We slept restlessly the night after the earthquake, waking up with several aftershocks. Some shook us awake, and some made us feel as if we were rocking gently on a boat. The next day, we watched the news coverage on TV and were astounded at the the extent of the damage in the Northeast and the mounting death toll. We prayed that many would be rescued from the rubble. We heard about the first explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and wondered what impact it would have on the people and facilities there, as well as our life in Tokyo. We watched correspondents in Tokyo give their reports right through the same aftershocks we were feeling, which was a very surreal experience. The Japanese news had more extensive footage and a more intimate view of the events, but we could not understand the commentary, so we switched back and forth between English and Japanese stations. Despite the number of English speaking expatriates in Tokyo, there was very little local news or information available in English, which made us feel isolated and unsure of whether we were missing out on vital instructions. We have lived in proximity to several major hurricanes in the the US, and we recognize now how much we relied on the news in those situations.
We decided to tear ourselves away from the TV and computer and get something done, so we worked on organizing and decorating our apartment. Because of Matthias's difficult sleeping patterns and Philip's long work days, we had made slow progress with putting away all our belongings that arrived from the states a few weeks before. When I had the chance to reflect on it, I realized how ironic our weekend projects seemed. We had just gone through a very stressful experience, and watched others going through an infinitely more stressful and devastating one, yet instead of talking about wanting to leave Japan, we were hanging our pictures and putting our baby's blankets and toys away. Somehow God has given us peace about what we experienced and we began to feel a sense of purpose that had been lacking until that weekend. We (especially I) struggled with a good deal of anxiety the day (and many days) after the earthquake, but we kept feeling reassured that God had a plan for us in Tokyo.
We wondered how long it would take to get the trains back online, whether Philip would return to work on Monday, and whether food and other important resources would become scarce. We heard news reports about empty shelves in grocery stores. Later in the evening, Philip went to the store to check things out. He reported that although there were many empty shelves and some basic foods, such as milk, rice, and bread were gone, he was not concerned about a food shortage at the time.
After sleeping somewhat better Saturday night, we woke up Sunday to more bad news from Fukushima, questions of how far radiation might spread in a worse-case scenario, and concerns regarding the power supply to our region. Again, we tried to stay busy and pray for those still missing and injured, and those working in the nuclear facility and living close to the danger zone. Because I hadn't left the house on Saturday, I had the impression that the streets would be empty. In the afternoon, we took a walk before church, and I found it reassuring to see that people were out and about, and that grocery shelves were filling back up. We took a few photos of the normal looking streets and the always amusing advertising:
|People were shopping, eating out, and just strolling.|
|Pancakes shaped like...people. But "made of happy."|
|Many stores in Tokyo have love and peace themes.|
We went to church, and found the service to be so full of hope and true joy even in the wake of such a disaster that we were greatly encouraged to be a part of Tokyo Baptist Church. At the end of the service, our Pastor announced that Tepco, our electricity provider, had reported that rolling blackouts would be necessary to conserve power because of the damage to the nuclear reactors. The schedule and extent of the blackouts was to be determined, and so again we felt unsure of what to expect. Philip did receive word that he was to return to work on Monday and that the trains were running at a reduced schedule, but that the blackouts may affect the office and/or the trains. We went to bed with limited information, unsure of how much our comforting routines would be impacted.