Friday, 25 March 2011

Unfortunately the past two weeks of my life have been filled with psychological stress and pressure the likes of which I have never experienced so far.

As you are aware, on Friday March 11th a M9 earthquake hit the north-east side of Japan and also affected Tokyo. The good thing is that Tokyo was far away from the epicentre of this tremor so my house and friends were all ok.
Unfortunately, the same can not be said for the people of the north-east... Although the earthquake was really powerful Japanese engineering lived up to its reputation. However soon afterwards a tsunami hit those areas and erased entire cities. The truly apocalyptic images and videos  I saw afterwards filled me with grief and despair and I felt completely helpless.
The worst however was yet to come.

The next day after spending an entire night being woken up every half an hour by an aftershock, I decided to go for lunch with my friends. On the way we met a German friend and we all sat down for lunch. After exchanging stories on how we experienced the earthquake, my German friend told me that his greatest worry was the nuclear plant in Fukushima.
At that moment my blood froze. I could not eat any more and my stomach was tied in a knot... To my horror I was informed that due to the tsunami (and not the earthquake!) the cooling pumps in a nuclear plant in Fukushima had failed and the electric company TEPCO was trying to repair the damage. Once everyone had finished eating I went home with my flatmate and my girlfriend and we started watching the news..
A couple of hours later I am looking at the reactor no1 and seeing that half of the building has melted.. My mind starts playing nasty tricks... is this a full blown nuclear accident and I am in the middle of it? can I be so unlucky? well, I think about it over and over and finally decide to go for some days to Osaka. Its a nice place after all and far away from Fukushima...
So an hour later I am already in the first bullet train and on my way to Osaka. With me, I took my girlfriend and a backpack with only essential things.

Now that I am thinking about those moments I can surely tell you that I panicked... but I am glad I did. After reading the World Health Organization report on the Fukushima accident WHO  I realised that radiation levels were pretty high on Tuesday 15th of March. I really felt better knowing that I was not there. Of course radiation levels were very low and did not pose a threat to human health but I prefer being safe than sorry...

From Saturday until Tuesday I stayed in Osaka. When the second reactor exploded most of my friends fled Tokyo and came over to Osaka and Kyoto. Soon Osaka was full of friends and acquaintances! however the situation in Fukushima was not getting better. Finally on Wednesday I got informed by the Greek embassy in Tokyo that they could provide us with tickets to return back to Greece. At that moment me and some Greek friends decided to leave Japan for some time and come back once things would be safe again. Thus, we booked a flight with Qatar airlines and left Osaka last Thursday...

I am writing now from the safety of my parents apartment in Athens and although it feels good to be home I know that my home for the past 3 years is Tokyo. I miss my life and routine there and most of all I miss my girlfriend. Unfortunately things at Fukushima are still undecided and everyday life in Tokyo is not good either. Trains do not run regularly so moving around the city is a big problem and you can not find mineral water in any place. People stock pile rice and mineral water in anticipation of the worst.

The plan is to stay in Athens until the 9th of April and once things settle down I will go back to Tokyo. The problem is that in the process I have to fight my Greek family that seems determined to keep me away from radiation and earthquake stricken Japan....

Being home however has also a good side. I found my small samurai and AWI collection...

some bad pics from my phone camera:


  1. I have a nephew who works for the US Navy at an airfield near Narita, I think. I think he's still there, but could leave since the military has it's own flights if needed. What a flight that must be to travel from Japan to Greece! Both marvelous places. I am impressed with your Samurai too! Regards, Dean

  2. The samurai look great..respect to anyone who paints them...a very difficult subject.

  3. My thoughts are obviously with you and also with your girlfriend and all your friends. I hope our motherland will take good care of you and whatever you do... "Keep calm and carry on"! The media seem to be jumping on the bandwagon quite heavily and I am sure that they give quite a distorted version of the facts. I really wish you a swift and safe return to your routine, your loved one and the life you've chosen.

  4. Glad to hear you and your friends are OK. I know Robert is safe, too, but has friends up north he's worried about. Sitting here safely in Australia, I can only imagine what it's been like to have lived through the last couple of weeks.

  5. I totally hear you on the stress aspect, Achilleas.

    This past week my wife learned that she had lost one of her cousins in the tsunami- he was drowned when it struck Kameishi in Iwate. His family is currently still living in an evacuation shelter.

    My in-laws survived the quake, but some days later her mother suffered a mild stroke (stress no doubt), and is staying in hospital in Sendai for a few weeks. Dad is elderly and cannot be left to look after himself, so Rika was busy arranging for him to b put in short-term care for a while. She is in Sendai now dealing with it all.

    With all that going on Rika clearly couldn't leave, and neither obviously could I. It's been pretty intense.

    Checking the radiation levels here every day- normal or even below normal here in west Tokyo. Yes, we are far from Fukushima and science would suggest far enough to be out of harms way, but I'm still being cautious and monitoring the situation continually.

    Hopefully things will return to some kind of normality, and we can see ourselves pushing the minis around the table again. Neither Japan nor Greece are strangers to earthquakes- but level 9.0 is something else for sure!

  6. Robert I am really sorry to hear for your wife's cousin. My deepest condolences.
    I really hope that the Japanese authorities will finally manage to bring those reactors under control. It seems that radiation levels in Tokyo are constantly low but the main concern now is the possible pollution of water and food. Lets hope that this wont happen.

    I really hope that we can get back to our normal everyday lives soon. But somehow I feel that it will be sometime before we can get back to normal tokyo life...

    For the time being I will be in Athens. I might return on the 9th April but in case things get worse over the next days, I might postpone my return for another month...

  7. Shit Rob. Thats horrible. My condolences. Japan will bounce back. Its been through worse. Achilles, glad to hear from you. Good to see your safe. Nice Samurai.