Sunday, March 20, 2011
The Currently Conflicting Faces of Tokyo
Strange times here in this city, for all too obvious reasons.
Today the weather was beautiful and I went to work in Shinjuku; really weirdly everything felt as it normally should.
But on the way home I dropped by Shibuya. If anyone has ever been there - or just watched Lost in Translation - they'd know about the big video screens outside the Hachiko Exit of the JR Station.
Tonight they were switched off, as one way to save on electricity, and the place was... well, darker than usual; more like a regular city elsewhere. Which may be a good thing, really, when you seriously think about the environment, but Shibuya just isn't the same without 'em.
I also dropped into the local Tokyu supermarket near my place, to find less food (and beer) than has been the norm over the past few days. There were absolutely no eggs as you can see from this happy snap, and I'm not sure whether they'd been commandeered to send up north to help the survivors of the earthquake and tsunami, or because eggs actually usually come from those areas.
No official "get-out-of-Tokyo" warning from the Australian government yet, although they have recommended that people leave "at their own expense" (a nice, penny-pinching way to look at things - thanks, mates!) and I'm trying to do this crazy balancing act of attempting to to keep a close eye on things from various angles both local and international.
Honestly? I do think the foreign press is over-blowing events and occasionally indulging in just plain sensationalism. Some of the stories about the atmosphere and situation here are just miles wide of the mark.
It's nowhere near desperate, at least in Tokyo.
People are going on with their lives and are quick to share a smile, and there's a stunning senses of camaraderie that prevails. My respect for these people has increased ten-fold over the past week.
That said, I also don't quite believe all that the Japanese government and media is announcing to be is the big picture either... As I say, I'm trying to balance it all and draw the line somewhere in the middle.
But I feel a sense of obligation to a place that's been an amazing home over the past 10 years and given me so much, so I don't just want to run out of here without doing my minor bit to help first, whatever it may be.
One way I'm trying to do that is by aiding and abetting a couple of techno labels with benefit compilations they're putting together - one from Elektrax in Australia and the other from Plus Tokyo. These guys are doing grand things, and should be roundly applauded for their efforts.
And the situation does seem to be on the mend at the moment, which is a relief, and a good sense of humour and a touch of optimism helps to clear the shoals.
Then again, this morning when I first woke up I was parched and indulged in a sizable glass of tap water; straight after I switched on the computer and found a big headline that declared that radiation had infiltrated the Tokyo water supply - just before reading the fine-print that the level itself was negligible and within safety standards. Ye gods.
Which brings me to the conflicting face thing mentioned in the header to this waffle.
I also dropped in tonight for a couple of drinks with mates at a bar in Shinjuku, and the vibe there was just plain uplifting - people chatting, sharing yarns, laughing and living. You'd never even know there was a disaster or three on the edge of our doorstep, and this is not to say that they're zoning out on the problems at hand.
It was awesome, in that sublimely effortless Tokyo kind of way. It's experiences like this that remind me of what's so special about this place and why it will overcome the current travails.
But don't worry - I've got somewhat nifty plans to self-extract at the slightest whiff of (more) danger... even if the Australian government niggles about the cost of an airfare.