Friday, March 18, 2011

Myoden and Porridge

The dust has settled, the debris searched, the missing are still missed, the power plant is still thirsty and i learnt another Japanese word. Ji-shin.

I was crossing a busy-ish street last Friday afternoon just outside Tokyo surrounded by buildings that are about eight floors high. The ground started shaking and twitching and those buildings started to dance. I was stood outside a pharmacy watching stuff rattle off the shelves and fall on the floor. I was listening to people’s slightly scared voices. I was holding onto a post box steadying myself. I was watching the panic on an old lady’s face. “Shit,” i thought as the trees shook and the lampposts swayed and my feet moved beneath me. “If the old lady is worried, it must be a big one.”

I have since experienced earthquakes of varying magnitude whilst cooking, showering, sleeping, walking and drinking. It has changed the way i think about the ground i live on. I appreciate now that it isn’t solid. It’s just the thin crust on the surface of the hot liquid. A bit like cold porridge only not as tasty.

And life goes on. Tokyo and the cities around it are now trying to get back to something close to normal as the electric supply has been disrupted to the point where everybody is rationing electricity usage to avoid power cuts. Supermarkets, shops and businesses are using half their lights. Quieter Metro stations have stopped the escalators and lifts. Unfortunately a lot of food was bought in the unnecessary panic that followed and there’s been delays getting everything back to where it was before last Friday. But it’s not an apocalypse for anybody living in or around Tokyo. It’s just an inconvenience. The biggest danger right now is everybody’s imagination getting carried away with itself.

The nice man in my local bar last night had a vivid imagination. Either that or he was trying to wind me up. “You go England. London. Japan dangerous. Radiation. Nuclear. X-ray. No good.” Or maybe he’s tired of speaking English and listening to my shit Japanese and just sees this as an opportunity to get rid of me. He told me that he had to walk home last Friday from central Tokyo as the trains were stopped. It took five hours. “Very fun!” he said, smiling. “Many people. Like slow marathon!” Or perhaps he’s an aspiring comedian. We all told our little stories. One guy ran home (not screaming and panicking with his arms in the air, i mean, you know, jogging) which took him an hour and a half which he seemed pretty please with. One other guy was totally bemused by the fact that the English word for tsunami is tsunami. I told them my crap story about the pharmacy. Then the drinks bottles started clinking together on the shaking shelf, the stools shook slightly and for a minute the porridge beneath us lost its balance and stammered a little. Phones flipped open. Buttons pressed. Updates gathered. No problem. Just a three, inland. No tsunami threat. Just another little ji-shin.

1 comment:

  1. As well as meaning earthquake, the word jishin also means confidence. So jishin ga nai = I have no confidence
    It's a phrase i often find useful when explaining why i'm so inept at japanese and other things.