Mar 17, 2011

Update From Tokyo

Update from my cousin.

Hi all,

We are currently at the gate at Narita waiting for our departure time to come. Still have about 2 hours to go. Airport wasn't too bad. But found out from one of the airport workers that European airlines have pulled out. Seems kind of wimpy to me (he says as he gets ready to leave the country - we are not running away. Just thought it was a nice time to take a trip for our Spring Break). Delta is great.  Delta even said we could change our departure and return dates at no extra charge. All of their flights are flying normally and they even bought in 50 more flight crew members to stand by. KLM crews just pulled out and left (according to the airport employee we talked to). I didn't see any check-in counters open, except for Delta, and they have long lines.

A friend sent me an email saying he saw on the news that some people in the US were buying radiation poisoning prevention pills. That's pretty extreme. Here, it's kind of like orderly panic. People are buying up all staple foods and gasoline, but they do calmly and without cutting in line. I've been telling everybody who asks me (and quite a few have been, because they know that I know everything) that the radiation danger is minimal in Tokyo. For the Fukushima Plant workers, there's a risk, but not us. But what happens is that some people decide they better stock up, other people see people queued on the TV news so they decide they had better stock up and it spirals into a kind of panic.

What we, in Japan,  really should worry about is the ongoing electricity shortage that this is going to cause. I'm sure they're going to have to modify every similar nuclear plant in Japan and that will probably require shutting them down (not to mention the loss of the 6 reactors at Fukushima - 4 that caught fire and 2 more that I'm sure they won't be able to use for quite a while).

Anyway, we're at the airport now. School was closed until the end of the month. Andrew had a plane ticket from his school concert tour that was cancelled. Akane found two other tickets online for a really good price and so we're going to visit our daughter north of San Francisco for a while. We're leaving today. Luckily I filled the gas tank the day after the earthquake, because the next day the lines were half a mile long at gas stations and they started selling out. So we were able to drive to the airport (about 60 miles outside of Tokyo). Now we either see long, long lines at gas stations, or no lines at all because the station has no gas left.