Sunday, March 13, 2011

What the Japanese think of the Earthquake

The BBC, like all good media, is prone to a bit of fear-mongering, and it struck me a lot watching the news of how the people of Japan are alternatively portrayed as "in fear of what is to come" and "dealing with the situation calmly". It seemed a bit strange to me, so I thought I'd see what the Japanese are actually thinking right now..

Firstly, of course I asked my wife (she's far quicker than my little netbook, shame she doesn't fit in my rucksack), and she said her family weren't particularly worried about the situation, least of all her father, whom I suspect is annoyed by the lack of any of his favourite TV dramas...

After a brief* look at paints a pretty good picture. Starting with Tokyo-based blogs there are so many blogs giving out advice to fellow countrymen, or just encouragement. There is also a lot of blogs mirroring what I've been hearing on the TV: stores in Tokyo are being completely cleared out by anxious shoppers making sure they are prepared. In some places it appears people are even having trouble getting hold of toilet paper, let alone rice. That said, there are some blogs which have just carried on as though nothing happened, more troubled about their relationships than the fate of the nuclear reactors just a few prefectures away. But, such is the human condition, I guess.

Focusing in on blogs closer to where most of the damage was done in Miyagi prefecture inevitably paints a darker picture. Though many blogs in this area have only just restarted as power finally comes back online. There are many which are just short posts (along this lines of "don't worry, I'm alive"), but a fair few with stories to tell.

One blogger tells of the situation in his town in Miyagi. Like many I've found, though somewhat surreal, he starts off by apologising for worrying everyone. He continues to describe how he has adapted:
The water is back on, but the gas is still down. I've phoned all my relatives in the prefecture but I can't get through to about 90% of them. The quake was days ago, but the city is completely paralysed. The electricity was out, but we have a charcoal kotatsu so we had heating. We also used charcoal to help cook dinner. We've not done this since the 7.9 quake, 33 years ago. We're taking in many shivering people to warm them up -we've all got to rely on each other after all- it doesn't matter if we know their name or not, anyone is fine. We've already had over 100 people come to fill their polythene water tanks.

They also uploaded some pictures showing the damage near their home.

Another blogger, from Sendai shows the queue of people, perhaps 1.5km long, all in need of water. Apparently they set out at 8:30am, and didn't get their water until 12:40pm.

Other blogs ask visitors for any information they have for their area, others provide help on which radio stations are best for getting information, many tell stories of trying to get home after the quake, or on how  they tried to find out what was going on. One blogger laments:

Are you OK? ... Are you alive? ... Now I have no way of contacting you.

Searching blogs for Fukushima unsurprisingly will net you a lot of anxious discussion on the nuclear situation, including advice on what to do if a radioactive cloud passes through your neighbourhood, though I don't know where that blog actually originates. One blog I did find from Fukushima so far paints a similar picture as before, with shops running out of pretty much everything, but also offers advice for people living nearby. For another, it appears like business as usual, despite sharing the prefecture with a variously: no-problem-here, just-seconds-from-meltdown, where's-all-this-hydrogen-coming-from nuclear plant**.  Indeed, I can find very few blogs from Fukushima expressing much in the way of concern over how things will turn out, but with so many still without power, its difficult to tell what is going on behind the news. Nonetheless, most of those blogs I've found from the area, while mostly filled with some degree of shock, also tend to retain an air of grin-and-bear-it.

I guess I can't really say whether or not the news is really fear-mongering. Those worst effected are unlikely to be blogging, in any case. That aside, what I've found has shown that generally these people seem to be doing their best to help their neighbours. It doesn't paint a pretty picture, but its somehow reassuring. If nothing else, there are these people determined to carry on, no matter what.

*I say brief, but with the amount of information out there already, you could spend weeks and only scratch the surface
**The true state of the plant is anyone's guess, and until people have the time to observe it properly, it probably exists in all these states at once. If you believe in Schrödinger's cat, anyway.

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