a new fear has arisen day after day

The water supply got contaminated by a radioactive material which amount was above the intake limit for babies. A few days earlier, a dangerous level of radiation for overall intake had been detected on spinach from the areas near the exploded nuclear power plant.

Since the earthquake hit Japan, a new fear has arisen day after day. This time, the TV news showed a long line of people at stores, who came to buy bottled waters. The water in my town was also contaminated over the intake limit for babies temporarily, but now the amount of a radioactive material has dropped and the water is drinkable. I look up the readings of radiation for the area I live in on the Internet everyday and fluctuate between hope and despair. Aftershocks and scheduled blackouts still continue. Worries and fuss that I had regularly had about a move to my new place seem so trivial now. Just surviving is fortunate enough. Being able to use electricity and water supply is fully grateful. For the first time, I found myself longing for cherry blossoms to bloom soon…

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

the whole neighborhood falls silent as if people held their breath

Because the earthquake damaged nuclear and thermal power plants alike and caused a serious power shortage, the scheduled blackout has been carried out in the suburbs of Tokyo.

   The place where I currently live is among the targets. The area is divided into groups and the electricity goes out in turn for three hours between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. on weekdays. Depending on the turn, there are two three-hour blackouts a day. The other day, the power shortage became critical despite of the scheduled blackouts, and the government announced there might be an extensive sudden blackout around Tokyo anytime soon in the evening.

   The announcement came in the middle of speculation that the exploded nuclear power plant got out of control and that doubled my fear. To me, that night was the most frightening time since the earthquake. Fortunately, a sudden blackout didn’t happen. But the days of scheduled blackouts have been beyond my imagination enough. I had thought I lived in a civilized country until the earthquake and had taken electricity for granted. Hours without the power are horrible. Especially at nighttime, I experience total darkness. Houses, traffic lights and neon signs are all blacked out and the whole town is nothing but darkness. It’s much darker than I imagined.

   And somehow, the whole neighborhood falls silent as if people held their breath waiting for the electricity back on. I had never thought I would experience this living in Japan. And when the blackout is over and the light comes back on, I feel like I revived, jumping and shouting for joy each time. That’s been a kind of extreme happiness I had never felt before, but just temporary one. Tomorrow is another day for blackouts…

 

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

nuclear scare

Things have been getting even worse since the earthquake itself. Adding to the continual aftershocks, daily blackouts and a shortage of food, now we have a nuclear scare. Right after I saw a roof of the nuclear power plant blown off on TV, I looked up the accident of Chernobyl on the Internet to see how far radiation spread. The most affected areas were shown in deep red on the map and they were spotted not only on the site but also miles away from it. The distance between Chernobyl and the furthest reddened area was about the same as the one between the power plant that exploded this time and my apartment.

   Of course a type of the accident, the weather, the wind direction and geography were all different, and I wasn’t sure whether or not the place I live in is far and safe enough. I had to decide if I should evacuate now or going outside was more dangerous. None of this would have happened to me if I had finished moving to my new place sooner without packing so slowly. But now, it’s useless to talk about what I should have done. After all, I decided to stay here because it was far away from the mandatory evacuation area that the Japanese government declared.

   I spent a few days without taking a single step outside my apartment, nor opening the windows, nor turning on the fan. Staying indoors, I learned about the structure and the mechanism of a nuclear power plant. Until the earthquake, I had heard a hundred times the power company say the plant was completely safe even in case of a big earthquake, and I had felt doubtful about it each time. I got furious thinking how they dared build something so dangerous and boast its safety. I know on the other hand, I had enjoyed a convenient life by receiving benefit of the power plant…

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

The earthquake in Japan 14:46/11/03/2011 part2

Right after the earthquake hit Japan, the first worry I had was a fire. I looked around the outside of my apartment and there was no fire or collapsed house except for some damages of the roofs on neighbor houses.

   The electricity, gas and water didn’t go off. I turned on the TV and the news said the seismic center was 100 miles away from where I lived. Considering the strong shaking I had just experienced and the total mess in my apartment, it was too horrific just to imagine how nearby areas to the seismic center were.

   Big and small aftershocks kept coming perpetually and it was as if I were on a boat. I lost a sense of the solid ground and felt seasick. Most Japanese metropolitan commuters use the train system, but all the trains stopped running. Suburban commuters couldn’t go home and thousands of them stayed overnight at their offices downtown Tokyo, waiting for the train system to resume service.

   I was fortunate to have been working at home. I managed to clear the mess of fallen things in my place and secure the space to sleep by night, but couldn’t sleep because continual aftershocks kept coming at least every 10 minutes. I can consider myself lucky I survived the earthquake unscathed, and also unlucky I encountered a massive earthquake that was said to occur in Japan once in a thousand years…

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

The earthquake in Japan 14:46/11/03/2011

Japan experienced the biggest earthquake in its history. When it occurred, I was in the room upstairs of my apartment. At first, I felt faint quivers and went downstairs just in case it grew stronger and I needed to escape outside. As soon as I reached the foot of the stairs, it showed its main force.

   The building began to shake violently and I held the LCD monitor with my right hand and the toaster with my left hand without thinking. The shaking got even stronger and it was hard to stay standing. As a native of Japan, I was supposed to be accustomed to an earthquake since we have one quite regularly. Nevertheless, this scale was surreal. The room swung right and left fiercely and it lasted long. Two heavy pots on the top of the toaster went flying along with jugs and thermoses, as the toaster I was holding with all my strength kept moving madly.

   Even things upstairs were tumbling down the stairs. Until the shake finally stopped, I was vaguely thinking Tokyo was being destroyed completely. While I was still in shock trying to comprehend what had just happened, a strong aftershock came. It was as big as the first one. This time, the big tall shelves fell down throwing everything on them to the floor. I had never been so scared in my life. I was actually crying during the shake, shouting Help! Help! When it was over, the whole floor of my apartment was covered with things and there was no place to step on. I wondered what I had done so wrong that I should have such a terrifying experience…

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

Tokyo hr659

The tiny close community of a small village used to be the whole world for me who was born to a farming family living in a rural area of Japan. The sole window to the outside world was TV through which I had encountered what I had never seen in my daily life.

Back in those days, Japanese TV dramas were made and shot in the capital city of Japan, Tokyo. The city view and the people’s way of living in Tokyo looked so cool. Everything from fashion to lifestyle was completely different from things in Kyoto where I lived. On TV, Tokyo seemed like a future world decades ahead to me. I was hooked by one particular weekly crime drama which was shot on location all around Tokyo. Every location looked as if it had been in a Western country and the detectives in the drama were extremely stylish. I was absorbed in seeing that exotic world every week and had spent the other six days of the week waiting for the drama. As soon as I finished watching that show, I would rush into my room and write out the entire show in the notebook. I reproduced all the lines of characters and all the settings by depending on my memory. Since there was no way to record a TV program as a video cassette recorder was yet to come, I read my notebook over and over again to watch it inside my head until the next show was on air. In hindsight, the world of TV dramas was fictional which didn’t exist even in Tokyo, but I was too young to realize that.

Years went by and I became a musician. By the time two years have passed since I joined my first band, the band not only had played gigs around Kyoto but also had made guest appearances and had our songs played on local radio shows from time to time. We had made some connections with music producers who came down to the western part of Japan from Tokyo as judges for some live contests. However, our progress was limited because all the major music labels of Japan were based in Tokyo. My partner and I began to consider moving our base to Tokyo as we were geographically too far off to make a career in music.

Moving to Tokyo was a big deal to me. While I seldom attended, it meant I would quit college once and for all. As a much more serious matter, an old Japanese custom didn’t allow a successor of the family, that was me, to leave home. For me, leaving home meant abandoning my family and all the privileges. Although it seemed crazy to throw away everything when I had no idea how to live on as a musician in Tokyo, I felt living there would be better than staying in my family’s home for the rest of my life. I preferred eating hamburgers and french fries from McDonald’s to eating home-grown vegetables from my family’s fields every single day. I knew it wouldn’t be healthy, but at least I would be able to eat what I chose, when I wanted. To sum up, moving to Tokyo was all about freedom. I was more than willing to jump into the free world where I would make all choices by myself instead of the old fixed rules and customs. 

Oddly enough, things went unexpectedly smoothly once I made up my mind to move to Tokyo. Various kinds of obstructions that had been seemingly difficult to be cleared resolved themselves almost magically. The moving day arrived sooner than I had imagined.

I was waiting for the bullet train bound for Tokyo on the platform in Kyoto Station. A friend of mine came to see me off. She was surprised that she was the only one for me there. “Even your parents don’t see you off?” she sounded bewildered. I wondered what awaited me in the outside world of my window. I was both looking forward to it and afraid. 

the secret of the fourth floor

Since I decided to move out, I’ve realized the power of the Internet again. Without going anywhere physically, I’ve been able to look for a place to live at home, gathering a lot of information on prices, floor plans and the neighborhood. People’s blogs are useful, too.

For the past eight months, I’ve been looking around the Internet, collecting and comparing the details, and have narrowed down the choice to three apartments. They are all located in the same area, which is surrounded by mountains, cold and snowy in winter. The area has a small population with a constant decline. That has led to a remarkably low price for an apartment there. I chose the area because the prices were low enough to fit my tight budget. But its small population was the main appeal to me, who feel uncomfortable to be with people.

All three places I’ve picked for my new home are more than 20 years old and one of them is on the fourth floor. So far, that one is my first choice. There seem no particular flaws in the room, but the building’s available rooms are mostly on the fourth floor. Is it just a coincidence, or is there anything wrong? Even the mighty Internet doesn’t tell about it. I wonder what’s the secret of the fourth floor…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Kyoto: The Last Successor to One Japanese Family ” The Best Book of Hidemi Woods “

They must think using the word ‘environment’ makes them a saint.

The rent of my apartment includes utilities, which means I can use them as much as I want. Since it’s murderously hot everyday, I’ve spent most of time inside my air-conditioned apartment, working for music and watching America’s TV shows. A few days ago, there was a note in my mailbox from the management company of this apartment.

It said that even though it’s utility-included, my usage has been so excessive that they may charge me unless the usage drops to an ordinary amount.

Well, I do have my say on this. First of all, I need air-conditioning more because my room is a duplex apartment and the roof is merely nailed iron plates that conduct heat extremely well. It’s their fault, not mine.

Secondly, who decides the ordinary amount? Japanese people are obsessed to categorize everything and they don’t allow someone or something sticks out. I hate to be categorized and fight against it all the time here. They should accept there is someone who works at home during the night and sleeps in the daytime.

Thirdly, the note asked me to care about the environment. They must think using the word ‘environment’ makes them a saint. It was them who had chosen iron plates for the roof! Before they start charging me, I really need to get out of this apartment…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Kyoto: The Last Successor to One Japanese Family ” The Best Book of Hidemi Woods “

locked me up in my apartment

It’s been one of the hottest summers in history of Japan. Surely it’s the hottest summer in my life. The daytime high often reaches over 95 degrees and that has locked me up in my apartment. To make the most of a day like this, I placed an order of groceries at an online supermarket and had them delivered today.

They carried a special promotion to give a customer a box of laundry detergent for free any $50 or above purchase. I had calculated carefully and made the total $50.48.

After the delivery person left, I noticed the detergent was missing. There was a piece of paper instead, that said one of the items I’d ordered was sold out and its price was subtracted from the total. As a result, the new total got less than $50. I felt furious and was on the verge of calling for complaint when I recalled the delivery person. In the midst of the unbearable heat, he came up to my door, carrying heavy grocery bags and boxes, yet smiling and being courteous. All I had to do was to receive them, and still, I was complaining about a dollar or so. I wonder why the smaller money is, the more persistently I pursue…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods

Kyoto: The Last Successor to One Japanese Family ” The Best Book of Hidemi Woods “

Too much kindness is a burden

Photo by Lina Kivaka on Pexels.com

My partner is very attentive and observant. And often, he is too much so. He does good things to me that I don’t ask for. Mostly I’m happy about it but sometimes it gets on my nerves. As what he does or says is always for me, I feel like shouting “Leave me alone!” He anticipates what I want and does that beforehand. Although I want to have things done to my own liking, he does them for me before I go about it and requires my gratitude.

Yesterday, he cleaned the stairs of my apartment in his way that was different from the way I was going to clean them. And he pushed his kindness to me as usual. I didn’t thank him because I had sensed that what he always claimed to do for me was actually for himself. In my view, he should thank me for letting him do in his way. That threw us into a fight. Too much kindness is a burden…

Episode From Surviving in Japan / Hidemi Woods