My brother and I were debating the Tokyo factor the other night. I think the proximity to Tokyo has made this a bigger story; he seems to think that it’s just the disasters that are the size of the story in themselves. The way I see it is that a quake in the middle of the ocean might be an event to some (geologists), a quake and tsunami on land in the middle of nowhere (say the uninhabited coast of Hokkaido) would be news, add in a reactor and it’s bigger news. In a sparsely populated area, even bigger news; then in a densely populated area (the North-East coast of Honshu, Sendai) then it’s major news. This all happening within range of Tokyo and the number of people increases, making it still even bigger news. But, factor in Tokyo’s status as a Major world center for economy, development…and information, and it becomes one of the biggest stories in the past decade or two.
Of course, then you have to consider if it’s the size of the story, or the size of the event itself. There are a lot of factors at work here.
It was interesting to hear some first hand accounts of how Tokyo has been affected. One of my students’ husband lives in Tokyo; he’s been complaining to her about some of the inconveniences building up there. Appropriately enough, convenience stores are empty. You can’t buy water or groceries in them right now. Apparently people have been hording food to the point where government has asked citizens not to buy so much. Recent food and water contamination has probably added to, or fueled this problem. The city is dark at night, the husband complained, and the number of trains have been reduced. I don’t think trains can get much more packed than they usually are, but there are line-ups to wait for and board a train. Things like batteries have become scare, too, in part because many of the factories located in the Tohoku region have been inoperational.
We’re starting to see this sort of problem spreading trough all of Japan now. Apparently Osaka/Kansai JR trains are being reduced because the lack of maintenance parts available. Factories where the parts are produced (stored?) are in the region, as well.
The class began talking about how proud they were of how Japanese people, namely the Tohoku people, have been handling the disasters…and how disappointed they are in the government’s response. One student said that Prime Minister Kan has all but disappeared. Another student of mine told the story about her friend in Tokyo. The friend’s family home is in Kyoto, that’s also were her husband works and has been since before the quake. Although it’s been difficult for her to get food (my student actually shipped two boxes of bottled water and tea to her), she hasn’t left Tokyo because of her son’s elementary school. She’s worried if she leaves, it’ll cause a mass of other families to panic and leave, confusing the kids and their education. Say what you want about the basis for her decision, but it’s certainly not a selfish one.