Monday, March 21, 2011

Tokyo, city of ghosts? Keep taking the tablets

No, we didn't buy an iPad, though we did visit the Mac Shrine in Ginza...the launch of the new model has been delayed in Japan. Yesterday we visited Tokyo for the first time since recent events. Partly, we just wanted to see if it really was as empty as this hyperventilating woman said in the Sun. And the answer?

Ginza Ghosts?

Akihabara Zombies?

It was a bit quiet, even for a Sunday afternoon on a holiday weekend. But we didn't have that much trouble finding some people :-) To be fair to the subject of that Sun article, it is quite possible that the whole story is a journalist's fabrication, as the British press are wont to do. There is plenty more silly stuff along similar lines, like the extraordinarily fortunate person who had a "very lucky escape" through being in a taxi in Tokyo when the earthquake hit, and getting out of the country a couple of days later. I'm glad to see he is getting roundly abused in the comments.

By the way, those bright green people in the top shot are not luminescent through eating spinach, but collecting for the tsunami victims. Remember them? They are still there, while the rest of the world flaps over the power plant.

One more excuse for our visit was that the UK Embassy was handing out stable iodine tablets, just in case we are advised to take them. I am sure the Japanese would hand them out too, but it is possible for foreigners to fall through cracks due to bureaucratic bloody-mindedness, and I was also interested to see how many people were around. In a typical display of British incompetence, the process was farcically inefficient, with two people who I presume to be doctors only managing to see about 250 of us in total over a 5h period. We had to wait in a room on the opposite side of the building where the pills were actually handed out, and one person came to ferry people from one room to the other in groups of 2 or 3 - the net result being that the doctors must have spent most of their time twiddling their thumbs. We first turned up about 2:30 when the queue was a mile long and not moving, so we went and did a couple of other things before returning later when things had quietened down and we only had to wait a further half an hour or so. (Jules said she thought she recognised someone from earlier.) If every person represents a family of 2 British on average, that means 500 were dealt with on that day (this article referred to 540 British Nationals, but may include other consulates and different days).

Apparently the Ambassador was on telly in the UK saying that most seemed to be staying, defiantly or otherwise, though I'm not sure how he could know really. Andy reported that his flight home was emptier than the one coming out (which itself was after the advice to not come). In contrast, the vast majority of the French seem to have left


William M. Connolley said...

But look at that man in your photo wearing the anti-radiation mask! Clearly it is mega-dangerous.

bigcitylib said...

Kind of reminds me of what I read about Toronto during SARS. I saw exactly one mask during that whole time.

A guy on CBC radio came on Sunday and went into the whole "Tokyo is a ghost town" thing. He did however produce a restauranteer who complained business being down to 20% of usual.

James Annan said...

It's certainly true that things are quiet compared to usual, and I've heard that hotels in Osaka etc are stuffed.

Funnily enough, we bumped into someone we knew at the tablet dispensary, and both he and his friend were wearing masks, which is very rare among Brits in my experience. But I suppose it is possible that they are both serious hayfever sufferers, who knows...

Richard said...

I find it hard to believe that the woman quoted in The Sun, 10 years in Japan, really has a problem finding food. Even fresh food, sandwiches and bentos are plentifully available in Shinjuku-ku now. The article made me laugh out loud - until I remembered that this is the best-selling paper in the UK so many people will lap this up as an accurate picture of what is really happening. For the record: it's NONSENSE.