March 17th 2011

Here I am again with another update. It’s a sunny, windy day in Tokyo, and the plum blossom outside my window is beautiful. Unfortunately, for people with an allergy to Japanese cedar are suffering a lot this year, especially on a day like this. If you’ve seen pictures of people wearing masks in Tokyo, please remember that the hayfever has probably got them (but some of course may be taking precautions against radiation).

At school, the students have been told not to come to school until April 6th. Their spring vacation has started early but teachers and other staff are still at work. Today we had a lunch for the teachers who are leaving (retiring on moving to another job) and then I came home. We have 2 more days and then we can have a break too. At school the mood is quiet but whenever anyone mentions that they have friends or relatives in one of the affected areas everyone looks sombre and concerned.

Yesterday afternoon I went into Shibuya, right in the centre of Tokyo. All the train lines I used were running smoothly but not all across the city and into Chiba and Yokohama, Kawasaki etc. are. Shibuya was much quieter than usual. Everyone is calm, and the only emotional people I saw were 2 groups of university students on either side of Shibuya crossing collecting money for the victims of the earthquake and tsunami. They were hoarse from calling out to passers-by and  some of them were crying. Yesterday evening, after I got home, we had another aftershock, this time a 5.3. The earthquakes the 2 days before had been over 6, so that wasn’t so bad.

The shortages in the shops continues, and the government has asked people not to hoard food (I told you we were hamsters). On my way home I was happy to find dried kombu (kelp) back in the convenience store. I also bought a multi-mineral supplement. Both contain iodine which protect the thyroid in the event of radiation being in the air around us.

I must say at this point that last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, and I always give up things for Lent. I have been very busy this term and got a lot of migraines, so had already given up wheat and dairy products. The shortages are not affecting me as much as they would have done! Also, my plan for the spring vacation was to relax at home, so the idea of not doing much while we wait to see how the situation develops is not house arrest for me.

There is something of an exodus from Tokyo among the foreign community here. The international schools started their spring vacation early and a lot of families left. I think the schools try to foster a strong sense of community spirit and so it is understandable that once people started leaving a lot of people followed. Other people have left Tokyo and have gone to Osaka or further west. Some have told me that they did not want to leave, but the sometimes excessively alarming media reports alarmed their relatives so much that they had to leave to calm them down. I am not leaving, but I want to assure you that I am thinking sensibly about it!  Of course, I am watching the news and checking responsible websites, but along with other good friends I have decided it’s not necessary at this time.

I have developed a new hobby / form of stress relief, and that is complaining to different news channels about their irresponsible reporting. The ones to feel my wrath so far are the BBC, Channel 4 (also in the UK) and CNN. It really is frustrating when they alarm people and we who are here have to use our frazzled emotional energy keeping people thousands of miles away calm. For a responsible site where you can access a lot of information, please follow this link:

Please know that Tokyo remains calm. Under the surface of course we are anxious, but everyone is behaving sensibly; I think we would all rather have attention focused on the poor people of Miyagi. If you have any questions about anything I haven’t mentioned, please ask! Otherwise, I will send another update soon.


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