The earthquake in Japan : next day

Aftershocks continued throughout the next day of the earthquake. Because of lack of sleep, I spent the whole day with muddy-headed and of course, with fear. The situation developed on the third day when the power company abruptly began to talk about scheduled blackouts. They said they would make a formal announcement later. As they did so late at night, it was the next morning that I heard about it. They had also announced that the first blackout would start early in the morning and the water supply might stop as well.

   That sent me in a panic mode. To me, the news and the blackout came almost simultaneously. I rushed to prepare for it in a great hurry, shutting down my computers, securing water in plastic bottles and bundling up to stay in the cold room. I had never imagined a power outage was such a frightening thing. On top of that, the scheduled blackout will be carried out everyday from now on, with each of it three hours long, day and night.

   The TV news showed empty shelves of food and batteries at stores because people had hoarded them to stock up. Out of the window, I see a lengthy line of cars toward the gas station all day long. The worst time wasn’t in the shaking of the earthquake. Things are getting worse and worse afterward…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Audiobook : Japanese Dream by Hidemi Woods On Sale at online stores or apps. Apple, Audible, Google Play, Nook Audiobooks,  43 available distributors in total

My Travel hr662

A trip can require an enormous effort. In my case, it starts by making time to plan in a hectic daily life which consumes me with work. Once I manage to find time for planning a trip, a long way to finish it awaits. I search all over the Internet for the best possible deal for a hotel and transportation that suits what I want to do during the trip. I narrow selections, choose the most saving plans, combine them into an itinerary, book everything, adjust my work schedule, and pack. The latest trip I took after that lengthy process was by plane. I could have taken the bullet train since the time that would be  taken to the destination was almost the same because the airport was much further than the train station from my home. But that particular airline carried a limited-time sale so that the fare was lower. My choice was decided on a plane for that reason.

No matter how many times I have flown, I feel nervous each time. Although I know that the chances of a car accident are much higher than a plane crash, that kind of logic doesn’t help me. I see many people drink alcohol before the flight and that shows I am not the only person who is nervous of flying. A long time ago, I took a flight to Dallas. Before landing, the plane was sucked into nasty turbulence. It repeated steep dives several times that gave some passengers screams and vomits. I was in a window seat and seeing the wing in the midst of a thick cloud that told me the plane tilted sharply. I heard something fall and break everywhere. Above all, I was most terrified when I saw the flight attendants panic, who were supposed to get used to and be trained for this situation. The plane finally got out of the thick cloud and I thought I would see out of the window broad highways or the edge of the runway that were common views after the plane descended that much. Instead, what came into my sight were tips of green trees. Because I had never seen trees so closely from the airplane, I was convinced that we were going to crash. I vaguely thought it was least expected that my end was Dallas. Then, the plane stopped descending and flew ahead horizontally. It made turns above trees with a move that was more like a bus’s rather than a plane’s. It seemed to spot the runway by doing so, and we landed safely.

For the latest trip I took, I checked in at the airport and was informed that my flight was delayed for two hours due to machine maintenance. I wasn’t sure if the airplane I was going on board would need further maintenance or a backup plane would fly in from somewhere, but either way, it made me uneasy since it came on top of the existing nervous factor that it was a low cost carrier. After I went through the security check and waited at the gate, the further delay was announced. I finally got on board a few hours behind schedule and the door of the plane was closed. Yet, it remained stationary, and wouldn’t move. The captain announced it was waiting for takeoff permission from the control tower. It sounded absurd because it was a small local airport where the runway was empty and only few flights a day came in and out. Forty minutes passed while many things crossed my mind. Why can’t a takeoff be permitted? Is there any problem? Is that the true reason? Does this plane still have some sort of machine troubles? The cabin was dead silent and tense as other passengers sat quiet and strained for the whole forty minutes. I thought this was the very time when we needed alcohol most. By the time the plane took off and safely finished its 90-minute flight, it was already night and I was exhausted. My elaborate travel itinerary got messed up on the first day though I had made it with full of leeway. The massive delay ate up the time for a meal at the restaurant. The express train I had booked from the airport to the city had long gone.

Flights are always accompanied with troubles. Other than delays, I have had my fair share of troubles regarding baggage, other passengers or attendants. Even so, I don’t hate flying. I don’t know why exactly, but I feel like I become a different person each time I take off and land on the destination. It is as if I jumped into a different dimension where a better version of my life exists. I like that feeling so much that I feel stuck circling at the same spot over and over without any changes when I haven’t flown for a long time. That’s why I need to take a plane to a different place once in a while in order to become a better self even if it’s nervous, risky and troublesome. I might as well stay home just to relax as to travel. It would be peaceful, calm and tranquil for me. But I know I couldn’t enjoy that because staying at the same place without traveling feels like being dead. Travel lets me keep changing so that I stay alive.

Bear Attacks hr636

A black shape of a bear is drawn on a yellow background with big capital letters of ‘Beware of Bears!’. That is a poster I see everyday out of my apartment window lately. Not just one. It’s on the fence along a stream and at the little bridge over it so that I spot it everywhere sitting at my table. It has multiplied rapidly this year. On a bench at the nearby park, on the public bathroom wall in my neighborhood, at scattered vacant lots, the posters are rampant here and there that I’d never seen before in my town. Those are not just for warning. Those indicate the spots where bear’s foot prints were left or a bear was actually witnessed. From morning till night, patrol cars with loudspeakers drive around blaring out “Bears are spotted! Be careful when going out!” all day long. The car stops on the little bridge beneath my window and sets off firecrackers to scare off bears. Some members of the local hunting association fired blank shots there. It’s said that the reason why bears come down to a residential area from the mountains so often has to do with the climate change that causes a shortage of food for them.
About ten years have passed since I moved in this snowy town enclosed by the mountains. It’s been warmer and snowed less year after year compared to when I began to live here. That has helped make my winter days easier that I used to suffer from claustrophobia by the deep snow coverage.
Added to the climate change that affects my daily life, I also sense my own mind changes. I had feared if a monotonous country life rusted me away when I decided to move in here. It didn’t happen. Rather, the quiet life increased my concentration and contributed more productivity for my lifework than the time when I lived in the metropolitan area. I have a serener mindset than before and it gives me more understanding toward myself and the world I live in.
Recently, people have stayed home and worked remotely in Japan too. They have left big cities and moved to rural areas. More and more people from Tokyo have moved into my small town that I had expected nothing but to become desolate every year. There are many unfamiliar new residents in the apartment building where I live. The building used to look like a ghost house with dark windows, but it has almost no available room now. I had never imagined that would happen mere one year before. The unthinkable things occurred at the unthinkable speed. In this trend, we can’t tell what happens next. In three years, bears might be chasing after me. Not bears but people might start chasing people and killing each other. Or human race might extinct because of viruses. There might be days of a panic, or moments of danger for life. Even so, it could turn to be better. These unprecedented years have shown how much human imagination is limited. I myself have learned that a superficially dire thing can turn out to be a good thing in the end. Besides, I saw unthinkable things happen, so why not unthinkably good ones? I believe they could happen as well. They should.

“It was a fox! A fox got me!”

The elders of old families in the hamlet where I grew up had regularly practiced a Buddhist chant when I was little. My grandfather was one of them. He didn’t come home from the practice one night by the time he was supposed to. When we were worried and about to go look for him, he turned up at our doorstep sweating and getting muddy. He was shaken by fear and said, “It was a fox! A fox got me!”

 Usually, he would come home by passing through the narrow unpaved alley that led to a wider street near our house. According to him, he was walking home on the familiar dirt alley as usual after he left the elder’s house where the chanting practice was held. But on that particular night, the alley he had walked hundreds of times didn’t come to the wider street. It didn’t end. When he reached the end of the alley, the entrance of the same alley started again instead of the street. The alley continued endlessly and he couldn’t get out of it. He began to panic, ran, tumbled, repeated countless trips through the alley and finally landed onto the street.

 In my hometown, people believed that an inexplicable incident like this was caused by a fox that bewitched them. A fox sometimes pulled mischief around us, and my mother had a similar experience. Because it had been a common knowledge throughout the neighborhood, everybody in my family was fully convinced that my grandfather’s story was true – except I inwardly suspected that a fox might mean drunkenness. By the way, we call a shower when the sun is shining a fox’s wedding…

episode from An Old Tree in Kyoto / Hidemi Woods