Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Siege Mentality

My local bakery today.

Shopping today was like ...well, shopping after a disaster has struck.  The stuff that people look for in such situations is gone - bread, pasta, milk, rice, batteries, flashlights, bottled water.  Just empty shelves.

Don't worry we haven't started eating each other just yet.  We have enough food and essentials (lucky enough we seem to have dozens of candles) to last quite a while.

There's no serious reason for Tokyoites to be concerned; the real food shortages are up North where the tsunami struck.  All we are dealing with here is an understandable human urge to stockpile in times of uncertainty, it's the siege mentality.  And I was happy to notice that trucks still seem to be delivering to the supermarkets and convenience stores.  It's the threat of rolling blackouts that has done this.  Without electricity people can't see at night, can't cook, can't keep warm.  The Japanese, anxious at the best of times, appear to have been driven to near-hysteria.  My wife was so happy when I managed to come home with some more nappies that she jumped up and hugged me.  Very strange behaviour indeed, at most I get a 'Welcome home' and at times merely a surly grunt, ah the romance of marriage.  And frankly a lack of electricity doesn't bother me that much.  I've lived with dodgy power supplies for extended periods before, the hardest thing is filling the evening hours; if this terror goes on for a long time people may start doing drastic things like reading books.

In any case so far the promised blackouts haven't arrived, though I understand tomorrow may be different. 
Meanwhile the trains are unreliable, some lines are running, some are not, huge queues everywhere, two hours to get on your train.

Of course in the media back home it seems as if the whole country is being engulfed by another Chernobyl.  It's true there was another hydrogen explosion at the #1 Fukushima plant, this time reactor #3.  Efforts are being made to cool down all the reactors involved by pumping sea water into them, so far with limited effectiveness.  However there is no danger as yet of radiation drifting outward of the current safety zones, and Fukushima is a long way away.

The prime minister and cabinet have taken to wearing  these absurd cheap blue uniforms that make them look like school janitors.  It appears particularly unsuited to the normally fashion-aware Renho.

In the press conferences they are now talking about 2,000 confirmed dead in the tsunami and an incredibile 15,000 missing.  Some of those will turn up alive but there is no doubt that this is an incredible tragedy.

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