Saturday Night at Shin-Okubo Station

Saturday, March 26th at Shin-Okubo Station

Last Saturday, two weeks after the Japanese earthquake, I found myself in Tokyo. I was on assignment for a Canadian magazine — more about that on a later date — and I spent much of my time wandering the city and speaking to people, trying to get a feel on how the city was coping with the disaster and the disruption it had caused to daily life, not to mention the persistent threat of a nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima power plant.

By the time I arrived, the mood in the city was not one of panic, or even overt tension, but rather a quiet, constant stress that seemed to pervade every aspect of life. Tokyo was barely damaged by the earthquake and for the average person, the question of radiation was still hypothetical, despite the news of contaminated vegetables and (slightly) radioactive tap water. Compared to the devastation up north, where tens of thousands of people were killed and hundreds of thousands more left homeless, Tokyo got off easy.

But a conversation never lasted long before turning to everyday uncertainties — whether there would be fresh produce in the grocery store, whether the power would be on — and long-term anxieties: will the economy recover? Just how bad is the radiation, anyway? And it was hard to escape the reminders that this was not a normal time. The streets in Shinjuku’s normally-buzzing Kabuki-cho were quiet. Billboards and video screens were dark. TV screens on the JR rail lines flashed constant announcements of train services cancelled by blackouts.

Some people I spoke to told me that many of their friends, burdened by the idea that having fun would disrespectful of the disaster’s victims, were still eschewing after-work drinks and dinners with friends. But last Saturday, the bars and restaurants were full. In the busy Korean neighbourhood of Okubo, near where I stayed, the atmosphere was one of alcohol-fuelled revelry. Tokyo, it seemed, had had enough. It needed a release.

This entry was written by Christopher DeWolf , posted on Saturday April 02 2011at 01:04 am , filed under Asia Pacific, Society and Culture, Transportation and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink . Post a comment below or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

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