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Monday, March 28, 2011

Tokyo two weeks after the earthquake


Tokyo escalator

It is just over two weeks since the massive Sendai earthquake rocked Tokyo. Apart from making a mess of apartments and offices (and slightly bending the tip of Tokyo Tower!) the earthquake caused little structural damage in Tokyo. However, the aftermath is being felt by way of the damage that the ensuing tsunami inflicted on Tokyo Electric Power Company's nuclear power plants in Fukushima.

First of all, Tokyo is generally emptier than usual. There isn't quite as much traffic on the streets, pedestrians on sidewalks, passengers in trains, or customers in stores.

Wide ranging power cuts that were planned for Tokyo have not happened mainly because calls for power conservation have been heeded. Businesses and citizens seem to be cooperating in keeping electricity consumption to a minimum.

Tokyo two weeks after the earthquake

This does make, however, for a curiously dark and dingy Tokyo. Many lights in the normally dazzling subways - even inside the trains - have been switched off. Visibility has barely suffered at all, but that clinically stark white light that characterizes Japanese public spaces is somewhat more sallow.  Escalators in non-major subway stations are no longer in use. Most drink vending machines are turned off.

Tokyo two weeks after the earthquake

Nighttime Tokyo is also suddenly more demure now that the neon signs are no longer flashing.

Perhaps the most disturbing sign of the recent troubles is to be found in food stores. Radiation levels around the reactors have just risen dramatically because of yet unidentified leaks in the facility, and the vegetable racks in Japanese stores clearly reflect this, with any produce from eastern Honshu, north of Tokyo, sitting there untouched.

Bottled water is available, but rationed to one or two bottles per customer, but milk and yogurt are becoming very difficult to find. Unlike toilet paper shortages further west of Tokyo, there seems to be enough to go round in Tokyo.

Vegetables left unsold

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