Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Road to Osaka

My most recent posts have not focused on gardening or food much at all. I've been mostly home bound before and after the March 11th quake with a strained Achilles. I've ventured to the farm once since then for a blissful (and mildly painful) few hours only. Instead I'm writing briefly about my experiences here in Japan during this time. I'm writing (somewhat rapidly and badly) for myself, family, and friends to try and capture what I'm seeing, hearing and feeling and subsequently sort through it all. Please bear with me. - Joan

We boarded a night bus to Osaka with mixed feelings last night. Many of our friends are still in Tokyo and are not planning to leave. Their families and homes are there, and they don't feel a need to go. We obviously felt some kind of need, and decided to go with it. Our decision was based on the fact that I'm still on crutches with my strained Achilles and that if people panicked in any way, it wouldn't be easy to maneuver quickly. Getting from the bus to our friend's apartment this morning proved our point. Lots of stairs, long walks between stops, and hard-to-find elevators made for a difficult, tiresome, and lengthy journey. My arms and shoulders are sore even as I type, and I confess that I may not go out again today.

The farmer's drove us to the Shinjuku bus station last night despite fuel concerns. They packed a big bag of onigiri, Japanese omelets, and tsukemono for us in anticipation of empty convenience store shelves. (They were essentially right.) On the way there was little foot or car traffic. Many stores and shops we passed were closed or they had turned their lights down as part of the effort to conserve power as the flow to Tokyo is lessened due to the problems at Fukushima. Some gas stations were closed with signs saying they had no fuel, and others had long lines of cars waiting to top up. Shinjuku itself, normally bustling to the brim with people and lights, was practically empty.

The farmers dropped us off, and it was difficult to say goodbye. We're going back in about a week or so, but I'm worried about them and our friends who remain in the city. I feel guilty for going, but I think it was the right choice for us. I feel guilty for complaining and feeling afraid when I'm warm, dry, and radiation free in comparison to those up north. I feel like I'm navel-gazing and whining, but I'm also nervous and a little afraid. Stepping away to Osaka to catch our breath and gain a little perspective is the right choice for us at this moment. That's what I perhaps need to remember.

While waiting for our bus the Shizouka quake struck, and I felt the blood drain from my face. I felt the first tremor and looked up at our friends. Conversation paused. I wanted to believe it was just a passing bus, but I knew it couldn't be. The station is in the basement of one of Shinjuku's skyscrapers. A mighty big bus is required to shake that thing. Then a stronger tremor came and the floor seemed to move up and down under my feet. I uttered an expletive my mother would not appreciate, and watched as company staff froze in place and lamps overhead swung. We learned upon arrival in Osaka this morning of the subsequent damage and loss.

Now, every sound is an earthquake and I swear I feel the earth or the building I'm in is moving all the time. I imagine I will feel this way for some time. Now, too, I am really not a fan of nuclear power. Things are essentially fine in Tokyo, but there is a low grade tension from continued quakes and the news about the nuclear power plants. We'd not seen any of the panic that we hear of in the media, although the tofu and dairy sections of our grocery store were empty and toilet paper was hard to find. The bakery was nearly sold out, but mostly people seemed to be going about their business, living life. The power cuts have apparently begun since we left, too. Some Japanese friends have sent their children to stay with grandparents, and some friends have flown to their home countries to wait it out. We just came on down to Osaka.


Martin J Frid said...

Hi Joan, glad you are safe. Don't get too stressed out about this, and try not to worry others. As far as I see it, there is no huge risk. But if you feel afraid, that in itself triggers all kinds of reactions that are not healthy. We are amazing, both physically and psychologically (and spiritually) and have many ways to deal with this.

Your neighbours did the right thing to help you, they will be so happy to seeyou back in a week!

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Thanks for checking in, Martin. We're feeling much better, and we very much want to come home to Tokyo. Hopefully, tomorrow will find us back in our city and back on the farm...crutches and all! Hope to see you soon!

Tom said...

Best wishes and a speedy recovery, Joan - and in more ways than one.

Take care, enjoy Osaka. Should you feel the need, there's a bolt-hole here in Yamaguchi where you're more than welcome to stay.



Patrick said...

What a terrifying experience to go through! I'm glad you weren't hurt.

Many years ago a 747 cargo plane crashed into my neighborhood killing in injuring many people, and the memories of that are still with me. I can imagine the memories of this will stay with you a long time.

I'm with you, CNN is all but worthless by now as a news source. I often watch al Jazera too. The BBC used to be my favorite, but it's getting worse every day...

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

Thanks for the good wishes, Tom and Patrick. We're back in Tokyo, and settling in again to our routine while keeping an eye on the news. The leg steadily improves, which is good. I'm not made for simply sitting. The aftershocks have lessened for the time being, and I just started some seeds this afternoon. Will keep you posted on further adventures. And Tom, we're keeping your offer in our backpocket!

Martin J Frid said...

Good to have you back, Popcorn Joan!

I don't watch TV at all anymore. Real life happens not there, but here...

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

It's good to be back, Martin, and I'm busier than ever trying to catch up. Real life, for sure, is here where I can get my hands in the dirt and meet my friends, who now feel like family. It's good to be home.