Apr 30, 2011

Earthquake Diary 96

Yesterday my friend Keith and I went to the Vegalta soccer match. It was the first game since the disaster. The stadium is just south of the Izumi Chuo and as promised the subway was in operation again so there was a big crowd. The funny wrinkled roof is the stadium and this is the access street from the station.
After having lunch at a cheap Italian restaurant in the station building, we arrived at the stadium about an hour and a half before game time.
 These people are buying some of the few tickets that are sold on game day. Most of the tickets are either season tickets or are purchased through convenience stores or ticket outlets.
 Our seats were almost into the Urara Reds' area, the opposing team, and just a hair behind the goal line. We had an excellent view of the half of the pitch in front of us but it was difficult to see what was happening at the other end.
 The teams came out and warmed up. Keith and I speculated about the the line ups for the two teams.
 This is the Vegalta end of the field. The teams colors are a brilliant yellow and blue. When there are thousands of people wearing this yellow it is quite impressive.

Before and during the game, there were a few unusual events. After the teams had warmed up and had returned to the dressing rooms under the stadium, A man sang the national anthem, so that does not usually happen. Then we had a minute of silence in respect of the tens of thousands of people who had died. I found it very emotional - almost 20,000 people standing in complete silence. I did not even hear any coughing. Then the mayor of Sendai and some other people gave short speeches.

As the teams were lining up to return to the pitch, I went out to the men's room and on the way back, I took this picture of Keith.

 As the teams entered the pitch to start the game, there was an extremely unusual event. Earlier they had demonstrated this but I was surprised that it actually happened. They asked everyone to hold hands with the person next to them and raise their hands high over their head. You can see in this picture that most people actually did it. Very unJapanese, but it complimented the ad campaign that is being conducted, especially on TV, saying that "We are one and together we can revive the country." It stresses working together as a country, being friends, supporting each other, and the trying hard.
 The two teams lined up in front of the main stand. Vegalta is in yellow and blue, the Reds in red and white.

 It was a pretty good game and in the end Vegalta one 1 to 0.
 After the finish of play, the team came over in front of us to pay their respects to the fans. The team always lines up in front of each section of the stands and bows to the audience. Then they wave and recognize individuals in the stands that they know. The man in light blue is the goal keeper. The players in dark blue are the ones who were not on the pitch at the end of the game.
 The large bird is the team's mascot. He runs around on the field before and after the games and often comes up and walks round the stands, letting people take their pictures with him

All in all, it was a good day and one on which I was almost able to forget about the disaster.

Apr 29, 2011

Earthquake Diary 95

 Walking west along a main road, I found a streetlight that had been knocked down by one of the quakes. Actually much of the damage was caused by a combination of the main tremor and the aftershocks. One of the students in my art class told me that the main quake had caused no visible damage to her home, but that the aftershocks had caused numerous cracks to appear in the interior walls.
 This is what now remains of the base of the streetlight. Obviously a work crew has been here and cleaned up enough so that it is unlikely that pedestrians will get hurt.
 This is a little local Shinto shrine. I did not see a sign so I do not know the name, but because of the quake, this shrine's torii is now on the street.
 I thought this was a bit amusing in a weird sort of way. The sign is advertizing for tenants for the commercial space behind it. However, the doors are broken and there is quake damage inside.
 There is special trash collection for things that were destroyed in the quakes and tsunami. Normally things like electronic equipment or large furniture has to be collected separately after an extra fee has been paid. All over the city there are designated spots where any and all trash is being collected for free for a specified period. This household shrine had no physical damage but it may have been discarded because of damage to the house. In other words it did not do its job. Of course, there is likely a more everyday explanation.
The news today said that, in the three prefecture area effected by the disaster, there were 70,000 jobs lost, mostly at small firms where the owner perished as the firm's physical structure was destroyed. Most companies are trying very hard to remain in operation and to continue paying their employees. Larger, national and international firms are finding this easier because they have the financial capacity but smaller firms are struggling.

Earthquake Diary 94

 On this stroll, I walked east to the Sendai Bypass Road and turn south on it. The first building I saw after crossing the river was an amusement center, a place with electronic game machines. Many of the windows were broken and it did not appear that it would open again soon. In many commercial buildings like this the ceilings came down in the quake, breaking pipes and connectors in the sprinkler systems. The entire inside was then soaked. I have heard that this happened in numerous stores.
 This picture shows one reason why the gas company had, and is still having, so much trouble restoring the gas supply. The large building is the local headquarters of the gas company. You can see the large crane carrying building supplies to the roof. It is not so obvious in this view but there was extensive damage to the outside, particularly the upper floors, and to the interior, which I could see through the broken windows.
 The usual blue tarps cover the front doors and the wall of this building.
 In the distance, right in the middle of the picture, you can see a row of blue tarps which are covering a banking that has collapsed below a row of houses.
 Here is a closer look at it.
As I have said, Japan, at least the Tohoku area, is now covered with blue plastic tarps, held together by tape. Tape is also holding many other things together. Here it is a large window.
 Today there are two new symbols of the return to normalcy: the shinkansen (Bullet Train) will start running between Tokyo and Sendai and the Sendai subway system will run over the entire route (no more free buses for the last four stations.

Also today is the first home game since the quake for Vegalta, the Sendai soccer team. In a couple of hours I will walk to Izumi Chuo to have lunch with my friend Keith, after which we will take in the game together.

Today's newspaper again had lots of advertizing inserts and this morning our mailbox contained a half dozen flyers in addition to the paper. I should point out for the American readers that Japanese mailboxes can be used for other purposes than official mail. Ours contains the mail, newspapers, ads, and notes and packages that are left by friends.

Apr 28, 2011

Earthquake Diary 93

 This large crack in the road, one I have shown before, has been repaired. However, yesterday I pass here again and saw that the repaired sections are sinking into the cracks. New repairs will be necessary soon.
 This will give you an idea of how big the cracks are and how much energy it took to make them.
 This is the temporary sewerage purification site. In the front on the left some sort of machine is visible. It has a large pipe so it is likely to be a pump.
 When I showed this store before only the uppermost window was broken and covered with a blue tarp. Now two windows on the first floor are covered, having been broken during the aftershocks.
 This small factory was seriously damaged. Repairs are only now beginning. I have been told by several people in positions to know that most companies are making lists based on the type of damage, so that they can apply their assets to the most damaged sites first. Blue tarp and tape is the solution for the less damaged locations.
Everywhere you look there are small work crews attacking the destruction and getting things back to something resembling normal.

Speaking of normal, today's newspaper was back to the normal 26 pages and it contained more advertizing insets than we have seen since before the earthquake. The paper still has a small box on the first page apologizing for the inability to deliver to some of the most damaged areas. Also on the first page, there was an article telling about the local government's new 10 year plan to repair the damage to both the system and to physical structures.

Today I will be having lunch with the teacher and other students from my art class. We are going to decide what to do about continuing the classes. The location where we used to have classes is so badly damaged that the school, the NHK Bunka Center, has decided to close and move classes to their building downtown. However, they will not open our class again until July, but we want to continue. Today's meeting is to decide if and where we can meet until July.

Apr 27, 2011

Earthquake Diary 92

 The green fence surrounds a high tension electric power line tower which rests on the concrete platform under the fence. That platform has moved about 10 centimeters way from the drainage ditch, leaving an empty space. The platform itself did not seem damaged in any way, just displaced in space.
 This is another example of soil liquification causing the drainage system to push up through the sidewalk. Also the fence is no longer perfectly vertical.
 I followed the sidewalk around a large apartment building and came to a small playground for the kids who live there. I was very surprised to see how many cracks there were.
 At the edge of the playground, the movement of a utility pole had created a huge, deep hole beside it.
 This is the remains of an entrance to my building, one that I do not normally use. One of the caretakers from the administration building has covered the ends of the steel rods with tape. They are gradually making temporary, or maybe permanent, repairs where they can.
This was taken near my building, which you can see in the upper left. The wall in the middle is about ready to fall over. Someone has placed tires, probably snow tires that are usually stored for the summer, next to the wall to keep people away from it.

Life is about to become busy again. I finished last year's classes at the beginning of February and have been on vacation ever since. Full time teachers receive their salary and use this time for research, also there are always meetings. However, I now work only as a part time instructor, no longer a professor, so it has been unpaid vacation time. Normally the vacation period lasts from the beginning of February to around the 10th of April. This year the earthquake caused classes to be postponed for a month. This means that I will start classes again in two weeks.

However, Friday is the beginning of what is known as Golden Week. Friday is a holiday celebrating the Showa Emperor's birthday. Then Saturday and Sunday are the normal weekend. Monday is a regular day but many places give students and employees the day off. Next, Tuesday is Constitution Day, Wednesday is Green Day and Thursday is Children's Day - all national holidays. Friday is again like Monday was, and then comes another weekend. Many people, especially teachers, get as much as a ten day vacation.

In most years Golden Week is a welcome break after the first couple of weeks of classes. This year it marks then end of the spring break and the beginning of the new school year at most universities. I will have my first classes on the first Tuesday after Golden Week. 
I suspect that psychologically the end of Golden Week will mark the end of the Disaster Period for me. Instead of hanging around wondering when the next aftershock will arrive, I will be busy planning and teaching. It will feel exceptionally good this year.

Apr 26, 2011

Earthquake Diary 91

 There are very few roads that are not cracked and most of the cracks are getting wider due to the afterquakes and stresses due to the distortions caused by all the quakes.
 This shed looks okay until you notice that the left end of the wall is detached.
 The temporary sewerage is almost finished. It is very simple a containment area with a cover. Later they will bring in the chemical treatment unit and pumps and hoses.
 The large orange object is is a plastic tank. I still have not been able to figure out how this will work, but maybe it will be clearer after the piping arrives.
 I showed a picture of this, but from a different angle, the last time I visited this area. The paint and the traffic cone were still there. The road is passable so the overworked road crews will just leave it for now. It is going to be interesting to see how much of the damage is just left and how much is repaired.

We just had a shindo 3 earthquake, or I should say earthquakes. There were two, about a minute apart. The NHK news first reported one at 6:14 and then another at 6:16 after which they completely ignored the first one. Maybe they decided that it was all one tremor, but we felt two separate surges of power. The quake was M 4.6 at a depth of 70 kilometers.

I guess this is a good place to tell you about an article in yesterday's newspaper. A doctor, who has been treating people in the areas devastated by the tsunami, says that 60% of the people he has seen are suffering from something he is calling jishinbyo, or earthquake sickness. It is related to other motion sicknesses: car sickness, sea sickness, air sickness. I certainly have it and I think that it is the main source of the tension I feel each time we have an aftershock or a warning of one.
This is that orange tank that is pictured above. Since it was put in place they have done almost no additional work, so I guess the sewer system is handling things. Of course, it will only be about a month or so before the rainy season begins and things might change.

Apr 25, 2011

Earthquake Diary 90

 Another view of the connection between my building and the entrance building - the platform that I am standing on used to be on the dark line in the middle. The green mat is part of the temporary repairs that the admin staff has done to make it safe to get into the building.
 This is the only water point in our complex. The water pressure here is direct from the city water system; everywhere else the pressure comes from the water being pumped to the roof. No electicity, no water! Almost everyone carried the water in 2-liter plastic bottles.
 This is an apartment house that is next door, along the river. This concrete retaining wall broke when the land sunk from its original level (the dark line on the wall). According to yesterday's newspaper, much of the land within 10 or so kilometers of the ocean sank during the quake. There was a map of Kessennuma that show some of the city sank as much as 10 meters. The government is now making plans to use the debris that they are collecting to fill in at least so of the sunken areas.
 This is the road on the far side of the above apartment house.
 A bit farther away from home I found this crack in the road. Looking down into it, I could not see the bottom.
These will be the images that remain in the years to come: spring flowers and cracks.

We are still getting aftershocks, but they are getting weaker and deeper. Yesterday I only felt three quakes and they were all less than 2 on the Japanese shindo scale.

Last night just after seven, large red red letters appeared on the TV screen, warning that in a few moments there could be a very strong quake. While I was reading this, my wife's cell phone started screaming in a strident voice, also warning of a tremor. We sat there waiting, blood pressure and anxiety increasing. But, nothing happened. Finally the data appeared at the top of the TV screen - the quake had come and gone without any effect in our area. I am beginning to truly dislike the warning system. The signal that they monitor has only a loose connection to the vibrations that cause the damage. I do not know the actual figures but I would estimate that on about 30% of the warnings predict a quake that we can actually feel. There is a quake every time but about 70% of them do not effect the area where I am when I hear the warning. Anxiety and high blood pressure for nothing! Bah!

Apr 24, 2011

Earthquake Diary 89

 Xebio, this store sells athletics supplies and outdoor goods. Previously I showed a picture of all of the debris that they had taken out of the inside of the building. When I walked by this time, there was a work crew starting to repair a whole in the siding on the second floor.

 In an earlier blog I shwed the remains of a lunch that someone had dropped at the side of the road. Here is the remains of a Macdonald's meal that was just scattered around a park near my condo. Japan would be a much nicer place if people would take their trash home with them. There used to be many trash baskets but after the terrorist scares, starting with the sarin gas attack and continuing through Al Qaeda, the government removed them because Ohm was planning to use them as bomb sites.
 This is a little shrine at the back on the small Shinto shrine nearest my home. As you can see the roof has fallen off.
 Almost every utility pole swayed enough that fairly large holes opened around them and cracks in the pavement radiated out to surrounding weak spots.
This is the railing connecting the entrance building to the entrance hall in my building. You can see how much the entrance building has moved toward mine.