big kimono fan), I decided to travel with Cindy to Kobe to stay with my parents next day, namely 14th.


Saturday, 12 March 2011

Reactor #1 Explodes in Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

[backdated post written in April 2012 out of my digital logs]

On Twitter, I was retweeting whatever looked worthwhile even if I didn't understand the situation well enough.  One of such RT's had a link to BBC with a comment "Good, it's a video.  Now I see what happened.  NHK showed only two pictures before and after the explosion."

I was still more worried about Tsunami, and what this tweet meant to myself, let alone those who lived near the power plant in Fukushima.

(Even at the time of Reactor #3's explosion, all our media kept using this image and video repeatedly, except Nippon TV just for twice - live and recorded - till forced to switch to this #1 images later that day, i.e., 14th.  Very few Japanese knew about the true picture of the MOX #3 explosion.)

And in the afternoon, about 26 hours after Tsunami hit Tohoku, things like this was going on in Tomioka Town very near Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

Note that this is about the hydrogen explosion of Reactor #1, even before the worse one (Reactor #3 on 3/14).  Also, this part of the stories has not been reported by any major Japanese media due to full of coverups, and the most Japanese are left unaware of the seriousness of the Fukushima disaster - even today, as of April 2012.)

I know it is not only in Japan.  Most people around the world focus so much on the Tsunami, and cannot realize the magnitude of eternal effects of radiation still emitted from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi.  The air around the Globe - not just the northern hemisphere - is contaminated, the Pacific Ocean is contaminated to Hawaii or the West Coast of the US, and the emission of radioactive gas and water has never stopped yet.

That said, on this day, I had no knowledge about the world nuclear history in the past some 70 years.  Everybody will have to learn sooner or later that we are only lucky to be still alive today.

This was only the beginning of the beginning of everything that changed the lives of almost all of us living in Japan (either being aware or not), and caused extra 14,000 deaths (statistically speaking) in North America.

Emails exchanges with Cindy taken to Seoul

[backdated post written in April 2012 out of my digital logs]

I sent my email early in the morning and noticed Cindy's reply a few hours later.  I also noticed later that she had attempted to reach me by phone with all the numbers I gave (IP landphone, mobile, and a Skype Call number which I used to own).  Our email exchanges continued a lot after it was clear that Cindy had to stay another night in Seoul.  We didn't even know which Japanese Airport her flight would get to.

12-03-2012 06:25
Hi Cindy,

Hope you are okay.

I'm going to bed now - the aftershock was so long and many of us after all stuck to Twitter, etc.  Even Niigata and Nagano experienced Level 6 shaking.

I'm gonna clean my room and try to join you (I'm still thinking of Monday travelling).

Good night.  Enjoy your day in Nagoya.  It's worth spending your time too.
Keep my home phone number.

If any more disaster occurs, and the landline is cut off, my Skype number is 050-XXXX-XXXX. 

12-03-2012 10:17
Hi Chiho,

So glad you are ok. Am actually in South Korea now. The plane got
diverted to Nagoya but they didn't let anyone off so we ended p in
Seoul's airport Incheon. United put us up in a hotel and will let us
know when we get to the airport again at noon what's going on.

Was waching the news and things look so chaotic even in Tokyo. I'm
just wondering if it is convenient to come to Japan at this time with
all the devastation. Just let me know otherwise ok.

I'll go look for a phone now as my phone doesn't seem to work.

ok talk to you soon :)


12-03-2012 12:56
Hi Cindy,

If you arrive at any Kansai airport, my mother is ready to have you stay (she dashed to clean up). 

In that case, I will give a direction from the nearest JR station.

If near Fukuoka, Kyushu, my twitter friend (used to be a hotel clerk) can give you lodging information.  She keeps Twitter on (works for a Yakitori shop from lunch time till late at night). 

I will take a nap again, but feel free to call (Sorry, I notice Skype call only when sitting at the pc).

Take care.

PS  Sorry you called so many times in all the numbers.  I will take a nap now (was awake after all for replying, etc.) but keep the mobile near (instead of the bag!).  If you ever use Skype (not sure if you had acc), calling 050 is the unusually expensive unlike calling from normal landphone which treats 050 #s as friends.

12-03-2012 16:33

Hi Chiho,
Please thank your mom for making so much effort. Im actually still stuck in Seoul, will head out to look for food and a lookaround after this.
Seems like fllights to Tokyo Narita will resume tomorrow and I have a flight at noon, should get in about 2pm.Was thinking of making my way straight to Kyoto so maybe I will come by Mozen Nakachio to drop off your present from Cathy and pineapple tarts and head off...will you be joining me? Actually was thinking of asking you to come along as I don't think there is much difference in price for one or two persons right where accomodations are concerned. Let me know....
Ok am heading out to get some grub and have a short look around the city.
P.S. sorry I didn't manage to get sambal chilli in time but will send some over once I get back. 

12-03-2012 17:27
Hi Cindy,

Hope you enjoy Seoul - many Japanese women travel there for foods and beauty :).  Esp. since the Yon-sama boom.

So, you got JR Pass?  If so, you don't have to come to Monzen-Nakacho but can go straight to Tokyo Station by JR instead of Keisei Line.  If your luggage is as small as usual, there's a JR station called Ecchujima (only for local stops) between Maihama (for Disney Land) and Tokyo Station, which is 10min from my flat.

But because the land is still moving, if you head for the west, the early the better.  I still wonder how to catch up.   Unless you have a big plan there, you can stay in Kyoto.

I will think of joining you on Sunday instead of later... there are a few things to clear what to do here (the mess in the room with remaining danger & fresh prowns alive delivered suddenly yesterday :( :( :(... scared...) and what I can do in Kobe (tax return due on 16th - wondering if I really have to keep the deadline this time).

The other things are, if I go home, people I want to see are available only on Wed and Thu (eve).

But I think both you and I should get back to Tokyo by Friday (given it'll be already safer) or Saturday if you fly from Narita on 20th (Mon).

It's getting warmer, but still cold here.  Without gas, I'm thinking of going to the public bath nearby now... and get some more disposable heaters.   Some electric stations seem to have been hit, and energy supply by Tokyo Electric will be reduced tonight.

Will think of my schedule shift.

Btw, I just got a call from my parents.  Not much hassle other than making a space for our sleep.  They are ready if we (or even you alone) stay tomorrow night.

Bye for now.


12-03-2012 17:27
Why don't you come with me and get away from the danger zone. I will be in Tokyo Sunday which is tomorrow. I will stop over at Monzen Nakachio and drop off Cathy's present as it is quite heavy, about one third the weight of my bag, you are right, my bag  is still quite small which helps with all the moving around. Do you need help with paying for the tax? How much would that be? Anyway, we will plan once I get there.
OK see you then, am finally coming to Japan after all, can't believe it after all that's happened.

We communicated like chat (not sure why we didn't use Skype this time).

12-03-2012 22:28
Anyways, I have been already preparing to join you no matter what.  I was going to go home this month anyway.  

Depending on the time of your arrival, it'll be better I carry Cathy's present (my  bag will be smaller than yours) and have it in Kobe or Kyoto.

If you give me your flight number once fixed, I can tell which is the better option for you (e.g., if it's late afternoon, I should be definitely ready, and maybe you should save every minute to get to JR Tokyo Station by Narita Express).  We can find e.o. either at Tokyo Station or anywhere in Kansai area.

Since you have the JR pass, you can visit Kyoto any time as excursion from my parents' place.  We can go straight there and take a rest first.  They are ready to have us any time. 

The construction of this building seems quite good compared to some others (steel wires in the wall in addition to steel pillars).  But only my flat out of the whole building seems to fail to get gas back.  I went to the public bath, which was on weekly holiday, and ended up taking a how nice shower at Jun's place.

See you tomorrow wherever it will be :)


12-03-2012 22:33
Oh good, glad to hear you are coming along. My flight UA890 is suppose to arrive at 14:25 Terminal 1 Narita if all goes well. ok will take the Narita Express ;))) I haven't bought any of my tickets yet, which JR pass should I be getting? I can buy it from the airport right?

12-03-2012 22:59
Wow... I thought you already got the JR Pass in Singapore...  At least in the past, it was available only outside Japan (like Europass was), and we know very little about it.  I'm checking time tables on the web now.  You might be quicker to do it (JR Pass part for foreigners) unless you are too tired.

Other than JR Pass, people get tickets at the stations in the basement of Narita.  I think they gradually became accommodating for credit card users as well - you might be able to handle everything just with machines instead of going into the counter.

Make sure you buy the ticket just for two-way riding (乗車券 jousha-ken) and for Super Express (特急券 tockyu-ken).  The return (riding) tickets should be sold with a long-distant discount (at least 10%) for the return part to expire in one week or longer.

I try to pick you up in Tokyo Station.  We'll have to go up like climbing by 8 floors of one building to get to Shinkansen Platform :).

In any event, our arrival in Kansai is going to be too late to enjoy Kyoto.  Let's take a rest in Kobe tomorrow night.



Our communications went on, but anyway, Cindy was arriving in Monzen-Nakacho, Tokyo next day.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Email exchanges with Cindy "missing" on 3.11

[backdated post written in April 2012 out of my digital logs]

Here's part of communications with Cindy who was supposed to be at my place in Monzen-Nakacho, Tokyo before dark.  First, I sent a message to two of her email accounts, and Cindy responded from Nagoya instead of Tokyo Narita Airport.  We haven't decided yet when to head for Kobe as Cindy was going to meet my parents this time.

11-03-2011 17:07
In case you can't reach me by phone but your mail accounts, I'm sending this now.  

The earthquake created a really big mess in my flat.  Especially for safety reasons, I cannot let you stay here. 

Hotels should be better with tighter security obligations.  I want you nearby, but hotels near Narita could be safer since they are further than the coastal areas.

Hope we can get together anyway :).

Take care.


11-03-2011 18:25
Hi Chiho,

Im so glad to hear from you and that you are ok. I actually stuck at
Nagoya airport still in the plane and this japanese lady has kindly
lent me her note book to type this email.

I think I will stay here and make my way to Osaka Kyoto if we can meet
there as I hear Tokyo is totally chaotic and Narita is closed for
several days.

Would you come?

Will call you ass soon as I get a phone as I realised my cell phone doesnt work.

chat with you soon.
Hope you are safe, heard a second earthquake hit at 6.

talk to you soon,

11-03-2011 19:12
Hi Cindy,

Good you are okay.  (Sorry, it took me too long to notice.)

My place is like this [link to TwitPic of the day] .

Hope you are in the new airport called Centria or something which is itself sort of a popular town if not a resort :).

I have to tidy up my room tomorrow.  O, btw, call me at 050-XXXX-XXXX.
Since my land phone is not NTT's there has been no problem in connection with my family
while most others cannot call e.o.  

I can then call you back from either the IP phone or Skype (cheaper than your calling from hotel's or public phone).

My family think we are arriving in Kobe early next week. I was thinking of Monday...

Anyway, let's talk on the phone.  Give me your hotel name.

JR stopped operation in Kanto area today, and we are not sure how things will go.  

Office workers are told not to try to go home, but keep warm in a safe place like remaining in the office. (It's pretty cold here.)

Talk to you soon.


Cindy couldn't contact me till next morning.  I stayed awake watching TV and playing with Twitter in the flat that kept shaking.  Anything hung on the wall or from the ceiling kept trembling.  Since I kept water in the bathtub for toilet, etc. just in case of water outage, the surface kept moging even when I don't feel it much myself.


Cindy could not arrive in Narita due to earthquake

[backdated post written in April 2012 out of my digital logs]

I was vacuuming the floor under my pc desk when the earthquake hit Japan at about a quarter to 3pm on 11 March 2011.  My friend Cindy from Singapore was supposed to arrive in Narita at 3:25pm.  My tiny flat was still full of mess, and I was hurrying up to make it clean enough to have Cindy sleep in my bed.

Then the horrifying shaking reached my place.  My flat is on the 8th floor (7th if by the UK standard) out of 9 floors, which meant the structure was weak in the SRC building as the loosened regulation.  (During the 1.17 Kobe Earthquake, 7th-floor spaces were crashed without enduring the weight of the upper floors).

I had no idea what to protect first or where was the safest in the room, but decided to hold two tall steel bookshelves backing each other in front of and behind thin-glass sliding doors with wooden grids so that they could work as pillars if anything would fall from the upper floor.   (Normally the warning goes like "Keep from any heavy furniture and stay under a table to protect yourself", but I noticed in most of the small flats mainly for "bachelors", most furniture is not heavy enough to kill us, and tables are often too low or small to hide beneath them.)

The shaking was so intense and lasted long as I have never experienced even at the time of 1.17 Kobe Earthquake in 1995.  While the bookshelves kept moving making a V-shape from where I gripped, most books and things fell on the floor including my phone-fax machine.  The thin flat TV near the window also fell, and the printer on the top shelf of the pc desk fell on the bed.  

The kitchen and the bathroom were also in a complete mess.  The microwave fell on my dear antique English table then onto the floor.  The fridge was walking off the wall.  I had no idea of the magnitude of the earthquake, but briefly thought my life might end today.  My flat was exceptionally weak against east-west trembling unlike most other buildings.

After the quake calmed down in five minutes or so, I checked the land phone and TV to learn they were okay except that the tuner of the WiFi TV was broken, and I lost access to BBC and CNN.  I didn't know what this loss of the access to overseas media would mean yet.

I phoned my parents and told my father what was going on.  My landphone, btw, was not NTT, but FTTH IP Phone, starting with the 050 number instead of Tokyo's 03.  When many people couldn't use the phone (most by mobile), I had no problem.

Anyway, I thought Cindy's arrival was going to be very late if the flight will still land in Narita.  Cindy on the other hand was initially taken away to Nagoya Airport, and sent me a brief message at 18:25 borrowing some other passenger's notebook pc, saying she will keep me posted, but I haven't heard from her again this day.

Though I knew Tsunami hit the Tohoku region, because the information was limited, I stuck to Twitter, trying to help people in the central Tokyo who lost all the public transport and had to either stay or walk back home throughout the night.

Though the gas stopped temporarily (and the bulb couldn't be opened as I didn't remember the procedure whereas Tokyo Gas was closed for the weekend), I was lucky enough not to lose any other utility; electricity, water, the Internet access.

On Twitter, I was mainly distributing information to the commuters in the central Tokyo who had to walk home because almost all the public transportation was suspended due to the earthquake.

I still didn't know the whole picture of the 311 disaster yet, and had no idea how Fukushima Daiichi was going to affect my life.

The Japanese Twitter log is here.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Cindy wanting to head "NORTH" this time!!

[backdated post written in April 2012 out of my digital logs]
Everything began here when it comes to my escape from the 3/15 Tokyo Fallout (without knowing).

Though not written clearly, Cindy was planning to head for Tohoku at first.

08-Mar-2011 10:09
Hi Chiho,

Would love to see the cherry blossoms unfortunately my work schedule
doesn't allow me to be there during the cherry blossom time, and I got
a free ticket from going to Canada.... guess I could chase it down
south but this trip... was thinking of heading north by bus... to see
how far I can go. [added by ch: Later, this "north" turned out to be Tohoku region!!!]

Haven't planned anything though but I do have a few ideas. Hope you
are able to keep Friday free so that you could take me to that cheap
sashimi joint where a big plate of sashimi costs USD20-30. And would
like to go to the Fish Market on Sat morning... missed that the last
two occasions I was there.

After that, I would like to head out from Tokyo ;))) would love to
visit your mom and say hello to the one who has been making those
wonderful fish ;))) but don't want to inconvenience her.

My doctor actually recommended Gifu, Nagoya and Kamakura but think
these are places in the south right?

Anyways, so looking forward to my trip and seeing you again :)))
By the way, could you please give me directions to Monzhen Nakachio
from the airport again... sorry I keep forgetting.
Should arrive about 5pm I guess ;)))
see you soon!


08-Mar-2011 18:45
Hi Cindy,

Okay, understood you have to miss the season this time :).

Give me your flight details.  Now we have to make sure which airport you'll be using,
and how much time you have here.

You are talking about "buses"... does that mean you can't get a JR Pass?? 
Using several buses could be even more costly.

I don't understand what your "south" and "north" mean (coz the archipelago runs from west to east!).

If precisely going to North, it's Nikko where Carmen and I found the antique kimono shop.  
It takes about 3hours by train (some 3000yen two ways).

Gifu, Nagoya, and Kamakura are all between my hometown and Tokyo.

Kamakura is where Eugene's family enjoyed as a one-day trip from here.

Gifu is where Carmen wanted to enjoy more, but had to give up (due to sickness of her hus) here's their gorgeous lodging place ->
It's up north from either Nagoya or Osaka.  (If with JR Pass, it's also one-day trip area.)

Nagoya is between Tokyo and Osaka (the main stop if by Shinkansen)
it's Toyota's base and has Nagoya Castle, an interesting new airport, etc.
If you have a JR ticket (even if not with the super express extra), you can get off and back on
as often as possible during the same day if the direction is consistent between the departing station and the arriving station area.

(That said, it takes some 10 hours from Tokyo to Kobe :) by local trains.... though prices are almost the same as buses.  Buses would take longer but that is why usually only night coaches are available for long distances.

When I use Shinkansen, I usually buy a 10% discount return ticket. 

The greatest problem to me now is, I really have to try hard to sleep in the night and wake up in the morning!  (I have two more days to practice... to correct this terrible 12h-lagged unusual life... ).  When Tsukiji is likely too hard for me (I hope not), I can still give you directions as both Carmen and David easily found their ways.   There are more foreign visitors, and Carmen got good suggestion for her breakfast from one of such tourists.

Have fun with Cathy.  Send my best regards.
Waiting for your flight details (both ways) and answer about JR Pass.


08-Mar-2011 18:56
About the airport question, now Haneda Airport is open for major overseas airlines (from major airports including Changi and Toronto).

If you still use Narita, ignore JR entrance and go to Keisei Narita Station Airport.
Change at Katsutadai Station (to take a train at Toyo Katsutadai Station)

Here's the simulation:

Air line available:03/01/2011 To 04/30/2011
Jorudan co.,Ltd
Keisei-Narita To Monzennakacho Departure 7:10am Mar/11/2011
No.1 FastEasyAkeirono2 Low priceAkeirono3 EasyAkeirono4
On board for 68 minutes (Traveling for 76 minutes)
One-way fare:1,200 yen Distance:54.1 km

Train Info.Departs
Keisei-NaritaMap Hotel
Private RailroadKeisei Line
Rapid-Limited Express
Private RailroadToyokosoku
Commuter Rapid
SubwayTokyo-Metro Tozai Line
Commuter Rapid
MonzennakachoMap Hotel