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.