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Life in Tokyo

Charles Tanaka

By Charles Tanaka

Japan Program Administrator--Canada Tsuga Promotions

May 27, 2011

Birthday Suit & Earthquake Don’t Mix

Workers construct the temporary housing facility for those forced to evacuate following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Rikuzentakata, Iwate Prefecture, Japan, Sunday, April 10, 2011. Winners of a lottery draw began moving into 36 prefabricated units built on the premises of a junior high school.

We just got hit by yet another fairly strong quake early this morning.   It must have been just after 7:00 am.  I had just gotten in the shower and turned on the water.  It started with small tremors which I thought would abate soon (the usual quakes below Magnitude 4.0).  This one didn’t, it kept going and soon enough the whole house was shaking pretty good.  Water was spraying all over the place except on me!  All of a sudden, it dawned on me that I was in a pretty bad bind!  What if this is the Real Deal and I have to rush out before the whole house starts crumbling around me…  I’m in my birthday suit!… It would be a little embarrassing to say the least to run out of the house totally naked!….   Luckily it subsided after about 40 seconds!    I later found that the quake was centered just off the coast of Ibaraki (pretty close to Chiba) and registered a Magnitude 5.8 !

Life in Tokyo continues without much change.  News update about the Fukushima Plant is non-stop on TV, Radio, Newspaper and Internet.  All in all it doesn’t look good at all.  They now estimate that a Meltdown of the Rods has occurred on all four reactor cores albeit not breached the core containment vessel (good thing!).  But all that water that they have been pumping in has collected in the basement and much has leaked out!  The water is radioactive!   Two nights ago, they published estimates of cost for processing the radioactive water and the amount is staggering!  I think it works out to $20 Billion?! (I may be wrong in the conversion…  they used a Japanese term I am not familiar with when quoting the numbers..  20 Cho Yen ???)  


In addition to this, TEPCO is burdened with paying huge amounts in compensation to all those people who have been evacuated (their livelihood totally ruined) …  I believe this is being estimated at over $30 Billion (again my calculations may be off a decimal point or two..) and it could go as high as $80 Billion…   I suppose that the JPZ Gov will have to shoulder the initial cash disbursement and establish repayment program in place with TEPCO.  I can already see it…  High Taxes and Higher Electric Bills in the coming for sure!   What a mess!!!!

Everybody around Tokyo seem to have adapted to a life style of less electricity.  This have enabled TEPCO to do away with the Black Outs and Revolving Power Shut downs to portions of Greater Tokyo area.

But the real test is still a few weeks ahead when the temperature begins to rise into the high 20’s and low 30’s as we near the summer season.  TEPCO and the government are scrambling to get old coal or diesel powered reactor revived, importing reactors from South East Asia, forcing other electric power companies to divert some of the power to Kanto region which is meeting not only public outcry but also technical problems (i.e. 50 Hrz vs 60 Hrz).  In the midst of it all, several existing Nuclear Power Plant (outside of Kanto) are now being shut down.  They recently completely shut down the Nuclear Power Plant and Hamakoh in Shizuoka operated by Chubu Electric Company.  Three other plans are scheduled for shut down (or partial shutdown) which will further exacerbate the electric power problem.  Alternate power generating systems are being pursued but they all pose several problems for any one of them to offer immediate solutions. 

So, if you are thinking of coming over to Japan this summer… DON’T unless you are prepared to bring with you part of a Canadian Glacier in your luggage or are prepared to work in shorts and T-shirts!