Thursday, September 13, 2012


It's been a long time since I've updated my blog but I find I can do nothing else. I am currently stuck at my desk doing work that is of no interest to me AT ALL and I just can't find the motivation to continue.

I guess if you do something long enough and often it enough it will grow tiresome but for me there are added pressures that stop me from making any headway.

I have something on my mind, or rather a series of somethings. Most of them good. So good in fact that I can think of nothing else. Each minute I sit at my desk is a minute of agonizing torture I have to endure. Waiting, waiting, waiting... Watching the second hand slowly count down the time until I can leave.

I wish I could say what is on my mind. In fact I have so much I want to get out I may just start up a new, anonymous blog so that I can write my thoughts freely.

There is something I desperately want. To that end there are places I need to be and things I need to be doing and they have nothing at all to do with my daily life. I wish they did. I wish I could just throw this life away and replace it with the new one I have designed for myself but... Nothing is ever that easy.

I wish I could say more. I wish I could spell out all of my plans and all of the things that have made me this way.

Like christmas presents under the tree, you know there are wonderful things just waiting to be unwrapped but you can't touch them, not yet, and the closer you get to the day the harder it is to control your excitement. I feel like today is Christmas Eve and the wait is killing me!

I want an Oompa Loompa daddy and I want it now!

I can't sit here anymore. I need to get out!

I need to be living a different life. I know what I want and how to get it, so why am I sitting here watching the clock tick away precious minutes and hours of my life?


Monday, April 11, 2011

Nothing to say

As the events following the quake begin to fade I feel as if I have nothing to say. At the time I was full of fear and sadness, some of which still lingers, but now... The sun is shining, the weather is warming and life is moving on. I feel as if nothing I say will have any impact. nothing could possibly compare to what happened. I'm alive. I'm ok. What more can I say?

The people in Miyagi are still suffering and I feel it. It's hard to say just how, but I do. It's not the same as when you see a tragedy on the news and you sympathise. This is different. These people are my people. I was a part of what happened and so, by extension, I feel it.

I wish I could do more than I am doing right now. I have friends who are volunteering. Wonderful wonderful people. For me, I think the best thing I can do is to keep working, keep things ticking over, donate when I can...

I am writing this because I wanted to write something however, when I sat down at the keyboard nothing would come. Everything is/was overshadowed by the quake. It is all I can think about. I'm hoping, by writing this, I'll get a little of that out. Then, next time when I sit down to write, new ideas will come.

Here's to inspiration, hope and new ideas.


Thursday, March 31, 2011


2:46 Was the time the Earthquake hit Japan. For those of us who lived through it, it will remain a surreal and life changing experience. 2:46 Quakebook is a collection of real stories from the people who survived. Put together in just over two weeks, 2:46 Quakebook is nothing less than miraculous. Purchase your copy online to help raise money for the relief effort. Japan needs your help.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An update from Tokyo

A couple of days ago I got an email from The Times in the UK. It seems someone there had been reading my blog. At the time they were planning to run an article on all the people "evacuating" Tokyo. Now that things have calmed down a little I think the article has been benched but here is the reply I sent to The Times....

I'm back in Tokyo now, as are most of my co-workers. I would say the atmosphere here is still nervous and apprehensive, but definitely a lot less tense than it was when I left last week.

As you are aware, the situation with the reactors in Fukushima was making us all nervous. In addition, it was difficult to know which news source to trust. The local media was saying everything was okay and yet the Prime Minister wasn't confident at all. The foreign media sensationalized everything to the point that even people as far away as Oregon in the USA were buying iodine tablets. This in turn caused our families to panic who pressured us to leave.

The Japanese, while quite calm on the surface, were panic-buying everything in the stores. Stores quickly ran out of bread, bottled water and toilet paper. Then, as the reactors failed, blackouts were scheduled across Tokyo and trains stopped. It was cold and miserable, the ground continued to shake every hour or so and (even though it was mostly disinformation) the threat of possible nuclear meltdown hung over our heads. I felt, as did many of my friends, that a holiday down south would be best.

However, with the news of the reactors cooling down, and calming reports from those who had remained in Tokyo telling us that everything was okay, we decided that it was time to come back.

The ground is still shaking which is hard to deal with. Before, we would have just ignored most quakes. They happened every now and then and nothing ever really came of them so we all just grew complacent. Now, every time we feel a quake, the people freeze and wait. Is it going to get bigger? Is this going to be the really big one? After a while the tremors really start to grate on the nerves.

At this stage, I'm planning to stay on in Tokyo. My feeling is the people here need our support. We need to show a solid front now and prove that we can beat this thing.

The atmosphere here is still far from being relaxed, but there is hope.

Location:Tokyo, Japan

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Victims of Fear

I've been in Osaka for 3 days now. I like to pretend to myself that I came here for a holiday but the reality is I came here because I was scared. Maybe that sounds like a contradiction because I've been advocating how safe Tokyo is from the start but... If I'm to be truly honest, while the rational me believes Tokyo is safe, the conflicting news reports, concern from my family and friends and the never ending quakes really started to get to me. My nerves were shot and I needed a break.

Things here in Osaka have been fine. It wasn't until I started thinking about returning to Tokyo that I realized just how stressed the whole situation had made me. My neck and shoulders immediately tightened, my stomach clenched and I felt like I would be physically sick.

I don't think I've had a panic attack before but I get the feeling that might be what I was experiencing.

It's stupid. I've read all the articles, I've watched the news, I'm a rational and logical person. There is no reason to be scared. Well, ok, let me rephrase that - there is no immediate call to be concerned, yet the very thought of getting back on that bus filled me with dread. I couldn't breathe or swallow, I started to sweat and the pit of my stomach turned to acid.

Stupid stupid stupid.

Of course talking to my father didn't help much. He's been extremely worried since this whole thing began. When he called in last night with reports of what he'd seen on the news, of how lacking in confidence the Japanese Prime Minister was and his own concerns that I shouldn't return to Tokyo just yet my system went into shut down. I was back in that place I was days ago when I was a terrified mess, not knowing what I should do.

Once again my Japanese friends were a great help. As the news unfolded during the night they sent me updates, assuring me that the situation in Fukushima was beginning to cool down, that I had no reason to be so worried.

And of course they are right. I've always prided myself on my ability to be rational and logical in any situation. Now I know that's not always the case.

Still, for the sake of my nerves and the peace-of-mind of my family I've decided to stay in Osaka another night or two. I WILL go back to Tokyo though and I WILL NOT let my fear control me.

That's perhaps been one of the worst things to come from this whole incident. The rumors, the scare mongering and the uncertainty have all lead to widespread and irrational fear. Not just fear on a local level (which is understandable) but an international level. People the world over are afraid, many with no good cause.

The terrible side affect of this fear of course is that so many people have been focusing on the possibilities of a nuclear catastrophe (which in turn generates more fear) and are completely overlooking the real victims of this disaster - the people living in Sendai and Iwate who have already lost so much and are losing more every day.

The world news focuses on nuclear doom but instead they should be focusing on the thousands of people suffering the most horrific conditions just a couple of hours north of Tokyo.

As of now, today, I refuse to succumb to my fears. I owe the real victims of this disaster that much.

We all owe them that much.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Leaving Tokyo

A little over 2 hours ago I packed a suitcase, filled my satchel with some emergency items, a bottle of water and a good book, grabbed my camera bag and took what I hope was not the last look around the tiny little apartment that has become my home here in Tokyo.

As I mentioned in my last post, I have not given up on Japan. I hope... No, I believe the situation with the nuclear reactors in Fukushima will be contained soon but... For the time being I've decided a short holiday to Osaka might be for the best.

It's a terrible thing waking up to your mother's tears. All she has done is listen to media fear mongering and it has made her very very afraid.

So, for my family's peace-of-mind, as well as my own, I'm heading down south. I only intend to be gone for a couple of days but... With all my mother's fears and my father's worries I couldn't help feel that maybe, as I packed my bags and walked out the door, this might be my last night in Tokyo. I might never see my home again.

It's a devastating feeling. So much so that if I think on it too long I'm afraid it will cripple me completely.

However, please don't think that I have stopped being positive. Far from it. I believe that Japan will recover from this. WE will recover from this. I think I've just let the feelings of others get to me. These are difficult times full of complex and difficult emotions. I would never have thought it possible to feel hope, despair, determination and anxiety all at the same time but apparently you can. I'm feeling them all right now.

I hope to see my home again, I really do. No. Strike that. I will see my home again. I am determined not to leave so much behind - and I'm not talking about my stuff.


In the days that follow

It is now six days after the quake. With all that's been happening in Japan it's hard to believe a week has almost passed. At the same time the past six days have have stretched on forever, stretching everyones nerves along with with them. Looking at Tokyo you can tell something is wrong. The lights are off, the streets are bare, the shelves are nearly empty and the trains are... Well they are running again but only just.

The bustling city of Tokyo has lost it's bustle.

However, for all that, life goes on. There's no other option really. In the last two days I've been shopping, eaten out, gone to the pub, played pool at a nearby pool hall and I even got a haircut.

Sure, half the lights in the hair salon were off to conserve electricity and the department store I "borrowed" a role of toilet paper from closed its doors at 6 yesterday but they carried on.

Ok, I feel a little guilty about the haircut but I really needed one and my previous appointment was cancelled. I had booked it for last Friday!

The point is, while we can we are living the best we know how.

Right now I'm in a coffee shop enjoying a soy latte and a break from the harsh winds that have been scouring Tokyo raw for the past two days. As I look around I can see a girl balancing her accounts, an old guy trying to work out a sudoku puzzle in the newspaper, another old guy reading a book, a cute little girl playing some random game on her iPod... In essence I see people living.

Sure they are worried and saddened about what is happening just a little north of here but they are safe for now.

People worry about the Nuclear reactors to the north. The media here in Japan down plays the situation so as not to cause a panic. Overseas however the disaster is hyped to extremes. The truth lies somewhere in the middle. What I can tell you is, as of now, today, there is no immediate danger. The reactors are still in trouble and the people of Fukushima are suffering terribly, especially the brave men and women giving their lives to control and contain the problem but, let me repeat this one more time, we are ok.

What we need now, rather than panic and fear, is your support and understanding.

Some people are leaving Tokyo and the surrounding areas and I don't blame them. I understand their fear. I share it too. However many others are choosing to stay. For me, I'm going to hold out as long as I possibly can. There is no reason to run yet. I'm nervous, sure, but I can't help think that leaving may do more damage than good in the end, and as this place and its people have given me so much over the years I feel like it would be wrong of me to just pack up and leave in such a time of need.

That being said, if things do take a turn for the worse (fingers crossed they don't) I will have no choice but to go home. That day will be a very sad day indeed.

For now my friends are holding strong and in their strength I also find the strength to carry on.

Tonight I'm heading south to Osaka. Not because I'm worried but to ease the worries of everyone back home. I'll take a couple of days, rest, drink with friends and relieve some of this tension that's been building then I'll be back.

Everyday I've been repeating my friend's words like a mantra and it has been helping so I'll repeat them again here...

"I will not be beaten by a f***ing earthquake"


Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Fuckin Earthquake

Yesterday I finished a blog that I'd been trying to write for days. I would start it then stop, not really knowing what to say or how to move forward. The same could be said for my life here in Tokyo. I simply didn't know how to move past this. What was the next step? Was now the time to leave?

Then my Japanese friends reached out. They don't have the option of leaving, they're here for better or for worse and they're not letting this beat them.

To quote a good friend "Japanese people are strong. We will never be beaten by a f***in earthquake!" (Thanks Datch, you made me smile with that).

I still haven't decided what to do. It may still be best to pack up and leave, but for now it's a sunny day in Tokyo and I'm not about to be beaten by a f***in earthquake.

Big thank you's to Yukki, Azusa, Shizuko, Tomoo, Kayo, Kazumi and Datch. Where would I be without you?


3/11 - Earthquake in Japan

There have been numerous blogs and posts out there about the quake. So many people giving an account of their own personal experience. An event that will likely change most people's lives in some way, even if it's just a slight shift in perspective. For me, there is no doubt something has changed.

Four days ago I was sitting in an end-of-year meeting thinking of all the people that would be leaving, slowly letting myself sink into depression as I remembered all the people I've had to say goodbye to in my life, and of those with whom I didn't have the chance.

It was an average day. Kind of grey, kind of cold, kind of nothing special. A coffee with co-workers helped cheer me up a little. We talked about iPads and smart phones (all the geeky things that turn even the oldest of men into boys) then there was work.

I spend most of my days teaching English and Drama to children. It's a fun job. You play with kids, create, sing songs, make up dances, and in the end the kids put on a show for their parents. Well Friday was show day. By 2:30 the kids had started to arrive with their mums and dads. They took off their coats and scarves, kicked off their shoes, hung up their hats, slipped on their little room shoes and sat down to play. The mums made themselves busy putting down bags, fussing with hair, wiping noses, tucking in shirts and and attempting to contain the smaller children in their wake.

For my part I wandered around talking to mums and dads while holding little hands and listening to the stories of excited five-year-olds who always seem to have so much amazing news they just need to tell you right now. One little girl wandered in by herself as her mum ducked across the street to buy her a drink before class. She kicked off her shoes and took off her hat, ran across the room to put her homework on the desk before putting her bag away like a good girl - then the shaking started.

Everyone stood up and froze in place. Mums and dads looked around the room not really knowing what to do. Children stood holding toys, scared because we were scared but not sure why. Was it going to get bigger? Was it going to keep shaking? Then the screaming started. One of the mothers outside started crying - Momoka! Momoka! All I could think to do was cry out an answer - She's here. She's safe. We've got her.

What should we do? Stay in the basement studio? What if the building collapses and we're trapped? But the street... So many buildings, glass and power lines, nearby construction machinery...

The decision was made for us in mad panic as the screaming mother burst into the classroom and dragged her little girl out onto the street. I don't know if it was the right thing to do or not but we followed. We each grabbed a child and ran up the stairs out into the street just as the shaking truly started.

Even now, looking back, it doesn't seem like a real memory. More of a distorted dream where the land becomes the ocean and the buildings all become masts on giant ships that rock and roll as the storm hits. What's worse, you know this is a falling dream - the kind of dream where you have to hold on or you'll go over board and be swept away and you know, somehow, you just know that if you fall in this dream you'll never wake up.

Everything shook: the buildings the power lines, the sign posts, the giant crane towering over head... Everything. And the ground bucked and rolled beneath our feet like some crazy amusement park ride that had stopped being fun the moment you got on. And it went forever.

For five minutes we stood wrapping arms around children, gathering them in like sheep that would run away and get lost if only we let them go. The screaming mother threw a towel over her daughter's head, as if stopping her from seeing it all would somehow protect her from disaster.

We stood frozen, waiting for our world to collapse, how could we believe that it wouldn't? Our shocked silence was only broken by the voice of a two year old. He looked up at the buildings towering so high above, shaking and bending - mummy, the sky is shaking!

In his world it just wasn't possible that so much of the world around was shaking, it had to be the sky.

Finally the shaking stopped but it took the longest time for us to move. We didn't know what to do so we just went back on with our lives. Kids sat down and cleaned up the toys, mums and dads went back to fussing with stray hairs, snotty noses and untucked shirts... The world in which the earth could buck and shake like a bouncy castle didn't seem to exist. For my part I started the class. I handed out little duckling headbands for the kids to wear (we were performing the Ugly Duckling), the kids tucked themselves up into little balls like eggs waiting to hatch... Then the next quake came. Not as strong as the first but just as frightening. Once again we were out on the street wondering if our world would collapse, this time with children dressed as ducks. At least they would be able to swim if the earth suddenly turned to liquid.

Then, like the first, it subsided.

I went on with the rest of my day as planned. The kids performed their play, the mums and dads watched and videoed and photographed, then everyone went home.

Nothing seemed all that different. People walked their dogs and went to the convenience store, people on the street handed out flyers and announced cheap deals for karaoke... Then things started to change. Trains stopped, taxis became impossible to catch, lines for the bus stretched for hundreds of meters and the thousands of people stranded in Tokyo began the walk home, many walking as long as six or seven hours. All across the city refuges were set up for others whose homes were simply too far away.

That night we suffered quake after quake. Every 20 minutes another aftershock would have me looking toward the door wondering if it was time to run. I slept in my clothes that night just in case and have done so every night since.

The next day we went to work. Who knows why. Some students even showed up but the whole day felt off. It was like that moment when a whole room suddenly falls silent and becomes uncomfortable for the few seconds it takes for conversation to once again fill the void, but imagine those seconds stretched across an entire day.

I've felt a little bit like that ever since. Even now the tremors keep coming, some small and some frighteningly large. I'm in a constant state of vertigo so even when the earth isn't shaking I can swear that it is.

I've taken to keeping a half empty bottle of water on my coffee table just so I can tell if the room is really shaking or not. If the water isn't moving I know it's in my head.

The people up north and along the coast have it bad and my heart goes out to them. I know my own fears and concerns are nothing in comparison but... I'm afraid.

In fact yesterday, if I'm to be brutally honest, I cried. It was after another tremor. I was sitting in a small park by my house just wondering what to do when the enormity of everything that had happened and was continuing to happen just hit me and I cried. The tears welled up and I couldn't stop them.

They say Tokyo is safe. I hope it is. I don't want to leave, I really don't. I have made this place my home and I'm really not ready to say goodbye but... Maybe it's time. I don't know.