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When the Lights Go Down in the City

In wake of recent events in northern Japan, much of the eastern region of the country has noticed some changes.  one of these changes is the institution of planned blackouts in designated groups throughout Tokyo and the surrounding areas.  At the time of writing this post, metro Tokyo remains largely unaffected by the planned power outages.  Most of these blackouts are taking place in the suburbs of the city, and last for up to 3 hours at a time.

TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) has released a blackout schedule for the week, and the scheduled group/times.  These blackouts affect residences, businesses, and trains, so planning ahead is important.  While I have not yet been affected at home by these blackouts, my teaching job has been.

On Thursday of this week, the blackout time fell right in the middle of our designated teaching times.  I got a message from my manager stating our school would be open, but we’d have to get creative with the lighting for a while.

I came to the office early, because the train running to work was also planned to halt.  We had two small solar-powered lights “charging” in a window and a random assortment of candles ready.

We also had lighters and flashlights.  We all rushed to use the copier to get our materials prepared.  Then, at 3:50, everything went off.  Our first classes were lit by fading daylight.  5:00 classes were dim, and by the end of class, we were grabbing lights for students to see their workbooks by.

Our 6:00 classes were completely black.  For this class, I had two of my returnee students.  We sat in the dark with one of the solar lights and a candle.  We chatted about the earthquake, the blackouts, and their thoughts and feelings regarding the situation.

Game pieces we used to practice our vocabulary in the dark

They described the blackouts as fun – one mentioned doing shadow puppets with his siblings.  The other student had pushup and situp competitions with her sister and father.  Neither expressed fear of the “dark time”, as they put it.

It was the same with all my other students.  Power returned at 6:30 PM, and the rest of my classes went as planned.  I informally surveyed my students regarding the situation.  The answers were all similar – they feel Tokyo is relatively safe, though there is still worry regarding what will happen next.  Many of the students mentioned shopping with their families for water, bread, eggs, etc.  They are tense, but alert, and all the students seem to be handling things well.

Tokyo has had many of the scheduled blackouts canceled because the city has done so well concerning power.  Restaurants, businesses, and residences alike have shutoff signs, lights, and appliances.  Trains are running at more limited schedules in some places.  It’s impressive, the way everyone has pitched in to conserve power so it can be used where it’s needed!

Yasukuni dori, Shinjuku, near my home - at night, lights off

 

I have to say, if I had to choose a place to be during a disaster, Tokyo would be it.  Everyone working together has been astounding.  Some people chose to leave Tokyo, but my feelings are best summed up by the fitting words of Journey: “Oh, I wanna be theeeeeere, in my city!”

(Whooooa, whoooa, ooooohhh)

5 Comments

  1. Naoki Naoki March 19, 2011

    The title of today’s blog reminds me a song of Jourey.
    Hi, I just came back to Tokyo in Jan from Philippine after 8years-long stay.
    Before Philippine, I had been in Hongkong.
    So I can’t catch up with the speed of modern Tokyo (lol).
    I feel as if Im a foreigner here in Japan…
    I live near your house that I has been impressed with its outlook.
    I visited the web and found your blog now.
    By the way, I like photography.
    I have taken some photos in many countries.
    But it is mainly in Asia.
    If you have Oregon photos, I would like you to show them to me if possible.

    Best Regards,

  2. Naoki Naoki March 20, 2011

    According to your profile, you may live in Shinjuku now.
    I thought you lived in my town near Koganei on Chuo-line in the western Tokyo…

    Anyway, though it’s hard time for everyone, I do hope you would enjoy your stay in Tokyo.

    Best Regards,

  3. Gweb Gweb March 20, 2011

    I seriously come to your blog for hands on “real” news about the state of Japan during/after the Earthquake. Sure, you maybe don’t think of your blog being written in a news format, but your personal tales are a lot better than the sensationalism on the news circuit.

    Thanks!

  4. Miyu562 Miyu562 March 21, 2011

    Thank you for taking the time to tell us about how things are going there. Being in the U.S. and having CNN as a main media source is pretty horrible.

    It’s very interesting to hear about how you are all handling the black out situation. Most American schools (as you should know ^^) would of probably closed down and not continue to educate the children here until everything was back on. (Brownie points for Japan!) I commend you for what you are doing. Keep up the great work!

    Be safe and take care! ^_^

  5. adricom adricom April 29, 2011

    I want to add more info like…

    Solar Lighting in Haiti – ADRICOM (Agency for Development and Innovation of Commercial Resources) supports foreign enterprises in exploring investment opportunities in Special Markets.

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