Wednesday 16th March, five days after the mega-quake
Seriously, you could not make this shit up. We go to bed with it all brightness and light on the meltdown front, then wake up to the news that someone just found that the ponds with all the spent fuel rods in them are now in fact pond-less. Eiko and I are starting to develop that 1,000-yard stare. She decides to tough it out and is happy for me to stay up in Tokyo the next two nights. But we agree that the first sign of radiation levels getting dangerous, I am screaming back down from Tokyo on the re-opened Wangan on the FJR motorbike, grabbing her and the dog, then we are heading west out to sea on a boat. She puts the word out to some friends that they are to rendezvous with us at a port called Kurihama if needed.
The market goes down, then up. I call Eiko and get given the great news. No, the spent rods are still pond-less. But she has found bananas!
Thursday 17th March, six days after the mega-quake
I as woken at 6.00am. A City mate apologised for waking me but wanted to warn me that sentiment had taken a serious turn for the worse. ¥/$ had moved from 81 to 76. That news had the same effect as if a Geronimo’s bouncer had given me the good news with his cattle prod. I shot across the room and pounded on the TV. I was greeted by the news that my home team had got stuff in the o/n J soccer game. And then we got ontp some food programme. I needed help and called Eiko. She confirmed no new developments on the nuke front. From there I had the most surreal day of my life!
I charged into the office and saw the financials and global media had gone bonkers o/n. As the true extent of the seriousness of the nuke power station had developed, the world was waking up to what most Tokyoites had known for days. There was no escape. Cities of 35 million cannot be evacuated. The irony was that the situation was genuinely getting better, not least as more and more level-headed writings were appearing about the absolute worse case scenarios. I started putting the word out that we were in the office, and Tokyo was not in fact facing Armageddon.
This was not easy – as a full on flap was on and even though we knew better, it was starting to affect our own confidence. After a couple hours, I checked in with the missus to make sure she is ok and to warn her of the growing gloom. She took the news calmly, way too calmly. The world was having its biggest nuclear panic-up since Chernobyl and she sounded totally unfazed.
M: “What are you doing?”
E: “Oh, I am at the hairdressers. IN CENTRAL TOKYO!”
I stared at the phone. I asked her to repeat what she had just said. Because I was having problems digesting that she had just told me she had voluntarily moved closed to the danger. My brain starts to heat up, the world is in a total flap, the Yen is saying Japan is finished, the escape plan involves me doing a tonne down to Yokohama to whisk her and the dog to safety at a moments notice but she is in Tokyo having her fucking hair done. I am so speechless that the only thing I can think to say is would she like to meet me for lunch?
E: “Sorry darling, meeting with a couple girlfriends and then we are going to see if there are any panic sales on”.
I look at the phone again. So my wife is getting her hair done, then going shopping for a new handbag. I have obviously gone completely mad. I wipe the dribble off my chin. I sit up straight, apologise for having disturbed her, wish her a nice day out and go back to the chaos in the financials. She has, of course, called it spot on: a few hours later, the Nikkei has recovered to 9,000, from its low point of 7,800 on Black Tuesday.
Still somewhat uncertain about the state of my mental health, we go out for a St Patrick’s day pint. It is then that I finally find out where all the Pot Noodles had gone.
My good friend Phil Jones sheepishly admitted that after visiting a couple of convenience stores on Saturday and finding them stripped bare, when he found a stash of Pot Noodles, he lifted 50 of them as a matter or principle. Unfortunately he, along with most of Tokyo, then discovered the downside of Pot Noodles. You need hot water. And to make hot water you need electricity. So the previous night, on returning from the office late, he found himself without power and was reduced to using cold water. To be honest you really do have to wonder if a dose of radiation sickness is more preferable to trying to choke down a carton of cold congealed Pot Noodles.
The experience was so bad, this morning he took 49 Pot Noodles back to the convenience store and asked if they wanted them back? The clerk pointed down the aisle, there stacked from floor to ceiling were thousands of Pot Noodles; it was the sign that the worse was over. The great Kanto Pot Noodle Shortage of 2011 was finally over. With a smile the clerk politely pointed to the charity food bin, collecting for the homeless and hungry up north.
Friday 18th March, one week after the mega-quake
It is incredible to think that it has only been one week since the mega-quake hit. Japan has been struck by three disasters, where any single one would have caused chaos in most countries. G7 in a genuine display of global unity does its thing to weaken the Yen and calm the markets. It also makes for a very quiet day at our desks. Late afternoon, my three Japanese colleagues and one fellow Gaigin gather to shake hands. As we look each other in the eye, in our own very small way, we know we have stood our ground for Japan, for our employers and customers, but most importantly for each other.
But now it is time to head our separate ways and concentrate on being with our families. Happy days, it’s a three-day weekend. So time to get some on!
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