Thursday, July 28, 2011

Golden Week (mini)

Hey, guys! Guess what I did for Golden Week! What, Golden Week was months ago? Pshhhhh.....

I went to Oshima Island, part of the Izu Islands. It was a nice break from the hustle of city life. We rode a boat to get there, which we got on in the evening from Tokyo and got off of in the early morning at the island.

Here's the boat. You can even see Mt. Fuji in the background! Hi, Mr. Fuji!

There were a bunch of people with signs for rental car companies standing around the docks, but we didn't talk to them. It's an island! We don't need no stinking car. Then my friend Ami looked at how far away the hostel was, and we regretted our decision.

Here's a sign in the visitor's rest house right by the docks where we took a nap. Don't hit people with your backpacks yo!

Then we took a cab to the hostel. Even though it was 5:30 in the morning they let us check in. Thank you!!! I had forgotten my toothbrush so I had to buy one from them for 100 yen, but it was so flimsy the handle bent whenever I used it. They had coffee for sale for 100 yen, and you put money in a little box in the kitchen, so I had coffee all the time when I was there. Discount coffee, yeah!

Here's Ami and Ryan posing in front of the hostel. It was soooo pretty. So many trees.

We started walking around, wondering if we were going to hitchhike anywhere, and look! TEPCO! We're mad at TEPCO right now. I kicked it.

We walked down to the public baths, where you had to wear a bathing suit to get into (how very un-Japanese), and the water was sooo hot but the wind was soooo cold and it was difficult.

Oshima is famous for Godzilla. Here I am sitting on top of him.

Then we looked at the Oshima pamphlet, and listed as a tourist destination was the dairy farm. (All the milk in grocery stores was Oshima milk.) But it was far away. We hitchhiked there. I gave the old man an orange as thanks.

Ami talking to the cows!

Hmmm, now we're going to leave the dairy farm. How do we do that? We hitchhiked again. This time was a lot harder, but finally a kind Mister Inoue picked us up. He was really nice. First he took us to a bay to see if there were any dolphins playing that day. There weren't, so he called his friend to come help us look. So another old man came to help us look for dolphins, and left after a while. Then Mr. Inoue took us to his favorite spot, a trail up a hill.

Here's Mr. Inoue pointing at a plaque at the base of the hill marking the spot where a general did hara-kiri when they lost WWII.

Here's Mr. Inoue pointing something out at the top of the hill.

Mr. Inoue said his brother was swept away from Sendai in the tsunami, so in a couple of days he was going to go there to do paperwork and stuff like that. It was sad. He also said he was a banker (I think?) sent to live in Oshima from Tokyo but he liked Oshima better because it was an island lifestyle and much less stressful. The girl that checked us out at the grocery store told us she moved there from the mainland because she liked it better, too.

The next day, Mr. Inoue picked us up in front of the grocery store and took us to see Godzilla's birthplace. Here's where the earth spit him out, or something.

I just painted my nails. I don't want to type anymore. Sorry.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Cute Beagle

This is for you, Daddy!

Note that the first half of the video is just practice. There are more videos of her doing amazing tricks here (not the official page, just an English language description).

Golden Week has spoiled me. This happened last year when my family came and I took a long vacation then, too. Having lots of consecutive days off makes me not want to work at all and the weekends seem to come so much more slowly. I've been trying to keep myself busy though. Tonight I put a lot of effort into making a healthy dinner and I made a big batch of vegetable soup for lunch for the rest of the week. I also walked 3 kilometers extra (I would normally ride the train that distance) in order to save 150 yen. Hooray for not being lazy! I'm going to start walking home for a part of my commute more often to be healthier and save money. I keep on reading about how sitting is bad for you. Well, so are tsunamis and radiation, but ya know...

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Tsunami Video

I've seen this video countless times, and I'm sure you guys have seen it, too. If it wasn't ever on the news, it should have been! Even now, it still makes my stomach hurt to watch it. This was taken in Kamaishi, Iwate. There are a few videos of the tsunami from this town.

A few more links, two months on

This is pretty unrelated, but I thought it was an interesting article about Japanese gypsies.

The tale of one/some valiant high school student(s) in Yokohama
during the quake

The last set of pictures (from a previous post) was from one month later, but even two months later the pictures are already a little different. Have a look.

In a previous post, I had a Japanese news clip about how some of coastline has sunk, flooding towns. Here's an article in English about it.

Tsunami=mud. Volunteers now have a very intimate relationship with the mud. Even going to Otsushi for a day, I could smell the mud. (Such a weird, weird, smell.) Says one of the volunteers, "We come back so people don't feel alone with their mud." Mud mud mud mud mud.

Japan=bureaucracy. Disaster management, media, everything. Tepco is annoyed at the media always wanting more and more information like baby birds asking for food so they're using the bureaucracy to their advantage. Not very nice, but kinda funny, I think.

What to do with all the piles and piles and piles and piles of wood left over from the tsunami. (Do they not know how to insulate their homes? No. Just wood inside the walls. That's it!) And once the wood is gone, then what? Says one guy (non-Japanese), "The temptation to grant survivors their last wish and restore what was lost is enormous. But it should be resisted. I say it with the frankness of a friend, that Japan must rebuild the region for its children, not its great-grandparents."

In other news, I went to Oshima for Golden Week. It was fun. I saw the volcano where Godzilla supposedly came from.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Lost and Found

People are pretty nice when it comes to cleaning up. They're making sure that they throw away as few valuables as possible (and keeping dead bodies found intact). Much slower, but much more meaningful, even though summer is almost upon us. Ugh, cleanup will be awful when it hits. I know this is a really really morbid thought, but I definitely would not want to be one of the cleanup workers finding a body this long after the fact. Gross.

Lots of safes have been found
. Officials are trying to figure out how to get them back to their owners. A whole lot of old people in Japan are still in the habit of keeping their money at home, instead of in a bank.

Pictures of looking for pictures. There are lost and found centers all over the area, where people can come in and look for their memorabilia that was swept away. I found a wedding photo when I was in Otsuchi. You can see it in my facebook album here. I turned it in and it was claimed, I hear.

Monday, April 25, 2011

More Links

I know that most of these are from Japan Probe. Sorry for the lack of variety. That site isn't as big as Japan Times, so the archives are easier to search for the articles I'm thinking of. There are a few from other sites in here, though.

The American military helped get Sendai Airport back up and running in no time

More Japanese media coverage of the US military effort

Of course the fact that the emperor and empress visited shelters is news

Apparently the workers at Fukushima aren't too happy with their protective gear

And even soldiers are scared...

With everyone gone, the animals are really really sad

Poor, poor farm animals

Some pets are lucky.

These too.
(I know I mentioned this last time, but I think it's so amazing how rescuers found a dog way out in the ocean, rescued her, and then showed her on tv, and her owner recognized her they were reunited! There was another dog who convinced her little old lady owner to take her on a walk right before the tsunami hit because she could sense it coming.)

Too bad they can't eat all the fish lying around (when I was in Otsuchi, that was one of the smells in the mix. It was mud, smoke, fish, death, and some other stuff I couldn't identify. The smell lingered for days. I did my laundry when I got back but it had gotten in the car, and my bag and everything else.)

We know that Japan shifted 8 feet, but it also sank as much as a bicycle's height in some places!


Happy Easter everyone!!

A couple more

Here is an interactive map with all 1,079 (so far) earthquakes. I haven't felt all of them, only the big ones. The deeper they are, the LESS likely I am to feel them

Also, you know how I said my phone makes an alarm whenever a big earthquake is coming? Well, sometimes they come without the alarm, and sometimes the alarm comes without the earthquake, but it's pretty useful overall. Anyways, this parrot can do it too! It's a pretty good impression, but a lot more grating in real life. He probably heard the alarm sooo many times.

A graphic of the tsunami

Let's see if this works...

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Links and Info

I've been collecting a bunch of links and stuff lately. Some of these may be a little bit old, but they're all still relevant, and are the type of information I have been consuming. Please read and look at as much as you can. I hope they're organized correctly, I didn't know what categories to use. :P


The Unnatural State of Japan’s Self-Restraint

An (introspective) essay about leaving Japan

To hanami or not to hanami?

"Mayor’s Aide Tells Story of Loss, and Choice" (really sad)

“Nothing can prepare you” (part of a series)


How do Japanese journalists feel about the foreign media coverage?

And why is this even a question?

This is awesome

How visual media has shaped the reaction worldwide

“The best writing on the Japan earthquake”

This website has been getting a lot of attention

Lots of stuff! Radiation, earthquakes, etc

Radiation map

Video of tsunami hitting

Pictures of the land, pre and post tsunami, thanks to google.


Heartbreaking pictures

The island of debris. There are a lot more pictures in the top right corner navigation, such as this

Pics one month on. These are some of my favorites.

Relief Work/Rebuilding:

BBC Aid Worker’s Diary

Japanese finally like the US military!!!

It’s even on Japanese tv!

This made my heart flutter. Plus, with video!

“Lack of cars, gas stymies search for missing kin” People are actually hitchhiking in Japan now

Should people even rebuild on the coast?

Two siblings split up after the tsunami

I’m sure you all heard about this lil doggy

A couple of british teachers are staying/stayed past their contracted time to help

Earthquake Part 2

So, the next few days were all the same. The next day I wanted to go back to Kenta’s because he was more centrally located, and Laura’s house was farther away from everybody else. Kenta somehow managed to get back to Morioka. He started in Osaka, took a plane to Tokyo, another one to the area north of Iwate, rented a car, drove for a few hours in the night, decided that it was too dangerous to drive for hours with no street lights, got a hotel (somehow), and drove the rest of the way back in the morning. It was supposed to be a direct flight. Laura took me back to Kenta’s, which was really nice since nobody knew when gas would be sent, and I walked in his apartment with my bags of instant noodles I had, and made sure to vacuum the shards from the dish that had broken since I couldn’t do it before.

Kenta came home, and I was so so so happy, and we sat around watching the news for a while. Nobody knew what to do. Our onsen trip had been cancelled, I didn’t know when I would be getting back to Yokohama, people weren’t working, there was no gas, so no buses, stores weren’t really open, and nobody really wanted to go out at night because it would feel weird. But since everyone was sitting around in the apartments all day not knowing what to do, we naturally gravitated towards the Mexican-style foreigner bar in town many nights. The atmosphere there was less than jovial however. Instead of screaming and hollering, it was people sitting around with steins of beer kinda staring at the tables.

That first night at Kenta’s I met some other Americans who had been living on the coast and heard their stories. One had been home when the earthquake hit, and had to run from the tsunami on foot. He had thought about getting in his car to be able to drive away more quickly, but decided that he didn’t have time to back out of his parking space. He had to go back later and get his passport, which had gotten wet, and since his contract was over and he was planning to go home anyways, his job of packing was made much simpler. Instead of shipping home boxes and suitcases, he took a half filled suitcase to the airport. The ironic thing is that he had paid all his bills the day before the earthquake, and then that hit, and then it didn’t matter. It was funny how bright and shiny his eyes were, instead of dull and sad. I asked him about this, and he said it was because he was just so happy to be alive, he didn’t care that all of his stuff was gone.

The other guy had been at his school when it hit, I think. His apartment wasn’t hit by the tsunami, but a lot of his students and teachers were missing. These two guys met in line to get rations, and actually didn’t know each other before that, even though they were both the only foreigners in a tiny town! They kinda sorta hitchhiked to Morioka, as in caught a ride with one of their student’s fathers who was coming anyways, and were staying at a hotel for a few days.

The pattern for a few days was sleep in late, sit around in pajamas eating instant noodles and watching the news, making dinner out of scarce ingredients, and going to the bar. There was a pervasive sense of ennui around, although there were enough times when we were able to forget ourselves, given the right combination of people. Those were special. Sometimes people would go over to each others’ places just to hang out and have a little extra human contact, and those times we would find some errand to do and walk there, since that took extra time and there were no buses. Every day I checked at the station asking about shinkansens and night buses, and every day they told me they didn’t know. Did they know when they’d know when gas would come in? No? Ok. If I had known the damage to the bullet trains or Sendai station (a main transfer station between Tokyo and Morioka) I wouldn’t have wasted my energy asking about them every day, but I learned soon enough. Some people went to volunteer. Yuka and a friend made 500 rice balls and took them to a shelter in town where people from the coast were staying, and Rylan went and asked what he could do, and they had him carry some stuff and then man the door to remind people that the library was still a shelter and not a library yet.

People didn’t have to go to work at all really, because there was still uncertainty about electricity and gas, and people were still eating cup noodles. I tried to go to the grocery store a couple of times, but I never managed to get there in the morning, by when all the produce and instant food was gone. Another hot commodity was toilet paper, and I tried to buy conditioner but couldn’t find any. This happened every time we went. So, whenever I had a shopping list for a meal that Kenta, Alice (another friend staying at Kenta’s because she didn’t feel safe in her old apartment) and I were going to make, we would go to the store, find nothing on the list, and have to make a new meal on the spot and improvise. There were strawberries, but no onions, because onions are useful and strawberries are not.

After a few days, one of the people in Iwate decided that she wanted to go home. This is understandable, since just about everybody had family members calling and emailing them every day, with messages that ranged from advising us to consider returning home for a little while to demanding that we come home right now and if we didn’t we must all be idiots. I’m glad I never got the latter, but I saw an email on somebody’s phone, and they were not happy about it, since we can make our own decisions about our lives, thankyouverymuch. Anyways, this girl went home, and her boss was quite upset, because it was a small school. She decided and packed in a hurry, and had to take a taxi to the next prefecture and a plane to Tokyo. Soon after that, another girl decided she needed to go home, based mostly on intense pressure from back home. This left her quite emotional, and there were many tears shed at her goodbye party. Some people went to her apartment to get her luggage to send back to her later, and the rest was divvied up or set aside for donations. I will say, however, that in the foreigner community and online, there were heated opinions on both sides, from those that were leaving and those that were staying. After a while, someone coined a new term on twitter, mixing the words for foreigner and fly to make “flyjin,” much to the chagrin of those more politically correct and accepting. Now there’s a sarcastic and slightly scathing website devoted to this topic. I recommend starting at the beginning, instead of the top.

On Tuesday I went to my middle school’s graduation. The buses were running on a limited schedule then, but they weren’t going as far south as my school. I had to take a bus as far down as I could and catch a cab the rest of the way. Graduation was a somber affair. Most times it’s dripping with emotion, since these kids are so emotional about ending that part of their lives, but this time everyone just seemed kinda distracted. People didn’t really hang out talking as much afterwards. To get back, I walked a mile until I got to the first open restaurant since there were no open convenience stores and I was really hungry, and took a cab north to the nearest bus stop. Phew.

After a few days, Kenta decided that he wanted to get off his butt and do something. One of the guys from the bar needed a ride back to his town to get his stuff from his apartment, since he was also going home anyways, and asked us to give him a lift along with a bunch of stuff Kenta had been collecting for donations. We woke up one morning at about 5:30, loaded up the van full to the brim of food and clothing and blankets, and climbed in. Kenta was nervous about getting there since he didn’t know if we would have enough gas to get there and back. Instead of spending the night in his car like most people had, he took a more cunning route. A little ways outside of town there was a shortish line (2 blocks instead of about 3 miles), and Kenta got in the back of it. Apparently at 7AM they were already sold out even though they were only giving people 10 liters each, but Kenta refused to get out of line. The man outside kept on telling him to go somewhere else, but Kenta is from Kansai and is stubborn and already had a full car and was not going to turn back now, so he stayed in line, and the guy gave up. We got to the next guy in line, and he said we could have 1 liter. Ok. We got to the pump, and Kenta go out and told them to look in his car, and he’s taking a guy back to the coast so he can get his stuff, and he’s a refugee, and look at all the stuff we’re going to donate! So we got 10 liters. Oh, Kenta.

I have to admit I was pretty nervous about going since I didn’t want to get in the way of any of the aid workers or people trying to pick themselves back up. But the guy from the coast convinced me that although they weren’t calling for volunteers, if I went with a connection (him), it would be fine. I was glad I didn’t bail at the last minute; it was an experience and the people in the shelters seemed genuinely happy to see us. The most coveted items were cigarettes (which the old ladies in charge pocketed) and a battery operated cell phone charger, even though there was no signal (which the middle aged man in charge pocketed). We asked if there was anything else they needed, and they said kerosene for heaters, electricity, and gasoline. No fun going to bed with the sun in a cold room and having to get up the next morning to siphon gas from an abandoned car.

We stayed for just one night, helping clean up the guy’s apartment, going to bed at 5 when it got dark, and getting up the next morning at 6. We were supposed to go help them sort food supplies the next day, but Kenta had caught something and was acting kinda funny, and with all the sickness already spreading in the shelters (one thing that made me cry when I watched the news was seeing the body of an old man being carried out of a shelter, since he had escaped the tsunami but died of some sickness) we decided it would be best if we went back.

Leaving felt like abandoning them, though. We were so excited as soon as we crossed some invisible line and got our cell phone signal back, and were able to blow our noses and get all the black dust out for good, and look forward to going to an onsen to get cleaned up, and knowing that those people weren’t able to. But even being there for one night was so emotionally draining. I don’t know how aid workers do it. (Also, we saw a US Navy helicopter when we were there, and even though I didn’t see any Americans, it made me so happy.)

And then, I heard that the night buses to Tokyo were running! Yay!!! I booked a ticket right away, but never got around to paying for it at the convenience store out of laziness and I’ll do it laterness, and then the deadline came. So, I had to pay by 11. Alright, I got plans at 8, I’ll pay and then meet friends. But all the convenience stores were closed! How aggravating. I went to a few, and asked about others, and then I tried to pay by Kenta’s credit card on my phone, but the screen was so tiny, and instead of hitting “Pay” I hit “Cancel” Crap. Kenta made me a new reservation on a different site, which turned out to be a few hundred yen less, yay! But I wasn’t going to get to Tokyo until Sunday night. Poor Kirby, he really wanted me back. So that night was supposed to be my going away party, but instead turned into a regular dinner since I had a bus ticket for a later date.

The day I was finally going to go back, I went to the station at 10:15, since my bus was leaving at 10:50 or something, and thought I should be on time. Probably. Normally there are only three buses run by JR that go from Morioka to Tokyo a night, but this night there were THIRTEEN at least. I was on bus number thirteen, I don’t know how high they actually went up. People were confused since normally your bus is waiting and you get on but this time you had to wait for the other bus to leave, and before we realized how it worked there was a bunch of wheres my bus my bus isn’t here is this the right place! There were soooo many people, and dogs barking, and rowdy kids coming to see their friends off. I saw a guy that works at the Morioka BOE and I didn’t feel like talking to him so I ran off into the other side of the crowd.

I was really impressed that after only a couple of weeks, and very little gasoline in the country JR was working so hard to get people wherever they needed to go. My bus wasn’t even a sleeper bus, but a tour bus that they had pulled out of the reserves. (Speaking of reserves, this is the first time the Japanese military has called upon its reserves!) So it wasn’t as comfortable and I didn’t get slippers or a footrest and the seat didn’t go back as far, but I didn’t car. When we got on they made some announcements about Tochigi (an area north or Tokyo) that I didn’t really understand, but in the middle of the night when I was rudely jarred awake by deafening jolting bumps in the road I figured that's what they were warning us about. Other friends that made that trip after me all posted on facebook about it, so I’m glad it wasn’t just us. Those bumps are definitely new, and I’m curious as to how they repaired the road. Quickly, I guess.

Coming back to the city was weird. On the train, they have tv screens where they show train information and little snippets of news. They listed a bunch of trains being out of service: some local trains were out because of rolling blackouts in the city, and some shinkansens were out, with cause listed as “Earthquake.” Gee, ya think? (Those screens haven’t changed, even now.) The news was all about Fukushima, which kinda irked me. The day I got in they were showing how three workers had to go to the hospital for radiation poisoning. What about the tsunami victims, come on!

I still kinda get that feeling sometimes, that everyone is worried about Fukushima more than trying to help out those affected by the disaster. I guess I shouldn’t; there are still fundraisers everywhere, and one of the counselors at my new school is going to be going to Iwate to help some of the kids in shelters there.

Speaking of reactions to everything, the governor of Tokyo, Ishihara, who is quite controversial, called on people to stop the flower viewing parties that always happen at this time of year, to prevent people from going out and partying when there’s so much suffering going on. A lot of people weren’t having it though, and some people went and did hanami right in front of the building where his office is. There was even a sake brewer in Iwate who released a Youtube video (Japanese only) telling people not to show self restraint, and if they want to help to buy liquor from the regions affected so spur economic growth, which sounded much more sensible to me. The hanami parties I went to had people doing that. I think it’s a lot more effective than telling people to stay indoors. Also, the entertainment business is suffering, because of the same reason, it would feel weird at such a time, so a lot of clubs and venues and stuff are having charity events. Good for them!

Friday, April 08, 2011

First Earthquake Post

Ok, so once upon a time (uh, like three weeks ago) I had this grand idea to go to Morioka for my old junior high school’s graduation. I would take the night bus down, stay at my friend Kenta’s place for a night, we would all go to the onsen on Saturday night, party it up, and I would go to the ceremony on Sunday morning and then get back to Yokohama. Perfect plan! I had my tickets, we had a reservation at the onsen with a guest list, I had a suit, great. So, I left school a little early, grabbed my stuff, met Ryan on the way to give him money/get his computer Kenta was buying, and went to Tokyo to catch the bus, got on the bus, went to sleep, woke up in Morioka, went to Kenta’s house at 6 AM, said hi, and went back to sleep, since sleeping on the night bus is not relaxing in the least. At 10, Kenta woke me up, he was going to a meeting, so I hung out at his apartment for a while since everyone else was going to go to work. At about 1 I decided to take another nap because I’m lazy and I had nothing better to do. All you people at work, suckers! At 2:42 my phone started to make frantic dying noises that sounded like somebody was torturing an anthropomorphized fire alarm, and then the apartment started shaking. Whoah, earthquake! It didn’t stop, so I got up, heard a crash, saw a dish had fallen, thought about going outside for safety but decided that required pants, and decided against it. I looked out the window and saw the electric gadgets bix box store’s windows were buffeting in and out and the stoplights were swinging. Cool! But standing up was difficult so I sat in the doorway and sent off an email. Hrm, I had plans tonight, I wonder how that was going to happen? Laleeladeedoo. This earthquake is still going on? Geez. Oh, it stopped! Yay-no, wait. Darn. That went off and on for about half an hour. My phone battery was dying because I hadn’t charged it in a while, and wait, why don’t I have signal?? This is bull! So I decided to go to the Japanese Best Buy across the street to ask at their cell phone counter. Also, I needed something to do; the lights were off and it was getting dark and I couldn’t vacuum up the dish shards without electricity. The breaker wasn’t doing anything. Stupid broken breaker. Kenta needs a better apartment. But I went outside, and the walk signals and stoplights were out, and there was a sign saying the electrical store was closed, and so now I had nothing to do. Ok, maybe I’ll walk downtown and see what’s up. First I stopped off at the library. There were so many families and old people sitting around on blankets! Geez, it was just an earthquake! But there were people, so I hung around for a bit so see if I could listen to any announcements. I saw some people on phones, but didn’t ask if they had signal. I wanted to use the computer, but they said that they were all shut down for the day, and there were cops and official looking people everywhere, and then they announced the shinkansen weren’t running for a while, and everyone gave a big groan. So I decided to continue downtown. My cell phone provider shop was closed, and there was still no electricity. Ok, must be Kenta’s whole neighborhood. I tried a few pay phones but couldn’t get through to anyone, and kept on walking. I thought I would go to my friend Yuka’s work at the dentist’s and see what she and the other dental techs were up to. But as I was on my way my phone rang! Yay!!! It was my friend Laura, and she said she and her boyfriend were coming to get me and they’d be there in 20 minutes. Yay, I have friends again!! So I went back to Kenta’s, but on the way there was a bar that had a gas stove outside and was giving away free rice porridge, which made me super happy, and got all my stuff just in case using my cell phone as a flashlight and waited downstairs. First I waited outside, and it got cold, then I waited in the entryway of the apartment building, and it got dark, so I played solitaire on my phone, which was the only light around me. After an hour, they came, and said that traffic was unbelievable because there were no stoplights. I was surprised that even Laura’s neighborhood was out. Darn. Japan's supposed to be good at this.

So we drove around looking for a convenience store, and they were all closed, except for one, which was doing operations with candles and a cell phone calculator. We had gotten so many cans of beer and snacks (everyone else was getting basics, like instant noodles) that it took them three times to get our bill right. So we went to Laura and Yohei’s, which is a Japanese style house, and pigged out on chips and beer, wondering what was going on. Laura said she didn’t think there would be an onsen trip the next day. I didn’t believe her, because I was determined to go. I never go to onsens in Yokohama.

My cell phone finally died because I couldn’t charge it and I had used it too much as a flashlight and playing games, so I used theirs to call my dad. It was 7:30 AM their time, I think, but they already knew about it. I was surprised again.

Then there was nothing else to do so we went to bed. Luckily they still had water and gas so we didn’t go to bed too dirty. Well, I went to bed. Laura would wake up with every aftershock and tell us to run outside and Yohei and I would tell her to go back to sleep. Granted, they were quite loud in that house. Every aftershock would shake the wine glasses, windows, and sliding doors. It was also pretty cold, even with three people in bed and six blankets. This is Iwate without heat. Yohei and I were cold, Laura was hot in the middle. >.>

The next morning was weird. I put on my makeup and contacts, but none of us knew what to do, since we couldn’t take hot showers (the hot water was electric), and nobody had reliable cell phones, and we didn’t want to use up the gasoline. So, we walked downtown. On the way we saw the newspapers up in display next to the newspaper company headquarters, and I got kinda nervous looking at them. There were some scary pictures. The fourth public pay phone I tried worked, and I called my company and told them where I was, and had to calm them down and tell them that yes, I was alive and safe and had food and water and friends. Ok, that over, I felt better. We went to my friend Krysta’s place, and hung out with some people that were sitting around under blankets playing Monopoly, and had some of their chips, and Rylan came by, said oh hey Kim! great timing for a vacation!, and left. Later on we went to Yohei’s friend’s house. I didn’t know whose house it was walking up to it, but then a middle aged man I knew from the taco shack downtown appeared and it was Mamoru and Sasaki and their families hanging out! Yay! Yohei bought beer off of them, which I found hilarious, and we went to the store. They told us there was a 4 hour wait to get in to get groceries, but it actually only took about an hour and a half. We had to get in soon, because once the sun went down they would close. They brought out only some of their stock and had it in baskets in the front so that it wouldn’t be hoarded by the first people who got there, and did their calculations with paper and pencil. This time I bought lots of instant noodles and apples. And, hey, are those my old students?! No way!

“How are you?”
“Yes, I do!”

So glad to see their English skills have improved since I’d left. Although, they were the worst behaved, most entertaining students of the bunch. I had chanced to run into the students that would draw penises in class instead of taking notes. Thanks to them, I found out the graduation had been postponed until that Tuesday. I really hoped that I would be still there then.

That night, Yohei made some grilled chicken, since the fridge was turned off so we had to eat all the food before it went bad. We played cards by candlelight, and when it got too cold they brought in a barbeque and we put it on the table and warmed our hands over it. At one point we heard a loudspeaker on a truck go by, and Yohei said the dam was opening back up. After about an hour Yohei went outside for something, came back in, and turned on the hallway light. Apparently, 'the dam is opening' is Japanese for 'the electricity is back on.' We felt pretty stupid. But yay, now we can charge our phones!! Still no signal, though.

But that’s when we turned on the TV to see what had been happening while we were in the electrical/media black hole, and realized what people back home had been seeing on TV the whole time we were taking walks and playing cards. Oh, dear, is that were we had our cabin party? And that town that was destroyed is where I went swimming with Rylan and James and Emily last summer, and that town that was destroyed is where I went to the fish market with my host family…and the news just kept on coming in. We switched to CNN for a few minutes (yay, cable!) so that Laura and I could get info that we really understood, but the newscasters were just yelling at the camera and talking about doom and gloom and we decided it after five minutes it was trash and not real journalism and went back to the Japanese news. (How significant this dichotomy would prove to be later.) There was still a big flashing graphic at the bottom of the screen for tsunami warnings, and that didn’t go away for a few days. Also, now that our phones were on, they started going off with those tortured fire alarms every few minutes, even if we didn’t feel an aftershock. At first we ran outside every time, but then realized that they were just starting to stress us out, and if we didn’t have the alarms before and were fine, they probably weren’t doing much good now.

Laura checked facebook and made sure everyone we knew was ok. A few people on the coast hadn’t been heard from, and that worried people, but I assumed that everyone would have made it to the shelters.

Oh, and electricity is out in all of Tohoku?? First it was Kenta’s apartment, then Kenta’s neighborhood, then downtown, then Morioka, then Iwate, and wow I seriously underestimated the situation. Oh, and it was a magnitude 9. That’s a big number. Oh, and something’s going on with a nuclear power plant. Whatever.

Some timing to come to Iwate.

More later.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Mystery of the Missing Purse

So, last week, I decided to go out. My friends and I went to a really cheap bar in the gay district in Tokyo, and because my last train would be at 11:30, we decided to stay out all night and catch the first train at about 6.

When we got to the bar, we realized that we might be going back and forth between two of our favorites, as well as the convenience store to get cheap snacks. There were coin lockers, but those cost about 300 yen, and once you put your stuff in them you can't get it out again, so we put our stuff on top of the shelf of lockers. I took out my phone and put it in my pocket, and put some money in my knee high boot, and some more in my pocket, so that it wouldn't be sitting unattended in my wallet. This is, somehow, not where the problems arise, which is weird, because if something were to happen you would think it would be in a dimly lit place where there are a lot of drunk people and purses lying around with nobody watching them, begging to be stolen.

So, we go out, have fun, and at about 5 decide to get some Indian curry. Kirby and I went to the restaurant, but when he was done eating and I still had a lot to eat so he decided to go ahead and go home early.

Then! disaster strikes. I finish my curry and start to head home. I have to transfer a lot, and at one point I get off a train and sit down in a chair on the platform for a little bit in Shinjuku Station. I nod off and go to sleep, and wake up and remember I'm on my way home, and reach under me, and around me, and discover that my purse is gone! There's a 30-something guy that was also asleep next to me and he seems to psychically sense my panic and wakes up and helps me look for my purse. No, it's not on the platform, no it's not in the station attendant's desk kiosk thing, no, it's not in the bathrooms. I don't know what to do. We go outside, and this guy, who is a saint, helps me fill out a police report at the station. It takes about two hours, and we have to share a little stool, and at one point he gets me a bottle of water, and the police officer can't find the right form so he just takes notes on a blank piece of paper. Saint mentions that I should get my locks changed, which is something I wouldn't have thought of, and asks the cop how I'm supposed to get home. Apparently they have a loan system where the police can lend you train fare in this kind of situation, but luckily I had 2,000 yen in my pocket.

I thank Saint profusely, and get his number so I can give him an update later (which I still have to do.)

Then I get on the train, and head on over to Kirby's house, which I had not planned on. We had separated about three hours ago at this point, but when I get there he still isn't home, so Tetsuya lets me in. At this point, I have tears streaming down my face and as soon as he opens the door, I yell out, "I've been robbed!!" and Kirby comes home about five minutes later, surprised to see me crying in his apartment. (Kirby had fallen asleep on the trains a bunch of times and ended up in Korea. Not really Korea. But far away.)

So, Kirby calls my phone company and has them remotely lock my phone so that nobody can do anything except receive calls on it, and then I call my credit card companies. (No, I don't have the credit card number. I don't have it tattooed on my hand, duh! (But I didn't say that to them, just thought it.)) And we finally go to bed at 10 in the morning.

When we wake up at 3, I email my Daddy :) to have him make sure I canceled the credit cards right (thanks!), and then go to the cell phone store to get a rental, which is 2,000 yen for up to three weeks. We spent about an hour there asking about handset insurance and contract policies and lahdeedah (it would cost me about $535 to get a new phone, even with the insurance discount), and then get Italian food. I'm in shock all day. (This is the first time I've been really robbed. I'm a baby. (Mostly I was thinking about how I was going to pay for all this.)) Then I go home in my short skirt and not-so-conservative tights that I've been wearing all day Sunday, which makes me feel like a heathen, and let myself in my apartment with the spare key I had given Kirby. Thank God I had!

Every day that week I call three different train companies' lost and founds, as well as the stations themselves, and nothing. On Thursday I had the day off, so I got a new train card (1,000 yen), bank card (1,000 yen), health insurance card, and alien registration card (600 yen). For the last one, I had to take passport pictures, write a statement about why I needed a new one, sign a bunch of stuff, blah blah blah. (Actually, after I did that, I decided I would ask about my taxes. The lady from the alien registration counter went with me and spent about another hour translating all the financial jargon the tax accountant guy was giving us, and she was getting flustered, because we just need to know what to do, not why, because it was too complicated, and so she's Saint #2. Anyways, I'm getting about $200 back from taxes. Yay!)

After that I was going to go ask about getting my locks changed, but I didn't have my coat and it was cold, so I went home.

And....I get home and there's a postcard in my mailbox from the Odakyu lost and found center. But I never rode the Odakyu line! I only rode Toei or the Metro, and called Keio just because they kinda shared train platforms. Odakyu, I think, is through a different turnstile. This was curious. Anyways, they have my bag, and I'm overjoyed. I make sure that they have my alien registration card, and then have to call the ward office again the next morning to cancel my application, which I'm sure made them think I was crazy or lying or something.

So I go to the lost and found center (having to take three different train lines to get there from work) and then they tell me they don't have it, it's at the ticket counter, so I go back inside the station, and they check my id and make me fill out a form, and give it back to me, and I make sure everything's in it (some small change, my train card with 3,000 yen on it, and my t-shirt are gone, but they left my skirt! (I brought extra clothes just in case I spent the night at Kirby's and then mine would be all smelly. Oh, the irony.)) My Android, it being remotely locked, and thus useless to anybody else, and my i-pod, with the busted screen, and my credit cards, with their obviously non-Japanese sounding names, and my house keys and a bunch of new makeup I had just bought and everything else are amazingly still there. So I go to the cell phone store again and turn in my rental and have them turn my Android back on, and I'm so so so so so happy, and then I find a little store in that neighborhood that is a specialty store for stage makeup so I buy some crazy blue eyeshadow, because I've been on a makeup kick lately. Which is weird, because usually whenever I'm on a XYZ kick is right when I can't find XYZ supplies. So yay!!

Anyways, my purse had been found outside of the turnstiles next to a vending machine, at Shinjuku Station. Even if I had entered the turnstiles at Shinjuku Station (I entered somewhere else and transferred there), I wouldn't have left my purse outside of it, because I needed my train card. They also found it three days after I had lost it. So somebody found me sleeping in the station, took my purse, took what random stuff they wanted, and left the rest for someone else to find. In America I think they would have just thrown away the stuff they didn't need. Thank you, Japanese thieves!!!!!!!

So now everything's back to normal, except I don't have my financial cards anymore, but those are coming, so whatever. Yay!!

The end.

Friday, January 28, 2011


It has been about three months since my last update. If you want a reason as to why I haven't updated, I will invite you to look at this awesome comic that is completely applicable to my situation.

Please click me.

And, I will then leave you with a youtube video of a volcano that erupted yesterday! But don't worry, it's really far away. We had very blue skies today.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010


So, in just about any Japanese speech, poem, salutation, etc. there is always some reference to the seasons. "The cherry blossoms will soon bloom, just like our hearts will with the new school year upon us" blah blah blah. I always thought this was kinda weird.

And so with much hypocrisy, I now bring you an article which has a little bit of the same slant. Looks like with the changing of the seasons, rice in Japan has just been harvested, so behold! an article that talks about the importance of rice in Japan. (If only they put the same emphasis on whole wheat bread. I'm getting tired of this stupid Iron Kids type stuff.)

But, truth be told, the Japanese and rice go back so far and share so much history, anguish and love that they're bound to get back together. To the Japanese, rice is not just a staple of life: it's life itself. For 4,000 years, rice adorned altars at religious ceremonies and festivals, financed war campaigns and made and broke lords and warriors. It even served as the nation's major currency for close to three centuries.

There's a part I liked about how when couples are getting to know each other, they ask what kind of rice they like. I like brown rice, but I get the kind that you don't have to wash or soak beforehand, and I definitely do not use a traditional iron pot; I opt to put it in the rice cooker before I go to bed and set the timer so I have it for breakfast. But it looks like I'm better off than prepackaged from the convenience store. That's just laaaaazy!