Update

1. Good news for those who are low on petrol, unless you get caught out by panic-buyers again.  I have it on very good authority that supplies will increase at petrol stations in Kanagawa and Tokyo, starting immediately.

2.  Currently with the rolling blackouts in the Kanto area, there are five groups.  I have been told that this will increase to 25 groups by the end of the month.  No details yet on the TEPCO website about this yet.

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British Embassy offering iodine tablets

The British Embassy in Japan is offering iodine tablets as a contingency measure to British nationals and their dependencies in the Tokyo, Sendai, and Niigata areas.  This is purely on an off chance situation, and the tablets are unlikely to be actually needed.

More information can be found here at the FCO Japan website, and is mentioned in a BBC News article here.

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US and UK governements offer flights out

Both the US and British governments are offering flights for its citizens and immediate family, who are unable to book a commercial flight, and wish to leave the country and fly to an “Asian safe haven country”.  The US have not said where their safe havens are in Asia, but the British Government has made theirs Hong Kong.

The British Government is charging £600 per adult, and £300 for children up to 12 years old.  Under 2s travel for free.  The charges will only apply to people not directly affected by the tsunami.  Flights will be on Cathay Pacific which will start flying out today.  The US have not said what they would charge.

I applaud the British Government for doing this, but £6oo is a bit steep.  Spaces on commercial flights out of Japan are still readily available.  Checking on the Cathay Pacific website for flights leaving today, a single flight to Hong Kong can be had for ¥59,500 (all inclusive), which is about £420.  For those wishing to go a little bit further in Asia, a flight to Singapore will cost ¥58,000 on Singapore Airlines.  For about £670 you could fly KLM back to the UK (with a transit in Europe).

If you want to take the British Government up on their offer, you would have to register quickly as they , “do not plan to operate any more flights after Sunday 20 March.”

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Update

1. It is currently 11pm and I have not yet been affected by the rolling blackouts that TEPCO said they would introduce several days ago.  There was a strong possibility that power would be cut unexpectedly tonight because of the cold weather which has settled in.

2. It seems the Japanese are not fans of apricots, or canned ones at least, nor canned peaches which are priced at almost ¥500.  The canned fruit shelves in the supermarkets I go to are usually devoid of people looking at them whenever I’ve gone past , but the shelves are almost emptied now.

3. The two petrol stations near me are still closed.

4. Most train lines are back up and running at 50% in the Tokyo area.

5. Some supermarket shelves are low on stock.  I think this is mostly from suppliers trying to keep up with the supermarket’s (and hence customer’s) demand.  Otherwise there is plenty of fruit, veg, fish and meat.

6.  One of my supermarkets has rearranged their freezers and shelves and removed empty shelves that they can not fill in an effort to make the place look less barren, and hence not put people in a panic.

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Earthquakes in Japan

Some of you may like to follow the shakes that are happening in Japan.  If so, have a look at this site.  Here’s a quick copy and paste below.

The first column shows the date and time it was recorded on the website.  The second column the date and time the quake occurred.  The third is where the quake took place, and the third column shows the intensity on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 1 to 7.

Unlike the Richter scale which most people are familiar with, the Japanese scale is more practical in many ways and is easier for people to relate to.   The number represents things that the quake has caused, such as lamps swaying, books falling off bookshelves, walls forming cracks, etc.  Clicking on the date/time links on the first column will show you a map with the epicentre marked on it.

The quakes below were the ones I just posted about today.

情報発表日時 発生時刻 震源地 最大震度
2011/03/15 22:41 15日 22:38頃 福島県沖
2011/03/15 22:40 15日 22:31頃 静岡県東部 6強
2011/03/15 22:36 15日 22:31頃 静岡県東部 6強

If you look at the map, you can see lots of numbers on it, ranging from 1 to 7. This represents the intensity felt in that area. The closer you are to the epicentre, the stronger, more intense, and the higher the number.

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Another quake

Two minutes ago at 10:33pm, we had another big shake.  Big in my experience.  I’ve been in this flat for about six years, so when an earthquake hits, I know what shakes and wobbles.  So when a lot more shakes and wobbles than usual in the flat, it’s big.

The lights flickered on and off (something that’s never happened before), and the cars in the streets stopped.  The PA system then went crazy.  Couldn’t understand a word they were saying.

Just got a smallish aftershock a minute ago, and another one now.

UPDATE:

1. 22:40, another big shake.

2. More about the PA system:  Where I live, there are Public Address speakers all over the place.  Usually they mark the hours, midday, someone who’s got an 80th birthday, things like that.  Their main purpose, however, is for emergencies such as earthquakes.

3.  More shakes at 22:41 and 22:43.

4. Reuters is saying that the quake just now was 6.0 on the Richter scale.

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Strawberry picking

And now for something not disaster related.

Last Sunday I went out strawberry picking with a friend and her family, despite the impending threat of a nuclear meltdown and radiation clouds blowing our way (as some people were putting it).

For 30 minutes, we could stuff ourselves silly with sweet and succulent strawberries (noticed what I did there?).  There were two varieties of strawberries at the place we went to in Ebina, with the sizes of strawberries ranging from small to jumbo (7cm long); and there were plenty of jumbo ones to go around.  For ¥1,500 it was pretty good value for money and a nice day out, especially if you like and can eat a lot of strawberries in a short time.  Typically, a tray of strawberries at a supermarket can cost between ¥400 and ¥700+, with ¥600 yen being more typical for the large ones.

Of course, being Japan, you can find crazy prices for all kinds of fruit, and I’ve seen trays (or rather posh looking boxes) of strawberries, laid out individually, a dozen or so in total, costing ¥6000 at my local supermarket.  That’s nothing compared to the farmer who was charging ¥50,000 per strawberry.  That’s over US$600 each for those of you who don’t do ¥.

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Radiation levels in Tokyo

A lot of people will be worried about the radiation coming from the nuclear power plant in Fukushima.  I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ve been keeping my eye on the wind direction.  After another explosion today, radioactive material being sent into the atmosphere, and the wind blowing this direction, more than a few people may be wondering what they can expect in radiation levels.

I came across a post on Japan Probe where someone has a live Geiger Counter readings page from Hino in Tokyo.

Here are a couple of graphs from their site which I downloaded from earlier.  The first one shows a spike, with the build-up starting just before 10am, most probably when radioactive material was blown over Tokyo.  At about 12:30pm it peaks, and not long after, you can see a rapid decrease.  This is probably due to an end of radioactive material, and/or a change in wind direction – something which was noted on the weather page I check.  The bottom graph is a baseline comparison, with readings taken on the 12th of March in early December last year.

From Japan Probe’s site:

  • Normal range is usually under 60 CPM. Over 130 is not good.
  • 100 CPM is equivalent to 1 microsievert or 0.1 millirem.
  • The dangerous level recorded at one of the reactors this morning was 400,000 microsieverts.

UPDATE:

1.  According to The Japan Times, radiation levels in Japan reached 20 times normal levels today.

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Softbank providing free SMS, mail and wifi

This news is a little old, but for one week, starting from the 11th, Softbank are offering free SMS between Softbank users in Japan (isn’t it free anyway?), mail, and wifi on the FON system.  Check out Softbank’s site for more details, limitations, and conditions (yes, there are limitations and conditions).  This is Softbank’s way of helping a little with the earthquake.

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TEPCO rolling blackout press release

I found this press release on the TEPCO website.  A few important points to note are that even though the blackouts are scheduled, they may not actually go ahead with them, or they may implement them when needed: i.e. at random.

——————————————————————–

Press Release (Mar 14,2011)
Implementation plan of rolling blackout on and after Tue, March 15, 2011
Due to the Tohoku-Chihou-Taiheiyo-Oki Earthquake occurred on March 11,
the power supply-demand balance within our service area has been very
critical. As such, we have decided to implement rolling blackout on
and after March 15, which was started on March 14. We sincerely regret
to cause the anxiety and inconvenience to our customers and the society.
We will continuously make every effort to restore stable power supply
as soon as possible. 

○Implementation plan of rolling blackout on Tue, March 15
  Regional block and time periods planned to have rolling blackout are as
  follows. The actual extension of blackout for each block are planned to
  be approximately 3 hours each.
  For customers who will be subject to rolling blackout, please be prepared
  for the announced blackout periods. Also for customers who are not
  subject to blackouts, TEPCO appreciates your continuous cooperation in
  reducing electricity usage by avoiding using unnecessary lighting and
  electrical equipment. 

[Expected rolling blackout regions]
Block 3: 6:20 - 10:00
Block 4: 9:20 - 13:00
Block 5: 12:20 - 16:00
Block 1: 15:20 - 19:00
Block 2: 18:20 - 22:00 

●Please refer to the attachment1 for the detailed region of the blocks.
●Starting and ending time of blackout periods may slightly differ.
●Depending on supply and demand conditions on the actual days,
  planned blackouts may not been carried out or may be implemented at
  times which were not previously announced.
●The website of TEPCO provides information including "Chome".
  http://www.tepco.co.jp/index-j.html

○Implementation plan of rolling blackout from Wed, March 16 to Fri, March 18
  Please refer to the attachment2 for the detailed plan. 

●Please refer to the attachment1 for the detailed region of the blocks.
●The rolling blackout is scheduled in the same order every day, but
  time of blackout periods may be subject to change.
●Starting and ending time of blackout periods may slightly differ.
●Depending on supply and demand conditions on the actual days,
  planned blackouts may not been carried out or may be implemented at times which
  were not previously announced.

Appendices:

Expected Rolling Blackout Areas <March 15, 2011 6:20-10:00>(PDF 13.7KB)
Expected Rolling Blackout Areas <March 15, 2011 9:20-13:00>(PDF 15.4KB)
Expected Rolling Blackout Areas <March 15, 2011 12:20-16:00>(PDF 15.6KB)
Expected Rolling Blackout Areas <March 15, 2011 15:20-19:00>(PDF 13.2KB)
Expected Rolling Blackout Areas <March 15, 2011 18:20-22:00>(PDF 15.0KB)

——————————————————————–

The links at the bottom of the press release are in English, but only give an overview of the general areas and their times, so your ward (ku, 区)could be under four different time groups.  For more detail information of the group you’re in, you’ll have to follow one of the following links to download a file for your prefecture and find your address (Japanese only).  This is also taken from the TEPCO website:

——————————————————————–

緊急逼迫による計画停電の実施と一層の節電のお願いについて

※プレスリリースの添付資料茨城県につきまして、3月15日0時に更新いたしました。
3月15日の当社サービスエリアの計画停電につきまして、

■時間別に対象となる資料はこちら。(PDF

※東北地方太平洋沖地震により、多大な被害が発生し、災害救助法が適用された地域につきましては、同法適用の趣旨を鑑み、当面の間、原則として、計画停電の対象外とさせていただきます。

■地域別の詳細な資料は、お住まいのエリアにてご覧ください。【茨城は3月15日0時更新、その他は3月14日15時現在】

栃木茨城群馬千葉神奈川東京埼玉山梨静岡 (PDF

※PDFファイルをご覧いただくには、Adobe Reader(無料)が必要です。お持ちでない方はAdobeのサイト(外部リンク)からダウンロードしてください。
なお、停電時間は表中の数字(グループ)をご覧ください。
第3グループ 6:20〜10:00 / 第4グループ 9:20〜13:00 / 第5グループ 12:20〜16:00
第1グループ 15:20〜19:00/ 第2グループ 18:20〜22:00

(ご注意事項)
※アクセス集中により、つながりにくい場合がございます。その場合は、時間をおいてからアクセスください。
※グループ毎の時間帯は、開始・終了時間が多少前後することがあります。
※当日の需給状況によっては、予めお知らせした時間以外にも停電する場合があります。
※また、当日の設備状況によっては、お知らせしたグループと違う時間帯に停電させていただく場合があります。

——————————————————————–

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