In case you hadn't picked it up, Ben and I are Japanese, and we had planned a three-week trip home covering what is called in Japan "Golden Week", when there are four national holiday between April 29 and May 5. (United Nations used to tell us we worked too long hours, so the government went a bit crazy setting up a bunch of new holidays in the 1980's, though this particular period always included three traditional holidays.) Public transport and venues are silly-crowded, but workers potentially have yup to 10 days off, factories close and we have clean air and lovely skies; the weather is nicer and settled by then, so we thought it'd be a good time to hang out.
It would have been only my second trip home "for no reason", and Ben's first since we've come to New Zealand.
As you know situations have been unsettling in Japan and we've canceled our trip this morning. All our family and friends came out unscathed, all things considered, though my 80+ parents had to spend the first night in a department store as all trains stopped, and my Brother-in-Law walked for 4.5 hours to get home. The earthquake was big, tsunami terrible, but the nuclear situation is beyond comprehension. Coming from a line of staunch anti-nuclear family, I'm aghast at the level of support for nuclear power development still, in the one country we would have thought should know better.
My brother is taking his family and our parents away from Yokohama for a few days just so they can catch up on sleep.
Our thoughts are with those who suffered losses, and our thanks go to those who are trying to help Japan. My special prayers go to the New Zealand, and other, USAR teams who had to rush from Christchurch to Miyagi.
* * * * *
If you have family and friends in Japan, this Facebook source appears to be fairly reliable, but as with everything else right now, take it with a pound or two of salt. Information is starting to get much more muddle and confused now, and people's anger and frustration is starting to erupt.
Some facts you may not have heard on the mainstream media:
This year is the worst on record for hey fever suffers in Japan; we were told this as far back as last November. And people are reporting back that it's bad, especially in combination with dust and soot.
There is very little looting in Japan; that's something outside of our thinking. But there are scams, including fake fund-raisers at train stations. Water and petrol were stolen at night from the Self Defense Force by evacuees.
In a small country like Japan, we have two different electricity system. East (of Shizuoka, roughly, inc Tokyo) is on 50Hz and West (incl Osaka) is on 60Hz. After the country opened up to the world in 1868, Europe (mostly Germany) helped developed the Eastern half of the country and the US, the West. Because of the cost, we never unified the systems; not a lot of countries have two different systems. (I think we are the only one.) This also requires transformer stations (not sure what the proper term is) for Western Japan to send power to the East, but I understand it has been happening.