• 9.0 Earthquake, 4th largest ever and the largest the country has faced in recorded history
• 30 feet high Tsunami, swept 6 miles inland with washed up debris and water reaching 10 miles
• 401 after shocks felt till 14th March (Scientific American Journal; http://www.tenki.jp/earthquake) and still counting
• Over 18,000 people dead or unaccounted for
• 4 out of 6 reactors operating at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, have suffered damage to their cooling facilities after the tsunami increasing radiation levels, posing hazard to people within 30 Km radius
• Loss of US$120 – 175 billion that is directly attributable to the disastrous aftermath and possibly even more in terms of economic contraction over the next few years & huge costs for rebuilding the nation
The last week has been unprecedented for Japan, with the twin natural disasters and the subsequent (and still continuing) uncertainty over the possible fallout of the mishap at the nuclear plant.
Things seem to be safe for now, in Tokyo, though people are understandably tense. For most of my Japanese friends (and I believe the same applies for large part of the citizens here), their worry and focus is more about the Northern part of the country, which has suffered earthquake, tsunami, seemingly dwindling supplies of food/medicine/fuel and now the clear and present threat of nuclear radiation!
In the face of that, people of Tokyo and other relatively safer parts of the country have taken to both voluntary and government announced power-cuts, restricted food and fuel supply in their stride. Except for a day or two; life is going on in a normal fashion – Kids are out playing in parks, or cycling around; offices are functioning either fully or partially – with working from home being made an option; public transportation is not effected adversely; shelves in supermarkets once again stocked fully. It is hard to imagine, strolling around Tokyo to feel that we are in the midst of a still unfolding and biggest tragedies of our lifetime.
Dignity, discipline and determination define the way the Japanese are handling the situation at hand.
It is understandable from the perspective of people who are leaving/want to leave/moving further South – especially those families with kids. Everyone makes their own decisions, processing the information that they have access to, understanding the implications of the same the way they can; and doing it at what they deem is the most opportune moment. But most of my friends that I have spoken with have not even remotely entertained that thought of moving away from where they are. In fact, a lot of them are ready to move closer to the area devastated; awaiting their turn and the call from the government as and when to chip in.
Meanwhile what they are ensuring in the interim is – constructive contribution, not triggering panic, not adding to excitement levels, not harping on issues which will take away the focus from sensibility to sensationalism, or reduce the gravity of situation. In short, leading a normal day of their life.
It is a long and arduous road ahead, but that doesn’t seem to be the concern now. “Focus on present, resolve crisis, step by step. The future will take care of itself”. That is what my Japanese friends are doing right now.