Sunday, March 13, 2011


Well, I can't claim to have an uneventful life anymore. This week was certainly dominated by a certain natural/nuclear disaster. But in keeping with consistency, I'm gonna start from the beginning of the week, even if it does feel like ten years ago. We met Fingers and co. again and went to Shibuya on Sunday. It was boring.

Shibuya, hurray.

Monday was one of those wasted days where I probably watched some tv or whatever. Can't remember.

Tuesday I had work. I honestly think things are getting worse with the kids who don't like me. Maybe it's because they have realised that I'm here to stay. One of them screamed and screamed until she started to choke on her food and then she threw up loads. It was fucking disgusting.

On Wednesday, while I was in work, we had a small earthquake. I was pretty used to earthquakes after almost 4 months here, but this one frightened me more than usual, simply because I was in school and found myself responsible for this room full of tiny children. It was during lunch time so we just them to get down under the table, and it was over in less than a minute. No big deal. I got in a fight with one of the kiddies then, because he wouldn't go back to eating his lunch, and kept trying to run away. The reason was that they are really well trained, and have an earthquake/fire drill once a month. After the earthquake drill where they get under the tables, they are supposed leg it down the fire escape to evacuate, which is what he wanted to do. Good lad.

On Thursday I went back out to Tachikawa (the area where I work). I met my co-worker Feny on her lunch break and went with her to view her apartment, that myself and Der are thinking of moving to. It is SMALL. Tiny. But a lot cheaper. I told her I'd have to talk to Derry about it. If it was just me, I'd probably take it because it's fine for one person, but for the two of us, I'm not so sure... Afterwards, I got the bus to the immigration office AGAIN, to get my new visa stamp. I had to pay 4000yen for it which I was pretty annoyed about. But I'm no longer working illegally, haha.
One year working visa :)

I went back to Nakano, went to the ward office and applied for my Alien registration card and got my national health insurance card. A productive day by my standards.

Isn't our city flag awesome?

So then we get to Friday. It had been another lazy day. Although I woke up early enough, I stayed in bed watching stuff on the internet. I got up, and was about to get in the shower, when I realised I hadn't brought in my washing yet, and I'd need my clean clothes for after my shower, so I headed up to the roof of our three story house to get it. While I was up there, the earthquake started. I didn't worry for a few seconds, but it got stronger, and scary, really fast. I legged it inside and down one flight of stairs to my bedroom to get Derry. At this point it was getting louder and more violent so we decided to get the fuck out of the house. It felt like turbulence on an aeroplane, the kind that makes you grip your armrest and close your eyes. I could hear shit falling over and smashing as I made my way down the two flights of stairs.

Outside we found our roomate, Ryuta, the three of us wearing our pyjamas at 2:45 in the afternoon, the street was filling up with people leaving their houses, all looking at one another, everybody wondering when the fuck it was going to end. Even after the violent shaking had stopped, the earth continued to sway for a good few minutes. The feeling of not being on solid ground was incredible, it was like being on a ferry, or being really really drunk.

Elementary school kids in their protective headgear.

I have no idea how long we stayed outside for, until the rocking had ceased and I felt brave enough to run back inside to grab a jacket and my cigarettes. After a couple of cigarettes, we ventured back into the house where we immediately turned on the news. The tsunami was already underway. A couple of large aftershock rocked the house again, causing us all to leave the house and go down to an open car park area a couple feet away. One of the really strange things was a dramatic change in the weather. It had been a really sunny, warm Spring day when the big quake hit. Within an hour, it had gotten really dark and dramatically colder.

News reporters wearing helmets in the studios.

Although we were quite aware it had been a big earthquake, I had no idea of the devastation that would be caused in the hours that would follow what with the tsunamis, explosions, fires and nuclear shite. I knew I needed to contact my parents before they found out about it all on the news but I had a couple of hours before they would wake.

We spent the rest of the day not really knowing what to do. The gas had been shut off in the house, which happens automatically when earthquakes reach a certain magnitude, so we went to CoCo's which is a diner a few doors down from our house. It's a bit like a Denny's. We drank coffees and ate ice cream and smoked, while Ryuta tried to get through to his boss. We thought the aftershocks had finished in the evening so Derry and Ryuta headed down to Koenji for a while and I stayed at home. I'd been feeling fine up to that point but spending a few hours sitting alone in my room watching all these terrifying videos and hearing that a nuclear emergency had been announced really freaked me out, and the aftershocks came back and were pretty continuous.

We felt the big earthquake at a 5 in our area. Most of the aftershocks for the last two days have been 1-3.

The atmosphere in the streets was so strange. We live really near Shinjuku, and literally thousands of people were walking past my house trying to get home. The street was filled with traffic which I've never seen before since being here, our street is usually empty, and there were lots of sirens from ambulances and fire engines trying to get through.

I was sooooooo lucky that I wasn't in work that day because I would have been stranded, like millions of others that night. 5 of the teachers in my school spent the night there, with two of the 2 year old toddlers whose parents couldn't get to them.

Shockingly, the school was open as usual the next day and I was supposed to be in work. I thought it was mental that people were still going to work the next day, especially when the aftershocks were still going strong and nobody knew what was happening with the power plant. I couldn't get through to anybody though, because most of the phone networks were down, so I emailed them and told them I wasn't going to come in unless I heard from them. They eventually emailed me back and told me that the trains were still not fully functional and I didn't have to come in even though they were open, because technically I'm still only training.

Explosion at an oil refinery, 40 miles from my house.

So anyways, I didn't do much this weekend apart from sitting at home being on edge.It was scary, listening to sensationalist news reports, spitting out figures of radiation, without any explanation to what they mean and not knowing what I should do! My teeth and jaw hurt from clenching them. Every time I felt and aftershock, I'd get really short of breath for a while. I got vertigo and started imagining earthquakes every time I stood up. I got a bit ridiculous tbh.
Luckily I discovered the Japan Meteorological Agency website which, usually about 5 mins after every aftershock, lists the magnitude and location of the epicentre. These helped me to distinguish the real quakes from my imaginary ones :)

Most recent earthquake, as I write this.

We were really so lucky that we're far enough away from all that madness. I can't begin to imagine what it must be like for all those people whose lives were lost, families lost, homes destroyed, or to be evacuated because of a nuclear crisis etc etc. To be honest, I'm trying not to think about it too much.

I felt much better yesterday (Sunday), after a good nights sleep, and today when I got woken up by a biggish quake, I didn't even hold my breath. I've gotten enough information about the power plant to not be scared any more and I'm too far inland to be hurt by any tsunamis. We're laughin. But even though everybody around me is very calm and going about their business like any other day, there is still a vague sense of uneasiness.

There was a a queue of about 30 cars at the petrol station near my house as I walked by yesterday. They have put a limit on how much petrol people can buy:

The shops have sold out of so many products. All of the bottled water, bread and dairy are completely gone. Even though nobody is panicking, they certainly are preparing for the worst! It's fucking creepy. More photos of this on my Tumblr.

I got a package from my bestest bud Chris Mahon today, with some essentials, so at least I won't starve.

Legend. Myself and Derry had a great time doing the crossword and sudoku in an October edition of the Metro Herald until I started to cry because I have such bad motion sickness from all the quakes that I though I was gonna throw up. I rang my mam who wants me to come home and I'm starting to like the sound of that plan.

I have to go back to work tomorrow and I'm fucking dreading it. People are telling me there is a high chance of another big earthquake in the next two days so I'm packing an overnight bag in case I get stranded out there. Ugh. I'm worn out and I feel sick and I wish this bullshit would be over already. Derry is taking it all in his stride and listening to Tsunami Bomb and Nuclear Assault because he is hilarious.

I've never missed Ireland as much as I do now, and I can't wait to see all of your lovely faces again, whether it's next week or next year. Love you xx

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