Archive for the ‘updates’ Category

Power Outage Update

March 14, 2011

It’s confusing out there!  Anyway, a visit to the home page of Suginami City Hall discovered this interesting bit:


“Areas scheduled for power outage:  Shoan 3-chome, Zenpukuji 1 through 4-chome, Nishiogikita 3 through 5- chome.  *Kami Igusa is out of the targeted areas.”

Does this mean other parts of Suginami-ku will not experience power outages?  No explanation is given.  To some extent—no, to a great extent—the confusion is understandable.  But a notice like this leaves questions unanswered that you can’t help but think they could have answered if they’d tried.   Or maybe the people down at City Hall are just as confused and exhausted as the rest of us…

In times like this, when voices of authority are not reliable, we have to rely on our own wits.  Even if you are not in one of the areas scheduled for an outage, it won’t hurt to stock up on water and batteries and candles just in case.

Suginami-ku home page: <;

Just now (1:10 PM) Tokyo Electric (Tepco) held a press conference to announce that Group 3 would also continue to have electricity for the time being.  About Group 4 (places like Shinagawa and Meguro) they will make an announcement later.  The Tepco spokesman looked peaked.  Everyone, in fact, who appears on TV to make announcements and updates is looking frazzled.   I want to send them all a loud THANK YOU for the intensive work they have to do without rest even though they all must be as worried and anxious and upset as everybody else.


Nishiogi Shopping

March 13, 2011

I just got back from another tour of the ‘hood.  Nishiogikubo’s Seiyu—proud member of the “WAL*MART Family”—is closed.  A sign on the shuttered entrance says they are closed till further notice due to the earthquake and refers shoppers to other Seiyu stores in Kichijoji and Ogikubo.  What do you suppose happened?  Possibly I was the last person to buy anything there before they closed.  At that time, while things had fallen off shelves, I saw no signs of damage to the building itself, which, after all, the recorded announcement kept assuring us was “safe.”  I would venture a guess that they were all sold out of everything, were it not for their referral of shoppers to nearby Seiyu stores.

If you hurry, maybe you can get that last set of tissue paper.

Moving on to Seijo Drugs to pick up some vitamins, I found the place crowded with shoppers and the line too long to stick around and wait in.  Out back the shelves normally full of tissue and toilet paper were nearly empty.  There’s a run on these items, and I passed people loaded down with them on the street.

Yesterday I had done a big shop at the Coop, but there had been no bread, bananas, strawberries or broccoli.  Today too no bread, and the fruit section was empty except for a few lonely kiwis and avocados.  Fresh vegies too were wiped out except a couple of bunches of celery, asparagus, and cucumbers.  Milk all gone, eggs all gone, rice all gone.  Shoppers were wandering around exclaiming, “But there’s nothing here!”  There is still some processed packaged food left, though, and for some reason lots of fresh flowers.  Signs above the empty compartments apologized for being sold out of just about everything due to the earthquake.

I then checked out Fuji Garden, right next door to the Coop, across the street from Daiso.  They’ve got lots of everything there, especially in the fresh foods department.  So if you want something besides kiwi and celery, pop next door for more variety.  What Fuji Garden is out of, though, is milk, bread, tofu, and fresh noodles. [The Coop (Seikyo) is located at Nishiogikita 1-2, next to the railroad tracks.]

Is this just a temporary glitch in the system?  Or are we really in for long-term shortages?  That remains to be seen.  I’ve got four and a half rolls of toilet paper at home and five box of tissues.  Let’s see what happens when I run out…


March 11, 2011

I had just come back from a dentist appointment in Kanda, taking the Tozai subway line to Nishiogikubo Station.  I dropped in at Seiyu to buy some underwear and was carrying it to the check out counter when I noticed that the clothing hanging up on the walls was swaying back and forth.  I froze in the middle of the large open clothing department.  A salesclerk came running through calling out to everyone to take shelter in a safe place.  Like where?  I wondered.  The standard drill is to take cover under a table or desk, or lacking that a doorframe.  But there was nothing like that around me.  Two other shoppers ran behind the counter and crouched down.  I dropped to the floor next to the outside of the counter and started praying loudly.  I felt exposed and vulnerable.

I’ve been in Tokyo during countless earthquakes, including being on the 38th floor of a skyscraper,  and in a swaying elevator,  and I’ve had a couple of photographs in glass frames fall shattering to the floor at midnight, but nothing was ever like this.  I don’t know how long it lasted.  I did not have the presence of mind to time it.  But it felt abnormally long.  An announcement came repeatedly from the store’s PA system telling us that the building was safe, so not to worry.  But it was a recording and failed to reassure me.

When the worst was over, I found myself standing up and actually paying for the undershirts at the cash register.  I think both I and the salesclerk were in a state of shock and weren’t sure how to proceed.  Was the store still open for business?  Maybe we just wanted to do something normal, carry on as usual.  I walked out of the store through the cosmetics department past aisles cluttered with fallen bottles of shampoo and deodorant.

Outside the store is a narrow alleyway lined with tiny drinking and eating facilities where the clientele are usually sitting on stools at a counter right out in the open.  Now the alleyway was crowded with people standing around talking to each other excitedly about the earthquake.  I passed many with cell phones pressed to their ears.  I arrived back at the train station where people were just standing around as if waiting to see what would happen next, looking lost as their plans for the late afternoon had suddenly fallen apart.  Where to go now?  What to do?  A man came along and asked two young women dressed in waitress uniforms if they were all right.

I turned right and went down another narrow alley to Dante coffee shop.  I had no idea if it would still be open for business, but I was shook up and wanted to be in a comforting place.  A customer was just leaving, and two more were standing at the counter, the cups at their seats sitting in saucers of spilled brown liquid.  I asked the master if he were still open, and he said yes, so I went in and sat down.  He explained that the gas had cut off so it would take a few minutes longer than usual to make the coffee.  I told him where I had been and we talked about the experience.  He said it was the strongest quake he had ever felt in his life, and he looks to be in his 50s.  I ordered the coffee featured for the day, Blue Mountain, and he laughed and apologized.  The sign for the coffee of the day had fallen to the floor, and the Blue Mountain under it was for another day.

I figured out that more than the sign had fallen as the master walked about behind his counter, crunching broken glass underfoot.  The two people at the counter left after paying the master the half price he charged them for the coffee that had spilled.  A woman came in, saying she had intended to go shopping at Seiyu  but they weren’t letting anybody in.  Since I was starting to calm down, I felt foolish for having gone through with my shopping.

Dante is illuminated by pendant lamps, and has a small bell attached to the front door which rings whenever someone opens or closes it.  The bell began to “ting ting ting” though no one had opened the door and the pendant lamps began to swing back and forth.  “After shocks,” the master announced, but these after shocks felt as strong as the usual earthquake, and if you’ve just experienced one much stronger, these after shocks can be terrifying.

He brought me my coffee.  I savored it, and savored the vase of yellow tulips on the counter in a glass vase that had not been thrown to the floor.  Bach played softly in the background.  The master swept up spilled coffee beans from the floor.  If this was the end, then Dante seemed a good place to be, a place of mental if not physical safety.

There was no news of where the earthquake had been centered or what was happening elsewhere.  The other customer said that no one could get through on their cell phones.  About 4 o’clock I decided I’d better get on home and inspect the damage.  I opened my door to broken dishes, broken glass scattered everywhere, windows wide open, refrigerator and bookshelves shoved away from the walls.  I haven’t even begun to make a dent in the mess.

And now, four hours after the quake first hit, I am sitting here at my desk, and as I have been typing this post, and even now the room is shaking back and forth.  As computer and TV are fine, I now know that the quake was centered off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture in northeast Japan, and the tsunami warnings are uppermost on everyone’s mind.  I do not yet know what the magnitude was of Tokyo’s share.   I’ve dug my earthquake kit out of the back of the closet, and now must begin cleaning up the mess.


October 24, 2010

Slime Mold Wins Prize! We wrote in an earlier post [see “Slime Mold Strikes Tokyo!!!” under “Train Story,” Mar. 25, ’10] about the research that found a similarity between slime mold networks and the Tokyo railway system map.  Now, the Daily Yomiuri reports (Sat., Oct. 2, ’10), the nine Japanese and British researchers have been awarded an Ig Nobel Prize, which was recently presented to them at Harvard University by the Annals of Improbable Research.  No mention of an award for the hard-working slime mold, who the Tree thinks deserve at least some of the credit.

Bathhouse Revival. A recent Tree post [see “Bathhouse Blues,” Oct. 12, ’10]  lamented the demise of a favorite Tokyo bathhouse.  Efforts are underway in another part of town, however, to keep the tradition alive.  A story in the Daily Yomiuri (Fri., Oct. 22, ’10), “Tokyo bathhouses scrub up to lure visitors,”  informs us that the Ota Ward Public Bathhouse Association is encouraging foreign visitors to make use of the 57 bathhouses in the ward as a way of drumming up business.  Ota Ward is home to Haneda Airport, which has recently expanded its facilities to accommodate more international flights.  Thus the bathhouses hope to pick up some of the anticipated influx of tourists through the ward.   Posters in four languages illustrating how to use the baths properly have been prepared, as well as other special souvenirs for visitors.

We recommend checking out the Ota Ward bathhouses if you are coming through Haneda Airport.  A soak in the hot baths will remoisturize and refresh you after a long flight.  And if you want to know what to expect at the bathhouse, you can read all about it in our story, “Bathhouse Blues.”