Wednesday, March 16, 2011

japan, vicariously

My stepbrother lives in Japan, somewhere up on a mountain towards the west coast, as far as I can tell. (It is times like this that make me realize how truly ignorant I am, in so many ways, about the world we live in: its geography, its geology, all the tangled webs that bind us together.  Japan is apparently closer to the United States now and thirteen feet wider than it was last Thursday, and I am having trouble getting my head around these facts.) Far from the devastation of last week's tsunami though close enough to feel the ground shake, it seems he is more concerned at this point about the nuclear reactor situation, a mere hundred miles away as the crow flies.  I'm glad there is a mountain in between him and those reactors, though my heart cries for the fear that must be hovering over the country now, having lived through nuclear hell once already before. (I found this article about that peculiar entity that is the Japanese monster movie moving, particularly its brief comparison between the ways American and Japanese audiences responded to the original Godzilla movie.)

I've been watching again and again a particular video (requires login) that has been making the rounds on  Facebook, which is similar to this video (does not require login), and which has left my dreams filled to the brim with water: seeping across subway platforms and up stairwells, creeping under the door to my apartment and up the stairs to the bedroom, floating my bed away.

Stepbrother Erik and I have been emailing back and forth a bit over these last few days and it's made me realize how far away from this I am, and how horribly close he is.  He's a big boy, I know, and has been looking out for himself for far longer than I've known him, and yet there's a part of me that wishes he were heading home.
3.14.11 My friend David is visiting (we're shooting some food videos for here).  He was at a hot spring down the street from my apartment when the quake hit.  Yesterday we geared up the car and drove as far as we could east all the way to Fukushima City, just south of Sendai, the major city that was hit.  It's too bad because Sendai is one of Japan's nicer cities, famous for cow tongue restaurants--which are surprisingly good.  Anyway we had to take local roads, all the freeways are closed for emergency vehicles and official transport.  About 10 miles out, as soon as we crossed into Fukushima I realized we weren't going to make it when I saw 50+ car line ups at the gas stations.   Pretty soon all the gas stations just had their attendants stand blocking the entrances holding big signs that said no gas.  Fukushima City had no gas and we had a half tank--enough to get home.  Walked around downtown Fukushima a bit, a lot of damage in stores, store windows are broken out, old buildings are lopsided, roofs are crumbled, streets are warped with occasional sinkholes.  Japan as a whole has a shit ton of convenient stores, which were all out of food and closed.  Every grocery store had long lines of people in their parking lots buying the last of the food.  Fukushima seemed bad but  nothing compared to the coast, for sure.  Headed northwest into Yamagata and had an eerie quiet drive home through some of Japan's larger mountain passes still deep in old snow.  Back at work today and the teachers here were all business as usual, hardly a word about the event.  It's 11 pm here now and I'm at a cafe in downtown Niigata.  Just dropped David off at the station to take an all night bus to Kyoto.  He wants to see Kyoto but also just wants to head south and lessen any threat of radiation.  My apartment is about 100 miles due west of the two plants that are having all the trouble.  Still a little too close for comfort.  If one of them melts down I suppose I'll have some decisions to make.  Well I guess the cafe is closing up, gotta drive an hour up into the mountains and to my apartment shack in the woods!  Yipee.  More later.
3.15.11 Things getting dicier here.  David cut his month long trip short and is jumping on a plane outta Osaka tomorrow.  No gas in town food all almost depleted.  It's dumping snow out here now.   I'm dog tired, more detail for ya tomorrow.

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