Post March 11th, 2011 earthquake, Tokyo is suddenly less crowded, less busy, and darker than usual, due to people fleeing the city due to radiation fears (or staying inside as much as possible) and scheduled blackouts to deal with a lack of electrical power. Still - most residents cannot just drop everything and go... where? For people who have relatives in Osaka, or other parts of Japan further away from the broken set of six nuclear reactors in Fukushima, it's relatively easy to just go there, but if you don't know anyone in a new area, it's very expensive to suddenly arrive and decide that you'll stay there. Meanwhile - an altered form of daily life goes on in Tokyo, as you can see somewhat from the following clips.
On a zero food-budget walk a few weeks back, a friendly man tried to entice me into his restaurant, so I had to honestly tell him that I was on a zero food-budget walk and wan't having any lunch at all that day. So... I thought I'd toss the flyer he gave me on line instead:
A blackout is a weird thing when you've grown up with electricity on 24/7/356, year after year, decade after decade, and have experienced temporary blackouts a grand total of two or three times in half a century. I'm typing this on my laptop (rushing along trying to get as much done as I can before the battery discharges beyond the usable range), and the vision of my Internet connection device sitting by with not so much as a single lit LED, looks really strange.
So here I am typing text, because there isn't much else I can be doing, and I suppose the blackout is helpful for me today in that it has kicked me off-line and provided time for me to write some text - a task I've been ignoring for far too long.
......... I just went out and checked for physical mail - noting the sun getting low on the horizon - mindful that unless I wanted to check it with a flashlight, I needed to make use of the sun's light.
With the power out, the water also disappears, as it's a pump-fed tank system that needs the electric pump to push water into the tank. So, once the electric power is cut, there's a brief period where the apartment complex has gravity-fed water from the tank, but once that's gone, there's no more water from the tap until the pump goes into action again with power restored.
Come to think of it - it's vital pumps and lack of electrical power for them that caused the nuclear disaster unfolding at the Fukushima plant....
Well - as the darkness descends upon the land, I shall venture forth to experience this rare thing - a city without electric lights. Back later!
[Hours later] - It started off very nicely - as it began getting dark, there were no irritatingly over-bright streetlights to ruin the magic of the sunset, and the houses and apartments were strangely devoid of electric lights. There was even a near-full moon in the sky!
As I walked along, I noticed that some people appeared to be hurrying home with more urgency than usual (to get there before darkness fell - like in the old-old-old days), and when I passed other males out walking, we eyed each other suspiciously "What is this suspicious looking male doing out walking around as darkness falls...?" we each seemed to think (I was half thinking that, and half amused at the sudden reversion to a deep-dark-woods way of thinking.
I headed over to a shotengai street and noted that the convenience store was still doing business - without the cash registers and by the light of the dim emergency lighting in the ceiling, and the bank's ATM section was operating with full blindingly bright banks of florescent lights blasting away, the heating blasting hot air, the machines operational, and the recorded voice at the door welcoming you as you come in. "Hmm... either they're wired into something different than the other buildings in the neighborhood, or they've got a liquid-energy fueled generator up on the roof generating their own power..."
Then I walked over to a railway and noted that their signal lights were all on, which stood to reason - being an electric railway, they're not only wired differently than the areas they pass through, but are an exception to the blackout I think. What I hadn't expected, was there were several blindingly bright street lights along the railway, particularly at crossings - which makes sense enough, but it took away from the novelty of being outside in a world suddenly without electricity - when it was only 95% without electricity.
And then there were the headlights of the cars, the flashing LED lights of cyclists, etc. So, I began by feeling excited at the idea of seeing part of Tokyo - for the first time in my life - purely by moonlight, but ended up observing that you can't get away from very bright lights in Tokyo - even in a blackout!
Like many people in the world, I've been following the story of the Fukushima nuclear power plant that is in varying degrees of meltdown. And living in Tokyo, this is of more than passing interesting to me!
Watching footage of military helicopters flying high and fast while attempting to drop water onto the radiation-emitting sections of the ruined power plant, it looked as though the radiation of the damaged plant is so intense that they can't use the helicopters' ability to hover and drop the water exactly where its needed, but have to resort to flying over the plant high and fast, which then makes it impossible to get the water exactly where it needs to be.
And so, I find myself thinking - if they have drones to fly around and destroy things, can't they use the same technology to fly pilotless helicopters that can hover over the radioactive danger zone and drop water exactly where it's needed? Or is there some legal clause in the use of the devices that stipulates "This technology must only be used for death and destruction - it must not be used to save 30,000,000 residents of a modern mega-city from becoming poisoned members of a radioactive ghetto"?
Yeah - I'm being sarcastic all right - but seriously - can't they fly pilotless helicopters? It may be new technology, but a lot is at stake here.
In the middle of my joint-exhibition this month (March 2011) in Room-306 in the Okuno Building, an acquaintance came by to look it over at the end of the day, and so we ended up sitting on a couple of chairs by an open window - discussing the exhibition (and other things) while having a couple of glasses of wine.
Room-306 in the Okuno Building was used for over 70 years by Ms. Suda, who crossed over to the other side at 100 years of age a couple of years ago. Since she used the room for the entire time (in contrast with the other rooms in the building, which have had a variety of tenants) her presence is still very much felt there.
Once past the normal exhibition hours, I turned off the overhead light so the ambiance of the room could better be felt, and my friend and I continued talking about one thing and another.
We looked around at the room and looked out at the night street below, and after talking for 45 minutes or so, suddenly one of the two ceiling lights came on - the one that stopped working several days before. Just a coincidence I guess, but it seemed as though Suda-san had decided we shouldn't be sitting in the dark like that and had decided to turn on the light - the magic light....
I've been asked by many friends and family how I am, and I've been replying individually, but I just wrote a very brief summary to an old friend and it occurred to me to go ahead and post it here:
I had a cup of coffee that I'd just topped up when it started shaking, so I took a quick sip to lower the level to stop it from spilling, and put it on the corner of my desk. The shaking intensified and a little spilled onto my scanner - "S***!" said I and moved the cup to the floor.
Then it shook harder still and I stood up, as I do when I'm worried an earthquake will knock over bookcases in the room, so I can hold them up. For a few microseconds I thought it was going to pass by, as they typically do (we get a lot of earthquakes here, after all), but then it got really serious, and boxes started crashing down around me from the bookshelves and I could hear things smashing in the kitchen. I held up things near me; stopped a stack of heavy audio equipment from crashing down onto my head; and cursed as the rest of the room's contents crashed down around me (along with a symphony of noise from things smashing in the kitchen). Somewhere in the middle of this I glanced down and noticed that most of the coffee had sloshed out onto the floor and my foot.
And then the shaking stopped.... I cursed some more and climbed over the mountain of stuff and went through the door into the rest of the apartment to assess the damage. Messy! Very messy! Some things appeared to be completely untouched while other things were halfway across the room. Lots of broken dishes and a broken bottle of whiskey, etc.
The worst part was a pile of wired AV equipment that had fallen off of shelving and into a heap on the floor - I had to painstakingly disassemble it wire by wire, piece by piece. I finally broke it down into its component parts, but haven't gotten around reassembling it.
And just when I thought I was getting past that, I notice at night that - when I hold out a hand - it glows in the dark......
Anyway, still alive at the moment at least!
[And this is an earlier thing I posted about the day (including a comment from an acquaintance)]:
D***... I dropped the ball with video. While things were crashing down around me, I didn't think to grab the camera - I was too busy holding up the computer rack...
[Comment]: "I think you'll be forgiven for that."
Yeah... I guess - but it would have been interesting for the audio track especially - the simultaneous crashing and smashing of dishes and bottles in the kitchen, along with machinery, books, boxes, etc. crashing down around me - with me swearing up a storm while I kept the computer in place and just stopped some old stereo equipment from crashing onto my head.
Come to think of it - without a third hand, I couldn't have held the camera, but too bad I didn't turn it on and put it... where? Wait - better I didn't turn it on! I would have missed the sliding heavy amplifier, etc., and possibly ended up dead while I focused on the viewfinder.
Those... what? 30 seconds? 60 seconds? So much stuff happening so quickly. The audio part of it was definitely the most impressive aspect of the experience. I don't think I've heard a more impressive soundtrack in a movie. They could make one like it I'm sure, but if the action began and was over within 60 seconds - with the sounds all mixed together, movie-goers wouldn't be pleased, so they drag it out and separate the different noises - one crash for one thing falling down, etc. The real version has a whole symphony of disaster going full-out at the same time, and in the heightened state of danger/disaster/oh-s***!/etc., you actually sense the different components to a remarkable degree. Very intense. I'm sort of in a mild state of shock thinking back on it....
This batch of videos straddles the period before and after the March 11th, 2011 earthquake - with typical train scenes (Chuo, Tozai, Seibu lines, etc.) and street scenes of Ginza, Yurakucho, and Shinjuku, etc. There are also videos showing the large-scale painting by Yokko and views of the Okuno Building.
Very much in mind are the many problems generated by the earthquake - the earthquake itself is one thing, but the radiation fears from the damaged nuclear power plants are even more scary - one problem begins to gradually recede, the other to grow....
This opens with a few HD clips of the Tozai and Ginza lines, and one clip of Chuo-Dori in central Ginza. After that, there are a lot of clips - Ginza in the rain, Yurakucho, a Keihin-Tohoku Line run from Yurakucho to Tokyo, various views of Shinjuku Station and areas around Shinjuku Station.
From there, I go out to Tokorozawa and ride the Seibu-Ikebukuro Line to Shiinamachi, recording most of the route between Tokorozawa and Shiinamachi - where I exit the train system and record some scenes in the Shiinamachi Station area. After that are some views of Ikebukuro (not all in chronological order), followed by views of Shinjuku, and several train views.
After all of that, there's a view of an artist rolling out his huge painting on a rooftop, and views of the Tokyo Station area under construction and Ginza.
This set of clips begins with a view of a man playing the shamisen under a rail bridge in Takadanobaba. Next is a clip of walking down the 1932 Okuno Building staircase (the other staircase in the building is from 1934), going from the seventh floor to the first floor. Following those, there are views from the Tozai, Ginza, and Marunouchi Lines, as well as views of Ginza, Nihonbashi, and Yurakucho.