‘Enraged’ Japanese lack basic necessities, struggle with emergency response


WALKING HOME — People walk home in Tokyo’s Setagaya Ward on March 11 after train services halted due to a devastating earthquake that struck Japan earlier in the day. Kyodo News photo

TOKYO — Fumiki Yukawa was on his way to stock up food for his restaurant bar, Hengenjizai, when the massive quake struck Tokyo.

“I realized that the impact of the quake is bigger than anything else I’ve experienced before,” said the 34-year-old Yukawa, who opened his restaurant in 2009 after resigning from Sony.

Anticipating that thousands of people be displaced by the quake, he hurried to his restaurant and posted on Twitter that it would be open.

His restaurant provided a place to relax, while thousands of people were stranded on a cold night. Some people outside a train station even wrapped themselves with newspapers to stay warm.

Fearing that his restaurant’s revenue would suffer, he created “power-save romantic bar night.” His bar will be lit by candlelight instead of using electricity to create a romantic ambience.

“We have to be creative to turn tough times into a business chance,” said Yukawa. “It is important to stay positive even at a time of emergency.”

The earthquake has also affected Kazu Shiraishi, the mother of 17-month-old baby Seinosuke. Groceries are gone from the store shelves. There is no milk, rice or miso soup. She cannot even buy diapers for her son. The announcement of planned blackouts furtherer dismayed and enraged the 33-year-old mother. Blackouts are scheduled for her area twice a day from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. But she changed her mind after she spoke to her husband.

“He told me that this is nothing compared to what his parents went through during World War II,” said Shiraishi.

Her 41-year-old husband Yoshihisa said that his generation would be even sturdier if they could overcome the situation when Japan is suffering from a stagnant economy, she revealed.

“We are luckier than those who are evacuated,” Shiraishi said. “That’s why we have to be strong for them.”

While people are trying to endure the situation, some have perceived Tokyo Electric Power Co. as being oblivious.

TEPCO’s chief executive officer, Masataka Shimizu, apologized in public for the first time on March 13, more than a day after the first explosion. It was only three days after the first explosion when TEPCO expressed their deep regrets in a statement released about the explosion. Before that, the phrase repeatedly used in its releases was “We are still investigating the matter.”

The apology was repeated in TEPCO’s statement issued March 15, after the latest explosion at the No. 2 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. But one reporter wasn’t satisfied. He went on to grill another TEPCO official on hand about the exact meaning of the apology.

“Are you apologizing because things have crossed a critical line?” the reporter asked.

“We simply realized that our apology was not enough and wanted to express the company’s deep regrets,” the TEPCO official replied.

“I’m not asking about how you feel,” the reporter snapped back. He demanded that the company stick to disclosing more facts and to take action.

Despite the red tape that dominates TEPCO, life goes on. People are determined to help each other and pledge to overcome the situation.

“Now it’s time to think about what we can do [besides] praying,” said Tokyo native Shin Hayami, who works for Nissan Motor Co. on his Facebook.

“Now we should think what we can [do] as a company as well,” the 33-year-old Tokyo native said.

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